Eastern Conference Final prediction

So, how many people predicted THIS matchup for the ECF? I don’t think many people saw an Eastern Conference Final series that did not include either Boston and/or Pittsburgh. I did predict prior to the second round that the Rangers would upset the Penguins, and I also said the Bruins would eliminate the Canadiens in seven games, but that I had very little confidence in picking Boston. So I almost got it right….almost.

Let’s get to it.

si34dm1f9jex9eoexq9l1svqk vs. 144

An “all Original Six” series is never a bad thing, and I don’t anticipate this one to be any different. The Rangers come into this series with a ton of confidence and momentum after storming back from a 3-1 series deficit to knock out Crosby and Malkin (I must admit that I was quite happy with that outcome). Henrik Lundqvist has continued to do what he does best, and that is keep the puck out of his net as well as anyone in the game. He ranks second this postseason in GAA and Save %. Only Corey Crawford has better numbers in those categories. Offensively, the Rangers are by far the worst team at scoring goals of any of the four teams remaining in the playoffs. They are averaging just 2.43 goals per game. While Rick Nash is still searching for his first goal of the playoffs, that’s not to say the rest of the Ranger forwards have been much better. The highest point total this postseason of any Ranger is 9 by Brad Richards. To compare, the Kings have four players with at least 11. New York absolutely has to step it up offensively if they want to advance, especially considering the fact that they’ll be going up against Carey Price. However, to neutralize their weak offense, the Rangers have the lowest GAA average in these playoffs. The phrase goes something like “defense wins championships,” so hopefully for New York’s sake that phrase will prove to be true. I think the keys for New York in this series will be slowing down PK Subban, who leads Montreal in points, and getting production from their third and fourth lines.

Montreal also comes into this series riding a huge wave of momentum after eliminating the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins in seven games. A surprising number of people actually picked the Canadiens to win that series, and sure enough here we are. How did the Habs do it? Well, they got some great goaltending from Carey Price throughout those seven games, their forechecking was relentless, their determination was through the roof, and they simply played with confidence. Those four things combine to make a great recipe for success (maybe something the Penguins might want to try in the future). PK Subban took his game to a totally new level against Boston and was undoubtedly Montreal’s MVP of that series. I doubt he’ll be able to play that same way this entire series against New York, so guys like Markov and Emelin are going to have to pick up their games even more. In goal, Carey Price has been stellar with 2.15 GAA and a .926 save %. Want an interesting and telling stat? Over the last six games that Price has started against New York, he has recorded FIVE shutouts and allowed just one goal total. Take a second to try and comprehend that… On offense, the Canadiens lead the playoffs by averaging 3.27 goals per game. Similar to the Rangers, their leading scorer, Subban, has 12 points in the playoffs, but he is the only guy in double digits. The next closest point total to Subban is 9, shared by Eller and Gallagher. The Canadiens cannot rely on PK Subban to carry their offense anymore. They need their top forwards (Vanek, Pacioretty) to take the lead on the offensive side. If they can get more offense from their top lines, as well as their bottom two lines, they’ll be in good shape. The key is just finding a way to get pucks past Lundqvist.

I think this should be a great series. A lot of people think that the passing of Martin St. Louis’ mother helped propel the Rangers to their comeback over Pittsburgh. Whether or not that is true, they are playing great hockey right now, but so is Montreal. It takes a hell of an effort to beat the President’s Trophy winner in a seven-game series, but the Habs did it. Both teams have incredible home-ice advantages, so winning on the road in this series will be huge. Much like the matchups in the second round, the outcome of this one is tough to determine.

-Montreal wins series, 4-2.

I’ll be back with my Blackhawks-Kings prediction sometime before the first puck-drop of that series.

Advertisements

NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals predictions

So as it turns out after last night’s pair of Game 7’s, I went 6-2 in predicting the outcomes of the first round. I’m pretty proud of myself to be honest with you. What a comeback by the Bruins! I’ve never seen anything like that in hockey. The city of Toronto will be in mourning for the next month, that’s for sure.

Alright, the predictions.

