NHL Playoff Preview/Predictions
April 13, 2010 by Big Tony
1. Washington vs. 8. Montreal
Jaroslav Halak is the key to this series. All Halak has to do is keep Washington at bay, if he can manage to do that the Canadiens will get plenty of scoring chances against Washington’s swiss cheese defense. Two things we know for sure: Montreal cannot stop Washington from scoring and Washington cannot stop Montreal from scoring. Number one key as I mentioned is Halak but also it is vitally important for Montreal to play extremely well disciplined hockey every minute of every game. Technical mistakes will be made that’s just the nature of the game but making bad decisions (bad passes, lazy puck pursuit, etc.) and taking bad penalties will be the end of Montreal’s playoff life. Washington has enough talent to overcome the mistakes it will make and the lack of adequate defense and spotty goaltending but Montreal does not. Many people think Washington is ripe for the picking—and that may be true—but if Montreal does not keep their mistake ratio compared to Washington’s very low the Capitals will blow them away. Even when Montreal does say take a bad penalty they have to rely on the playoff experience of the guys on their roster to take someone with them to the box, every little bit matters. If Montreal can do those things they’ll win; but that said I’m taking the Capitals in five.
2. New Jersey vs. 7. Philadelphia
Philadelphia will win this series. It has little to do with the Flyers’ abilities and more to do with New Jersey’s inadequacies. The Devils rely too heavily on scoring first then using the neutral-zone trap and Marty Brodeur to stifle the other team. New Jersey will not always score first and have a lead to protect, nor do they have the capacity to come back from being down 2 or more goals should Philly get that far ahead. It is not 1995 anymore and the new NHL is not conducive to New Jersey’s system yielding a great amount of post-season success. They have also put a proverbial wall in front of their biggest scoring threat in Ilya Kovalchuk. Every game will most likely be close because of how the Devils play but it’s Philly’s series to win.
3. Buffalo vs. 6. Boston
Ryan Miller is the best goaltender in the world today and the Boston Bruins cannot CANNOT score. Enough said, Sabres take the series.
4. Pittsburgh vs. 5. Ottawa
Crosby has been hot of late but that includes two games against the New York Islanders who have a really small defense and that results in a ton of scoring chances and many goals. The Penguins have had a hard time stopping team’s from scoring while also not having the greatest scoring prowess themselves (granted Gonchar and Malkin have been hurt so that should sure itself up). It has been said that the Penguins simply needed to get to the playoffs and now that the time has come they will be more motivated to get their act together, build on the experience of the last few years, and go on to get back to at least the conference finals. However, I think the Ottawa Senators may have something to say about that. The Senators have been one of the best teams in the conference over the last month of the season and are playing incredibly well as a unit. Losing Alex Kovalev will be a setback for Ottawa but they still have Daniel Alredsson, Jason Spezza, and Mike Fisher so they will not be longing for scoring presents on the ice. Their defensemen are all pretty big so that will match-up relatively well with the Penguins’ lines from top to bottom. Scoring chances will require much more work for the Penguins against Ottawa than it was versus the Islanders. Perhaps the biggest flaw for Ottawa is Brian Elliot’s lack of playoff experience. While experience matters at all positions it is most important for goaltenders unless you’re Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy. Nevertheless, with how the Penguins have been playing (inconsistent) they are ripe for an upset and I think the Ottawa Senators will do just that.
1. San Jose vs. 8. Colorado
Being technical in analyzing how I think this match-up will go is perhaps a waste of time. San Jose has been here time and time again and Colorado is a team that has overachieved all season long. I think in time Colorado will be very good but it just is not in the cards for them this year. San Jose has more experience, are an overall better team, and will simply not lose to Colorado. San Jose takes this series.
2. Chicago vs. 7. Nashville
Having Nashville in the playoffs is always nice because whatever helps hockey grow in non-traditional markets is a good thing for the game and the league. Nashville has been here before but has not managed to get past the first round (no shame in that since they’ve played Detroit in every playoff appearance in their short history). What gives Nashville the best chance at success in this series is that they don’t rely on any one person to provide all of their offense. Steve Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist, Martin Erat, Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, and Shea Weber all had 40+ point seasons which is a very positive sign since Chicago cannot simply focus on one guy in hopes of keeping the Preds at bay. The problem for Nashville is that on the season they gave up as many goals as they scored which does not bode well when playing the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and co. in a best four-of-seven series. While I root for hockey success in Nashville for the good of the game I think Chicago will be too much for the Preds and will move past Nashville on their way to the Cup Finals as I predicted at season’s opening.
3. Vancouver vs. 6. L.A. Kings
It is great to see the L.A. Kings back in the playoffs. I have been saying since the offseason that this team was for real and they certainly did not disappoint all season and here they are in the post-season. Anze Kopitar has been phenomenal all year and Jonathan Quick has been solid in net wire-to-wire. I said before the year started that not only would the Kings make the playoffs but they would also win their first round series and I will not back down from that. Unfortunately for the Kings (and for me) they have to go up against arguably the best line in hockey all year—i.e. the Sedin twins with Alex Burrows and sometimes Ryan Kesler. Oh and that Roberto Luongo guy isn’t half bad either. A lot of people think this is the year for Vancouver to overcome what they’ve faced in the past and finally come out of the West. I will go against my head in picking this one and say that the Kings will take the series, but they better rely heavily on Rob Scuderi’s cup winning experience from a year ago because they will need it.
4. Phoenix vs. 5. Detroit
Poor Phoenix. Ownership issues stemming back to the offseason, not knowing where they were going to play this year before the season started and even where they will be next year has not been finalized. Despite all of that the players banded together and not only got themselves into the playoffs but home ice in the first round, great right!? Wrong. All of that hard work yields them the reward of playing the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, what a reward for a great season eh? We could break down match-ups until the cows come home but it would be silly for me to pick against Detroit. I hope Phoenix gives Detroit a great fight and even manages to beat them, but that is unlikely and that is why I am giving this series to the Red Wings.
Enjoy the start of the most wonderful time of the year!