Second Round Playoff Predictions

I managed to go 7-1 in my first round playoff predictions and now we'll see if I can keep the ball rolling in the second round. I have a feeling that it will be tough since most of the matchups have two very good even strength teams going up against one another, so things like goaltending, special teams and puck luck are going to play a role in whichever team wins. The one series I predicted incorrectly in the first round was Ottawa/Montreal and that was similar to a lot of the second round matchups here in the sense that both teams were very good possession clubs. I predicted it to be a close series with Montreal coming out on top and the Sens ended up winning in five games, blowing out Montreal in a couple of them.

My gut tells me that at least one of the second round matchups could end up like this despite how "close" they appear on paper. There's a good chance that my prediction record gets flipped completely this round, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

  5v5 FenClose 5v5FenTied 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% 5v5 GF/60 5v5 GA/60
Blackhawks 55.80% 53.80% 9.40% 0.927 2.9 1.8
Red Wings 53.63% 54.42% 7.10% 0.932 2.1 1.9
  PP Sh% PP SF/60 PK Sv% PK SA/60
Blackhawks 11.05% 42.1 0.897 53.6
Red Wings 13.25% 48.8 0.864 47.9

The Hawks dominated in their first round matchup against the Minnesota Wild, but they are going to be in for a much tougher contest against Detroit. Although, the Wings struggled against a much inferior Anaheim team in the first round, they do match up somewhat favorably against Chicago. Both clubs are excellent even strength teams and the Wings a slight edge in special teams play, or at least they did during the regular season. Detroit's power play was firing on all cylinders against Anaheim but Chicago's penalty kill was perfect against Minnesota in the first round despite giving up a lot of shots and scoring chances. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks power play is pretty much their only weakness, as they struggled in the regular season and were bad against Minnesota in the first round, so this could end up being a deciding factor if there end up being a lot of penalties.

Overall, I think Chicago is the deeper team here and Toews' line along with Duncan Keith & Niklas Hjalmarsson should be able to handle the Datsyuk line. Sharp & Kane can help carry Handzus' line against Zetterberg, as well and I think Chicago's top three lines also pose matchup issues against Detroit's defense. Outside of Kronwall & Ericsson, I'm not sure if they have enough to keep up with Chicago's forward depth and I see that as what puts the Hawks over the top here. Corey Crawford has also looked a lot better than Jimmy Howard this post-season but I'm not putting a lot of stock into that because Howard's had to face much dangerous shooters than Crawford. Still, I'm taking the Hawks in six games.

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

  5v5 FenClose 5v5FenTied 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% 5v5 GF/60 5v5 GA/60
Los Angeles 57.35% 57.11% 8% 0.912 2.4 2.2
San Jose 52.41% 54% 6.60% 0.927 2 2.1
  PP Sh% PP SF/60 PK Sv% PK SA/60
Los Angeles 16.20% 45.6 0.875 43.5
San Jose 11.02% 58.6 0.878 44.5

The Kings defeated one of the Western Conference's best teams in the St. Louis Blues in the first round and now that they got by them, they should be able to take down a somewhat weaker Sharks team? Not necessarily. While I still like the Kings in this series, there are a lot of things that could go awry for them in this matchup. First of all, the Sharks have had decent success against Jonathan Quick over his career and scored 7 goals on 74 shots on him this season. The Kings also got significantly outplayed in a few games against St. Louis and will be facing a much stronger goaltender in Antti Niemi. The Kings are also going to have a tough time matching up San Jose's top line with Brent Burns occupying the forward spot there and I think Robyn Regehr will have trouble containing him.

That being said, I think the Kings will end up taking this series and return to their normal dominant puck-possession game since the Sharks aren't as good as the Blues in that department. Having Jonathan Quick back in full form should also help them, but I think it's going to take seven games to get the job done.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

  5v5 FenClose 5v5FenTied 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% 5v5 GF/60 5v5 GA/60
Penguins 49.87% 49.745 10% 0.928 3 2.1
Senators 51.92% 51.19% 6.60% 0.934 2.2 2
  PP Sh% PP SF/60 PK Sv% PK SA/60
Penguins 14.98% 54.5 0.845 48
Senators 10.33% 53.3 0.927 52.6

This matchup is very similar to the Penguins first round series against the Islanders because the Pens are the worst possession team here and Ottawa is a very young team who can really crush Pittsburgh with their speed. The Pens looked bad for the majority of the first round but were able to advance in six games becuase they have a lot of very good finishers in their lineup who can make teams pay for their mistakes. That and their power play ran hotter than the sun for most of that series, which is partially due to their star power and Nabokov laying a huge egg. They probably won't have the same kind of luck against Craig Anderson, who has been phenomenal when healthy. 

However, I see a few things that could turn this series in Pittsburgh's favor. Ottawa's a great possession club, but they aren't very deep at center and are going to have one of Zack Smith or Mika Zibanejad matched up against Evgeni Malkin while Kyle Turris plays against Sidney Crosby. Without Spezza, Ottawa doesn't really have an elite forward in the lineup and I feel like that could come back to haunt them. They also won't be getting many goals handed to them since it looks like Tomas Vokoun will be in goal for the Pens while Marc-Andre Fleury rides the pine.

Like I said earlier, this series is pretty similar to the Pens/Isles matchup because Ottawa is a very young team with a lot of guys who like to handle & possess the puck. This could lead to turnovers and odd-man rushes in transition which the Penguins thrived on against the Islanders. The Senators also give up more shots than any other team in the league, so winning the possession battle could be tough if they get into an open game. I was close to taking Ottawa in an upset, but I'm going to say that the Penguins win it in six.

Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

  5v5 FenClose 5v5FenTied 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% 5v5 GF/60 5v5 GA/60
Bruins 54.35% 53.04% 7.90% 0.928 2.6 2
Rangers 53.88% 52.11% 7.60% 0.93 2.4 1.9
  PP Sh% PP SF/60 PK Sv% PK SA/60
Bruins 10.13% 48.1 0.9 39.1
Rangers 11.56% 42.1 0.847 48.9

These two teams are evenly matched in a lot of ways. They are aboth very good even strength clubs, have seen the same amount of puck luck, their goaltending is great and their special teams units are pretty equal. It's tough to say who will come out on top, but I'm leaning towards the Bruins because they looked a lot better in their first round series than the Rangers. I also think the Bruins are a deeper team up front and that can lead to some favorable matchups against the Rangers bottom two defense pairings, which were beaten up in the Washington series. The Rangers can have similar matchups against the Bruins second and third defense pairings but I still think Boston is the deeper team here. Even with that, I think this series is going to come down to goaltending and which one of Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist can stay stronger. Both are fantastic goalies but Lundqvist is more experienced and the better goalie but I see the Rangers relying on him more than the Bruins will with Rask and I think the Bruins come out on top in six games because of that.

 

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