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Round 2 Breakdown: Evaluating the Conference Semi Finals

April 28, 2011

Round 1 wasn’t my finest moment, I only managed to guess five of eight series correctly, dropping the Sabres-Flyers, Ducks-Predators, and Penguins-Lightning predictions. Two of those series went seven games to be fair and I bet against the Preds, who hadn’t won a playoff series until this year. The remaining eight teams are, more or less, the eight teams people expected to see at the end of the season. In fact, the lowest seed remaining are the two five seeds, Nashville and Tampa Bay. In a year where it looked like parity could make for upsets there really weren’t any.

My two Stanley Cup picks are still alive in Vancouver and Boston but didn’t look so hot in the first round. Vancouver nearly blew a 3-0 series lead and the Bruins fought through one of the tightest series I can remember. Certainly neither had a powerhouse performance that reassured Cup hopes.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs (5) Nashville Predators

The Canucks were the best team in the regular season by 10 points but needed overtime in Game 7 to scathe off a 3-0 series collapse and didn’t look like a Number 1 seed for most of the first round. Nashville was perhaps one of the most enigmatic teams coming into Round 1 but looked like one of the strongest, scoring a round high 22 goals being backed by Pekka Rinne, who actually didn’t play up to Vezina form. If the Sedins and Ryan Kesler don’t wake up and wake up quick the Predators could shock the Canucks. The Canucks could be in for a letdown (they celebrated Game 7 like it was the Cup Final) but the Preds need to play better defense and maintain their great offense, which is probably playing above their heads. Ultimately, I don’t think the Predators can keep it up and the Canucks first line can’t be this bad for two rounds. CANUCKS IN 6.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs (3) Detroit Red Wings

Two supremely talented offenses but one team knows how to win and one is perennial underachievers. It seems like a layup pick in favor of Detroit until you sit back and think about it. San Jose has been perhaps the only team to figure out Detroit over the last year or so. San Jose took out the Wings in five games last year and San Jose won three of four meetings this season. The Wings made quick work of the Coyotes in Round 1 but that’s not saying much. The Wings have a lot of injuries up front and the Sharks may be ready to finally make a Cup run. SHARKS IN 7.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Washington Capitals vs (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

The only round 2 divisional matchup pits the new look Caps against the offensive-minded Bolts. The Lightning surprised a lot of folks, me included, when they beat the Pens in Round 1. The Lightning have a great offense but I always felt that they lacked a good back end but they showed that they can actually rally around their defense and goalie. This is the round that we’ll see if the Capitals new foundation in a more well-rounded game plays off. The Rangers had no reason to be in the playoffs and were a cake walk so we didn’t really get to see if the Caps are for real or not. The Caps only averaged 2.22 goals in the first round but allowed just 1.37 goals per game. Seems like both those stats aren’t indicative of the Caps game. Tampa was the only other team to allow less than 2.00 goals per game in the first round but I expect this series to be a lot more open than the stats indicate. CAPITALS IN 6.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs (3) Boston Bruins

Here they go again. The Bruins will try to exact some payback against the Flyers after blowing a 3-0 series lead a year ago. The Bruins added a lot of depth since then but still aren’t nearly as good an offensive team as the Flyers. Danny Briere leads the playoffs with six goals and is helped out with a lot of front end talent. The Flyers weakness lies in their goaltending, but it led them to the Cup Final last year. The Bruins are weaker at forward but arguably better throughout the rest of the lineup, making it an intriguing matchup stylistically. Injuries could end up being a big factor for the Flyers but they know how to battle through those things. It’ll be interesting to see how bad blood effects the series. That all being said, the Flyers have too much talent up front and the Bruins are too inconsistent. FLYERS IN 7.

I know, I know, I’m hypocritically picking against the Bruins, who I have going to the Final. When I picked them I really didn’t think the Flyers would advance and this seems to be a tough matchup for the Bruins mentally, physically, and skill-wise. I’ll have an in depth preview tomorrow.

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