The First round of the playoffs, I was much better with my eastern conference predictions. Sadly, the only prediction I got wrong was the one for my favorite team, the Penguins, who lost in 7. The Pens were the only home team to lose game 7 and the only eastern conference home team to lose in the first round. The only prediction I had exactly right was the Capitals and the only western conference prediction I had correct was the Canucks. Of course, I thought they’d win in 5 (or perhaps 4) and they just barely won in 7 games.
Now, it’s time for my second round predictions…
Capitals vs. Lightning
Lightning in 6 – Both teams have had great post season goaltending, but I think Roloson is more likely to be able to sustain that performance. Unlike Washington’s offense, the Lightning offense doesn’t center around one player. Alex Ovechkin is only 10th in the playoffs when going by points per game, so if he really hits his stride in this round it might make the difference for the Caps, but I think the Lightning will still win this one.
Flyers vs. Bruins
Flyers in 6 – Both teams looked shaky in round one, but managed to pull through in game seven. Tim Thomas has not been the number one goalie of the playoffs (or even in the top five) and he was the reason I thought Boston would be unbeatable in the first round. Now that they have to face the Flyers, I can’t see them surviving this round.
Canucks vs. Predators
Predators in 6 – The Canucks just barely managed to win game seven in overtime after allowing Chicago to tie the series at three. Luongo looked better in game seven than he had his previous few games, but I still think he’s shaky and the team seems to look to him a bit too much. When Luongo is shaky, the rest of the Canucks follow suit. Daniel Sedin is the Canucks’ only player in the top 10 for playoff scoring and that’s only because they’ve played 7 games. When you sort by points per game, Daniel Sedin is tied for 16th. Mike Fisher of the Predators is tied at 16th with D. Sedin in points per game and the Predators are known more for their defense and Pekka Rinne’s goaltending. Rinne was not the top notch goaltender of the regular season in the first round, but I think he’ll be more solid in round two of the playoffs.
I also think the Predators want it more. They’ve never made it to round two of the playoffs before, so they’ll be very motivated to advance to their first conference finals.
Sharks vs. Red Wings
Red Wings in 5 – The Sharks did not look very strong in round one and the Red Wings have had a week to rest up for round two. Resting can be bad for teams in the playoffs, but generally benefits the older teams and the Red Wings should be well rested and ready to face the Sharks. San Jose’s number one goaltender (Antti Niemi) has been horrible. He’s ranked near the bottom in goals against average and save percentage. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard is just middle of the pack, but that should be enough to hold off San Jose.
The Sharks looked horrible in the first round of the playoffs (I believe if the Kings had worked a bit harder they would have been able to capitalize on San Jose’s shaky performance and eliminate them from the playoffs). In contrast, the Red Wings were dominant. The Coyotes never knew what hit them as Detroit swept them out of the playoffs in four games. The Red Wings had the only sweep in round one and I can’t imagine the Sharks pulling themselves together enough to eliminate Detroit from the playoffs. I hope the series goes longer, and could see it perhaps going to 6 games, but I think Detroit will continue to dominate and the Sharks will go home.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Bruins, Canucks, Capitals, Flyers, Hockey, Jimmy Howard, Lightning, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Penguins, Predators, Red Wings, Sharks
The Anaheim Ducks didn’t really have much playoff intensity when the 2011 playoffs opened for them on Wednesday. Their fans were certainly wondering what happened to their league leading scorers and even what happened to the Nashville Predators – known more for their defense than offense. Friday night, the Ducks showed their fans that they DO remember how to show up for the playoffs and started with two power play goals (one 5 on 3, one 5 on 4) at 5:24 and 6:02 of the first period. They were the only goals scored that period, but at least Ducks fans had seen their team score a goal against the Predators in the post season without a two man advantage. I’m sure they were hoping their team would work up to an even strength goal at some point. The Ducks’ first even strength goal of the 2011 playoffs came almost halfway through their second game when Bobby Ryan scored his first goal of this year’s playoffs. His second of the playoffs was the empty net goal securing the win for the Ducks.
Ducks fans breathed a sigh of relief as their team proved they were capable of scoring even strength goals against Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. For some reason, the Ducks like to keep things interesting for their fans and let the Predators get a bit too close for comfort a couple times in the game, but they pulled out the win and managed to keep most of their fans in the arena until the end of the game. The announced sellout crowd, definitely much closer to the 17,174 capacity than Wednesday’s announced sellout, got to celebrate their team’s first playoff win of the year and know they will see their team at least once more at Honda Center this year (for game 5 on Friday, April 22).
In order to move past the Predators and on to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ducks have to win at least one game in Nashville. They’ll play in Nashville tomorrow at 3pm and Wednesday at 5:30pm, Pacific. Ducks fans are hoping the team they saw Friday is the team that will travel to Nashville.
Tags: Bobby Ryan, Ducks, even strength, Hockey, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, sellout
In the first day of the 2011 NHL playoffs, the Ducks were the only home team to lose. The Capitals had to get near the end of the first overtime period to win their game, but the Ducks lost 4-1 to the typically defensive Predators. Nashville was expected to be a good team defensively – especially with Pekka Rinne, one of the best goalies in the NHL, in goal. I don’t think many expected them to score four goals against the Ducks, though. Ellis hasn’t been the best goalie this season. In fact, he’s near the bottom in save percentage, but even if he’d played really well tonight it would have been rough for the Ducks. You can’t win without scoring and the only time the Ducks scored against Rinne was in a 5 on 3 power play. Teemu Selanne scored the Ducks’ only goal.