1-7 Matchup:

2518158277_cf0b185de3 vs. 2bkf2l3xyxi5p0cavbj8

Season series: Penguins 3-0-0 against Senators.

Next to the Sharks, I think the Senators were by far the most impressive team in the first round. Maybe even more impressive than San Jose, but that’s debatable. Ottawa survived the intensity of their series with the Canadiens and flat out dominated them between fights. Goal scoring was not an issue in that first round for the Sens, as they averaged exactly 4 goals per game (good for second behind Pittsburgh). Everyone was seemingly producing and tallying points for Ottawa. Meanwhile, Craig Anderson played a phenomenal series in net and shut down the Montreal offense. He has been one of the most underrated goalies in the NHL in recent years, and now he is finally starting to get some respect. This guys is for real. For Ottawa to beat Pittsburgh, Anderson is going to need to be great again. The Penguins have arguably the league’s most potent offense, and they rely on that offense to win them games. If the Senators can play solid defense and get good goaltending, we might have ourselves an upset.

As for the Penguins, they have to be a little concerned after the way they performed against the Islanders in the first round. Sure, they won the series without going to a 7th game, but a lot of people feel that series should have been over with a lot sooner. I’d say that in 3 or maybe even 4 of those games against the Islanders, New York dominated the play. The fact that Pittsburgh still came away with a victory in that series is a credit to their depth and talent. However, that series also exposed some weaknesses of the Penguins. Marc Andre Fleury is no longer their starting goalie after yet another bad first round performance. Thomas Vokoun is their guy in goal now, and they’ll need him to be solid from here on out. Over his career, Vokoun has been a pretty streaky goalie, so we’ll just have to see which side of him shows up in this series. Also, Pittsburgh’s defense is very beatable. The Islanders proved this. For Pittsburgh to win this series, their blue liners are going to need to be a lot better than they were in round one. Ottawa has one of the hottest offenses right now, and that could be an issue for Pittsburgh’s defense.

-Pittsburgh wins series, 4-3.

4-6 Matchup:

Boston-Bruins-Logo vs. 144

 

Season series: Rangers 2-1-0 against Bruins.

It took 7 games for both of these teams to advance to the second round, and thankfully for us NHL fans, we have our second series consisting of two Original 6 teams (the other being Chicago-Detroit). Incredibly, this is the first postseason meeting between these two teams since the mid ’70’s. In their first round series with Washington, New York got great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, and timely scoring from a number of players. Derick Brassard (acquired from Columbus at the deadline) has been huge for New York and was a key component to their first round victory. Other than him, however, no Rangers forwards were really that great in the first round. They ranked 10th in goals per game after round one, and that needs to improve. They will be going against a much better defense in the Boston Bruins in the second round. To me, the biggest question with New York is their scoring. They have the weapons to be a good offensive team, but they just haven’t produced like one all year long. They absolutely have to be better against Boston. One thing going for the Rangers, however, is the fact that they have Henrik Lundqvist on their side. He can single-handedly win any series.

The Bruins are lucky to still be alive right now. After trailing 4-1 midway through the third period of their Game 7 against Toronto, it looked for sure like the Leafs would pull of the upset. However, Boston never gave up and willed their way back into the game, scoring 2 goals with the goalie pulled in the final minute and a half of regulation time to tie it. Patrice Bergeron scored the eventual game winner in overtime to send the TD Garden into a frenzy. Now, that they’re in the second round, the Bruins need to wake up and play their game. They were ugly, slow, and downright sloppy at times against Toronto. That can’ happen anymore. Tuukka Rask played alright in the first round, but we all know he can be better. He’ll need to be. Offensively, Boston ranked 5th in goals per game in the first round, which isn’t bad. On the flip side, they ranked 9th in goals against. That needs to be better. All year long, the Bruins have prided themselves on their defense and goaltending. Those two areas need to improve for them to advance any further in these playoffs. One advantage that they have over New York is experience. Boston is just 2 years removed from winning the Stanley Cup, and they still have a number of players from that team on their roster. Those guys that have won the Cup need to step up and lead the team.

-Boston wins series, 4-2.