P-Lab’s Playoff Previews/Predictions

The chase for Lord Stanley's Cup is on. (photosource: yardbarker.com)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#4 Pittsburgh (47-28-7) vs. #5 Ottawa (44-32-6)
BM’s Analysis: While looking closely at the standings, a couple of things stand out about the Sens: they’ve allowed more goals (238) than they’ve scored (225), which is never a good stat, and they’re really good at home (26-11-4), which is somewhat troublesome to Pens fans. Winger Alex Kovalev, who finished fourth on the team with 49 points, will miss the playoffs with a torn ACL. The Pens, on the other hand, should be healthy for this series. With its full roster intact, Pittsburgh is simply a better team. Too much playoff experience over the last two years to get upset in the first round by an inferior opponent. I’m not being a homer – there’s simply no logical reason to go against the Pens.
IC’s Tip: My worry is that the Penguins are tired.  Making the Stanley Cup Finals in each of the past two seasons and this year’s Olympics has taken its toll on Pittsburgh’s stars.  I know, I know, most are in the early 20s.  However, all the intensity has to take its toll.  That being said, the Pens are the better team in this series…maybe the only series we will be able to say that this post-season.  Despite the loss of Kovalev, I think Ottawa will play with gumption and put a definite scare in the defending Cup champs.  Each team will win on home ice, giving the Pens a 4-3 series victory.
Season Series: Pittsburgh 2-2, Ottawa 2-2
BM’s Prediction: Pens in 6
IC’s Prediction: Pens in 7

#1 Washington (54-15-13) vs. #8 Montreal (39-33-10)
BM’s Analysis:
Not much to see here. With the league’s best regular-season record and an offense that is downright scary, the Caps should make quick work of a Montreal squad that barely made the cut. The Habs did its best to miss the playoffs, going 0-1-2 in the season’s final week. Not even Jaroslav Halak can save Montreal in this series.
IC’s Analysis: Washington had the league’s best power play (25.2%) and Montreal (21.8%) the second, however the Caps managed 101 more goals than the Habs during the season.  I have a sick feeling that Washington is focused and prepared for a vicious rampage.
Season Series: Washington 2-1-1, Montreal 2-1-1
BM’s Prediction: Caps in 5
IC’s Prediction: Caps in 4

#2 New Jersey (48-27-7) vs. #7 Philadelphia (41-35-6)
BM’s Analysis:
I think this might prove to be the best first-round series. It should be the most physical. Although the Flyers needed to win the skills competition on the season’s final day to make the playoffs, they’ve beat New Jersey 5 out of 6 times this year. Nonetheless, we all know the importance of goaltending in the postseason. I’ll take Martin Brodeur over Brian Boucher, thank you very much.
IC’s Analysis: This series might yield more ounces of blood than it does goals.  The Devils, although shaky the second half, can still feel the sting of last year’s playoff shocker against Carolina.  The Flyers are still upset about another losing series against the Pens.  Very tough call in this one, but Flyers netminders let them down in the end.
Season Series: NJ 5-1, Philly 1-4-1
BM’s Prediction: Devils in 6
IC’s Prediction: Devils in 6

#3 Buffalo (45-27-10) vs. #6 Boston (39-30-13)
BM’s Analysis:
These two teams played six times this season and every game was decided by 2 goals or less; three games went to OT. In my opinion, Buffalo overachieved this year while Boston underachieved. But the Bruins went 4-0-1 in its last 5 games and finally appears to be getting its game together. They also won 4 of those 6 games against the Sabres. Only one goalie in the entire league had a better season than Buffalo’s Ryan Miller…Boston’s Tuukka Rask, who finished with an absolutely ridiculous 1.97 GAA. Expect a lot of saves in this series, and what many would call an upset. Sorry, Buffalo.
IC’s Analysis: Two mediocre offenses meet exceptional goaltending.  Rask led the league in gaa (1.97) and save percentage (.931), Miller was second in both categories.  Another tightly-checked series, the only folks that won’t get an intense work-out will be the goal judges.
Season Series: Boston 4-2, Buffalo 2-2-2
BM’s Prediction:  Bruins in 7
IC’s Prediction: Sabres in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 San Jose (51-20-11) vs. #8 Colorado (43-30-9)
BM’s Analysis:
One of the best stories this year, the Avalanche – with a first-year coach and a slew of young players – made the playoffs. Their stay will be short. The Sharks, playoff chokers of year’s past, will have no trouble making it to the second round.
IC’s Tip:
The Avs outscored the Sharks 13-12 in the four regular-season meetings.  However, Colorado slept through the post-Olympic season, going 8-10-3.  Sharks continue usual playoff swoon to make it interesting but prevail.
Season Series: SJ 2-1-1; Colorado 2-2
BM’s Prediction: Sharks in 5
IC’s Prediction: Sharks in 6

#2 Chicago (52-22-8) vs. #7 Nashville (47-29-6)
BM’s Analysis:
Nothing against the Predators, but the Hawks are just too damn good to lose in the first round. I know their goaltending is a question mark, but Nashville only scored 225 goals this year, fewest among Western Conference playoff teams. Chicago beat the Preds 4 out of 6 times this season.
IC’s Tip: Goaltending edge to the underdogs, but offensive talent leads the way for Hawks.
Season Series: Chicago 4-2
BM’s Prediction: Hawks in 6
IC’s Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

#3 Vancouver (49-28-5) vs. #6 Los Angeles (46-27-9)
BM’s Analysis:
The Kings, who finished with 101 points, haven’t made it to the playoffs in quite some time. That inexperience will show against the Canucks, a playoff-tested squad that features the league’s leading scorer, Henrik Sedin, and Roberto Luongo, who led Canada to a gold medal just a couple months ago.
IC’s Tip: Los Angeles has exceptional blue-line but it will have its hands full with the Sedin twins.  Interesting goaltending match-up.  Luongo has all the expectations, Quick had career year but hasn’t won since May 22 and has .843 save percentage in last three starts.
Season Series: Vancover 3-1, LA 1-2-1
BM’s Prediction: Canucks in 6
IC’s Prediction: Canucks in 7

#4 Phoenix (50-25-7) vs. #5 Detroit (44-24-14)
BM’s Analysis:
I don’t know about you, but I’m just not going against Detroit. They’re too experienced, too talented and Jimmy Howard has been a revelation in net. Sorry, Phoenix. You had an incredible season, but you got screwed by the seedings.
IC’s Tip: As The Hockey News put it: Detroit is a #2 seed in disguise.  The Wings have turned it on recently once their line-up returned to full force.  Only ? is Jimmy Howard in goal making his first playoff appearances.  Phoenix could have beaten some of the playoff teams…just not Detroit.
Season Series: Phoenix 2-2, Detroit 2-0-2
BM’s Prediction: Red Wings in 6
IC’s Prediction: Red Wings in 6