Thursday, April 24, 2008

More predictions with conviction
It's Round 2 already

I'll take a 6-2 record in Round 1, especially given I gambled big on the underdog Flames to take out the Sharks. And the Ducks have mussed up the bracket big time.

No matter — onward and upward.

(1) Montreal v. (6) Philadelphia
Series key: Flyers blueline
The Flyers were shorthanded a total of 36 times in the first round, second to only the hapless Ducks, and are going to have to be a whole lot better in that department against the Habs. I'd bet on Montreal potentially having one flubbed series on the power play (9.4%), but not two. Where Philadelphia impressed me was in their team defence, limiting chances against Martin Biron (always key) and getting a ton out of Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen and Derian Hatcher on the back end. All three played 22-plus minutes and finished as pluses, which counts for something when you're facing Ovechkin in a seven-game series. For the Canadiens, Mike Komisarek's the biggy, but they also need a lot more from Andrei Markov, who is playing hurt. Montreal has a big edge in goal, but this might be a special teams series given the league's two best power plays are squaring off. Cue the riots.
Canadiens in 7


(2) Pittsburgh v. (5) N.Y. Rangers
Series key: Marc-Andre Fleury
While there are an awful lot of offensive weapons in this series, these are two very different teams. The Penguins dominated on the power play this season; New York was 22nd. Pittsburgh struggled to kill penalties all year; the Rangers were sixth best in the league. For a team that boasts a couple billion-dollar free agents, not to mention Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan, New York's a team that didn't score an awful lot of goals this season — just 2.50 per game (25th). It wasn't until late in the year the offence got going, led by Scott Gomez and fellow Anchoragite Brandon Dubinsky, and combined with another brilliant year from Henrik Lundqvist, this team was dynamite down the stretch. New York was essentially a non-playoff team in late January; it then went 19-6-5 into early April, finishing five points back of the Penguins for the division lead. My big worry in picking the Rangers in this one, as I did preplayoffs, is the fact Tom Renney's going to roll out a green defence (Dan Girardi and Marc Staal) against some of the league's true superstars. I think they'll surprise us — and it'll come down to the goalies. King Henrik wins. (Sorry Pensblog Charlie.)
New York in 6


(1) Detroit v. (6) Colorado
Series key: The Foote-Sauer shutdown
Remember the '90s? Detroit was/is a juggernaut again in 2007-08. Third in goals for, first in goals against — and that was using a strange tandem in goal that saw two guys win 27 games for likely the first time in NHL history. Chris Osgood was light years better than Hasek this season (.914 to .902 in save percentage) and in fact had one of the best years of his career, but Jose Theodore's a real key. He had a great Round 1, but can he do it again? Detroit's a team that's top end consists of five players who play 22 minutes a night, and if Colorado can get to the quintet, hit hard and take a spoke out of the winged wheel, they might have a chance. It's an overstatement to say Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg are everything to this team, but that's certainly close to the truth, and Foote/Sauer are going to be tasked with another shutdown. I loved the way Joe Sakic looked in Round 1, but Forsberg's the wild card.
Detroit in 6

(2) San Jose v. (5) Dallas
Series key: Patrick Marleau
Both of these teams surprised me in the first round: San Jose, by getting considerable secondary scoring when they lacked it all year, and Dallas, by wiping the floor with the defending Stanley Cup champs. These two finished Round 1 first and second in shots allowed, with only 23 against per game, and that's a trend that'll continue. It won't be so much who makes a great play, but where the mistakes are, who takes penalties and who capitalizes on those missteps. Getting Sergei Zubov back certainly helps Dallas. The Sharks' first-round save percentage was by far the worst of teams that advanced (.895) and Evgeni Nabokov's going to have to be a whole lot better given there's little backup plan. A very difficult series to call, but I liked what I saw from Thornton and Marleau against the Flames. At their best, they bring an element the Stars don't have.
Sharks in 6

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8 Comments:

At 6:29 AM, April 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somewhat off-topic but interesting nonetheless:

Since the 92-93 season, no team that had to go 7 games in the first round has gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

 
At 8:14 AM, April 24, 2008, Anonymous GMR said...

It's actually the 91-92 season, where Pittsburgh took 7 games to escape the first round. In 92-93, Montréal defeated Québec in 6. As a Habs fan, I remember that.

And as a Habs fan concerned about his team's Cup chances, I had noticed the same trend and was wondering if someone would mention it.

 
At 8:21 AM, April 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the more people in the media and 'experts' underestimated the flyers more likely hood flyers beats mtl. if look at those four regular season games, flyers had no hatcher.

there is a stat out there somewhere that if a team goes 4-0 against another 80% of the time that team gets swept by the team they went 4-0 against in the regular season

if flyers beat mtl, they could possibility become this year's ducks and run the table. do people understand why now pen didnt want to face the flyers in round one now.

 
At 8:32 AM, April 24, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

On the other hand, the 93 Canadiens broke a run of four consecutive years in which the Cup champs did go seven games in the first round.

I think where teams get in trouble is if the second round requires seven games as well.

 
At 10:22 AM, April 24, 2008, Anonymous snafu said...

I'd only add that Detroit can be extremely effective when guys like Franzen, Cleary, and either Hudler or Filppula find their games. As in many series, everyone knows who to key in on as far as the big names, so that leaves the secondary scoring. It was pretty important to Detroit's run last year and I expect this year to be no different.

 
At 10:43 AM, April 24, 2008, Blogger mike said...

The Flyers are going to lose to the Habs. Out of all the teams left in the playoffs the Flyers are the weakest in net and their defense is old and slow, ripe for being exploited by the speedy Canadiens.

If Price has a decent series, this one won't even be close. The Flyers were lucky to beat the Capitals. Add in the fact that the team plays barely under control and can't stay out of the box, and there's a looming disaster on the way for the Flyers...especially given the strength of Montreal's power play.

 
At 11:54 AM, April 24, 2008, Anonymous Rod said...

>>... strange tandem in goal that saw two guys win 27 games for likely the first time in NHL history.<<

Whether there's more examples or not I don't know, but Oilers' 'tender tandems have reached that level a couple times (in 80 game seasons, with no OT to boot):
83-84: Fuhr 30; Moog 27
85-86: Fuhr 29; Moog 27

(thanks to hockeydb.com)

My picks...
Habs, Pens, Wings, Sharks

 
At 3:46 PM, April 24, 2008, Blogger moeman said...

"Cue the riots", not so nice touch there Mr. Mirtle. You barely covered the Habs all season, somewhat mentioned them during Round 1 but felt the need to tie the punks and losers that rioted to the CH. Again, nice going.

 

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