The only real good thin the Ducks can take out of this is (as Getzlaf pointed out) scoring the one goal means “we know we can get it past him.” The Ducks clearly realize that they don’t just need more traffic in front of the net to score on Rinne. Getzlaf explained that it’s, “not only traffic in front, we’ve gotta get good quality shots to the net… it’s not good enough just to throw them there, we’ve got to put them there with some enthusiasm and get there after the rebounds.
Though a sellout crowd of 17,174 was announced for Honda Center tonight, there were a lot of empty seats and I find it hard to believe the top corner seats were sold – especially since there were even tickets available on Goldstar. One of these days, I’d like to figure out what percentage of the tickets have to be sold before they can donate the rest of the tickets or give them to employees or whatever they do to ensure that they can announce a sellout at a sporting event.
Clearly, the Ducks are ready to move on from the first game and come back ready to take on Rinne and the Predators again on Friday. Hopefully, Honda Center will be more packed on a Friday night, in spite of it being more of a true hockey fan’s matchup.
The Predators were naturally happy about winning the first game away from home and essentially removing the Ducks’ home ice advantage from the equation, but they realize it’s a long series. They’ve just won one of the four games they’d need to win to advance to the next round and the series is far from over.
Tags: attendance, Ducks, fans, Hockey, home ice, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, Ryan Getzlaf, sellout, Stanley Cup, Teemu Selanne
Here they are – my playoff predictions for the first round. Some of these were difficult for me to pick, but here are my thoughts.
Capitals vs. Rangers
Capitals in 5 – I don’t think this will be at all challenging for the Capitals given the way the Rangers have been playing lately. I think the Rangers will win a game, hopefully at home for their fans. I may not like the team, but I think all fans deserve a win at home in the playoffs.
Flyers vs. Sabres
Flyers in 6 – The Sabres have been playing amazingly well lately and have the best record in the last ten games out of all the teams in the NHL, but I still think the Flyers will prevail in the end. They’re a strong team and I think they may be the team that’ll make it out of the east.
Bruins vs. Canadiens
Bruins in 5 – With Tim Thomas (who should get the Vezina again) in goal, I don’t see how the Bruins can go wrong here. The Canadiens only won half of their last ten games and certainly don’t seem to be in playoff form at the moment.
Penguins vs. Lightning
Penguins in 6 – The Pens ended their season with the second best set of 10 games in the NHL and in spite of not having team captain Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin healthy, they have been finding ways to win. There’s still hope that Crosby might be able to return at some point during the playoffs, though clearly the Penguins will be careful not to rush him back too quickly. If Sid returns, who knows how well the Penguins will be able to do with him back in the lineup.
Canucks vs. Blackhawks
Canucks in 5 – The Blackhawks almost didn’t make it into the playoffs. They were 5-4-1 in their last ten games and only made it into the playoffs, since the Stars lost their last game of the season, too. I could see the Canucks sweeping the Blackhawks, but I think the Blackhawks will be able to win one game. The Canucks aren’t perfect and if the Hawks play well they’re an amazing team.
Sharks vs. Kings
Kings in 6 – I’ve heard some people say they think this will be the year the Sharks do well in the playoffs. It’s bound to happen one of these days and perhaps Nabokov was the reason they weren’t able to do well in the past. That might be true, but I don’t think so. These Sharks are definitely different than the Sharks on the last few years, but the Kings split their series with the Sharks including a win in the last month of the season. Of course, if the Kings who played the last two games of the season against the Ducks show up, I have to change this prediction to Sharks in 5. Anze Kopitar is definitely out until next season and though Justin Williams has been skating, he’s still an unknown. If he ends up getting back in time, he could help the Kings survive the first round.
Red Wings vs. Coyotes
Coyotes in 6 – The Red Wings have the worst record of the 8 teams who made it into the playoffs in their last ten games of the season (4-4-2) and have had some goaltending issues. The Red Wings look tired and I think the fact that they have quite a few older players and their goaltending isn’t as good as it has been the last few playoff runs. It took the Red Wings seven games to beat the Coyotes in the first round last year and I think the Coyotes will be even more motivated this year and will upset the Red Wings.
Ducks vs. Predators
Ducks in 6 – When Hiller got injured, a lot of people (including me) thought that would be the end of the Ducks’ playoff hopes. Hiller had been keeping the Ducks in the mix and very few thought they could manage without him. Anaheim proved us all wrong. Corey Perry (#1 goal scorer in the NHL this season with 50 goals) and Lubomir Visnovsky (the top scoring defenseman with 68 points) really stepped up. The Ducks have two of the top ten scorers in the NHL this season (and Getzlaf is tied for 11th) – if you resort by points per game, all three of their top scorers are in the top 10. I think that is what will get them past the Predators (whose top scorers are tied for 91st in the NHL). Pekka Rinne (the #2 goaltender in save percentage) has carried the Predators through the season, but I think he’s met his match in the Ducks’ offense. I don’t think it’ll be a super easy series, though I could see the Ducks winning in 5 games, too.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Blackhawks, Bruins, Canadiens, Canucks, Capitals, Corey Perry, Coyotes, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, Evgeni Nabokov, Flyers, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Justin Williams, Kings, Lightning, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Penguins, playoffs, Predators, Rangers, Red Wings, Ryan Getzlaf, Sabres, Sharks, Sidney Crosby, Teemu Selanne, Tim Thomas