Just for the record: In my first round playoff preview I only predicted half of the games correctly and got one series exactly correct (Phoenix in 6). There also will be no repeat of last year’s Stanley cup Finals as both Vancouver and Boston were eliminated.
Phoenix Coyotes (#3) vs. Nashville Predators (#4)
By taking care of business versus Chicago the Coyotes advance into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and the first time since moving to the desert. The first five games of their series against the Black Hawks went into overtime, an NHL first, and youngster Mikkel Boedeker got back-to-back game winning goals. With Hanzl and Vrbata battling some injuries and Shane Doan skating his way out of quality scoring chances they had to rely on the likes of newcomer Antoine Vermette to put the puck in the net. What most people will remember from this series however is the head shot Raffi Torres laid on Marion Hossa that garnered him a hefty 25-game suspension. Nashville, on the other hand, took out Phoenix’s greatest playoff kryptonite in the Red Wings. Detroit just didn’t have that killer instinct this year and Nashville was able to grind away a series victory bolstered by the strong play in net by Pekka Rinne. Rinne and Phoenix’s Mike Smith were both brilliant in the first round posting identical 1.81 GAA albeit with Smith appearing in an extra game. This should be a really good grind it out series that probably no one will watch. Phoenix and Nashville aren’t exactly hockey hubs and certainly won’t attract the casual fan. With goaltending being even I give Phoenix the slight edge in offense and nastiness.
Prediction: Phoenix in 7 with at least four overtimes.
NY Rangers (51-24-7) vs. Ottawa Senators (41-31-10)
There’s no reason the Rangers shouldn’t win this series, unless they have a major injury to someone who happens to reside between the iron during the games. While Lundqvist has been a little dinged up lately and Ottawa won the regular season series 3-1 including shootout victory, I still don’t see it happening. The Rangers aren’t going to blow you away with scoring, although Gaborik and Richards have been solid scoring threats all year, they are dominate defensively and will grind away softer teams like the Senators. It has been a feel good year for 39-year-old Daniel Alfredsson, emerging superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson and some of the non-Swedes on the team but Ottawa lost it’s divisional battle with the Bruins and therefore have to face the mighty Rangers. If it wasn’t for John Tortorella behind the Rangers bench you might give the Sens a punchers chance in the series but there is no way that Torts lets his team look past Ottawa and he will have them focused as they need be.
If you would have told me that Tampa Bay would win both games one and two, AND steal home ice advantage from the number 1 seeded Capitals, I would have punched you right in the mouth and told you to go back to your home on Whore Island.
While I thought the Lightning would certainly win ONE game, I can honestly say I didn’t see them winning two ON THE ROAD. So much for me trying to establish myself as an accurate predictor of playoff outcomes. Oh well.
So what is the key to Tampa Bay’s success? Easy – Their Penalty kill and overall defensive play has been nothing short of spectacular. They have found away to completely disrupt the Capitals offensive rhythm, and capitalize on their mistakes with timely goals. In game 1 they shut down Ovechkin, holding him to a whopping 2 shots on goal. Between the two games they have also successfully killed all 11 Capitol power plays.
Also worth a mention, Dwayne Roloson, at age 41, has also shown to still have a little something left in the tank. So far just enough to keep the Capitals from finding the back of the net. And finally Vinny Lecavalier. This dude came to play this series outperforming superstar Ovechkin with 2 goals and 2 assist in the 2 games.
So where do we go from here? The Capitals have dug themselves in quite hole here, with any momentum carrying over from the Rangers series gone. The game 2 loss in overtime, due to a bad line change after tying the game with a minute left, is certainly going to be a monumental hurdle to overcome. But, given all the talented firepower on the Capitals have, I believe they’ll come back. So as to not completely abandon ship, I’m just going to revise my original prediction to Capitals in 7.
Well since we all know the Eastern Conference is inferior to the Western Conference, lets not even bother talking about the race for second place. Instead, lets talk about something more important…
THE ROYAL WEDDING!!!
Ima kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiding. How about this instead?
Let’s look at the East.
Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning
This series is a no-brainer. The Capitals showed they are firing on all cylinders when they dismantled the Rangers in the first round. The Caps were able to get significant production from from supporting cast members like Arnott and Knuble in addition to the multiple point put up by Ovechkin and Semin. To make matters worse for the Lightning Michal Neuvirth is coming into this round boasting a 1.38 GAA and 0.936 save percentage. One thing that does need to be said about the Lightning is what an amazing job Steve Yzerman has done. He has turned Tampa Bay around and crafted them into an EASTERN CONFERENCE playoff contender.
Prediction: Capitals in 5
Philadelphia Flyers vs Boston Bruins
This will be the series to watch in the East for competitive, grind it out, physical hockey. Both teams are coming off of hard fought 1st rounds that went to game sevens, so hopefully that intensity carries over. With the goalie carousel going on in Philly and a banged up Pronger, I think Boston has the advantage going into this series. That being said, lets not forget Boston found a away to blow a 3 game lead and let the Canadians take them to the brink.