Well, after going 2 for 8 in the first round, you can probably just guess the opposite of my picks and do quite well. I was right with the Rangers in 7 and the Devils winning in the first round. Despite my awful first round record, I shall continue on and try to predict the second round just in hopes that I can accidentally look smart to everyone! Weird fact going into the second round: there is one of each seed, 1-8, left in the playoffs. Neat.
*PS – Though I am posting these after the Conference Semis are already underway, I’m sticking with the picks I made before the first game started…which is also why I look even more stupid now as I picked the Preds in 5.
Offense: In the regular season, the Blues finished 21st in scoring and the Kings finished 29th. In the playoffs, the Blues are currently 4th and the Kings are 8th. Despite the difference in rankings, I am going to give the edge to the Kings on potential. They added Jeff Carter late in the season and faced a tougher goalie in the first round. If Carter can get on the scoreboard, the Kings will boast more scoring depth than the Blues. Edge – Los Angeles
Defense: Both teams have strong defensive systems and great young defenders. The Blues are led by youngsters Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Meanwhile, the Kings have a strong mix of young stars like Drew Doughty and playoff veterans like Rob Scuderi. The Blues finished 1st in defense in the regular season and are currently 1st in the playoffs. The Kings finished 2nd in the regular season and are currently tied for 1st in the playoffs. The Blues forwards generally show more defensive prowess though. Edge – St. Louis
Goaltending: Brian Elliott has a 1.37 GAA and .949 Save % , while Jonathan Quick has a 1.59 GAA and .953 Save % in the playoffs. Both goalies finished in the Top 5 for most stats in the regular season as well. Quick is a Vezina candidate, and Elliott probably would have been if he had more games played. The longer history of success for Quick is really the only difference maker in this matchup. Edge – Los Angeles
Special Teams: Both teams have great penalty kills due to their defensive prowess, but LA struggles on the PP while St. Louis was clicking at over 30% in the first round. That difference could be huge in this series when goals are hard to come by. Edge – St. Louis
Coaching: Ken Hitchcock has a Stanley Cup ring. Darryl Sutter has quite a few first round exits, making this abnormal territory for him. Edge – St. Louis
Result: Kings in 6. I can’t pick against Jonathan Quick basically. It’s that simple.
Offense: Nashville quietly had a Top 10 offense this season and is currently 5th in the playoffs. Phoenix’s offense struggled in the bottom half of the league all season, but looked quite capable against the Blackhawks in the 1st round as they finished the round ranked 3rd. Both teams get by without “big name” scorers in their lineup. The Preds benefit greatly from having more offensive help from their blue line though. Edge - Nashville
Defense: Both teams were in the top 10 in defense this season (Nashville 10th, Phoenix 5th). Nashville tends to depend more on their big defensive guys in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter while Phoenix focuses more on a team defensive system. Both teams also shut down high powered offenses in Detroit and Chicago respectively in the first round. I can’t go against Shea Weber’s beard out of fear. Edge - Nashville
Goaltending: Pekka Rinne vs. Mike Smith. Both goalies are Top 10 in pretty much every stat, they had similar stats in the playoffs, and they both made arguments for a Vezina nomination (which Rinne received and Smith did not.) Smith was the hotter goalie going into the playoffs while Rinne looked shaky at times, so that’s the kicker to me. Edge - Phoenix
Special Teams: The teams were close on the PK, with Nashville 8th and Phoenix 10th. The big decisive factor is that Nashville was 1st on the PP in the regular season while Phoenix was 29th. First round numbers don’t matter for that kind of a difference. Edge - Nashville
Coaching: Nashville’s Barry Trotz and Phoenix’s Dave Tippett are both amazing coaches when it comes to getting the most out of their teams through discipline and hard work. Neither has been all that successful in the playoffs until this year though. I believe Tippett is working with less talent and has taken his team just as far as Nashville, so I favor him ever so slightly in this matchup. Edge - Phoenix
Result: Preds in 5. Nashville has already exorcized a demon in getting past Detroit in stunning fashion. The Preds have built their team up specifically for this playoff run, and Phoenix just won’t have the depth to handle it.
Offense: Both teams had very similar offensive performances in both the regular season and the playoffs so far. The Rangers may have a stronger set of 4 lines that can put the puck in the net, but the biggest raw talent on either team belongs to Washington with Ovechkin. Edge - Washington
Defense: The Capitals have finally learned how to play playoff hockey with a defense-first system that the whole team has committed to, even Alexander Semin. The Rangers have always played a very strong defensive system, with an emphasis on shot blocking and protecting Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers defense is strong through all 3 pairings, while the Caps don’t necessarily have a standout defensive defenseman right now. Edge – New York
Goaltending: Henrik Lundqvist earned nominations for the Vezina and Hart trophies this week for his fantastic regular season play. Meanwhile, Braden Holtby, still wet behind the ears, has entered the playoff fray as a young unknown who has come out of nowhere to take the league by storm. While hot goalies are great in the playoffs, they fizzle out eventually. Edge – New York
Special Teams: Neither team had a strong PP in the regular season, but the Rangers at least sent out the 5th best PK unit in the league, led by their defense. Meanwhile, the Caps have the 2nd best PK in the playoffs, though it should be discounted based on the fact that their 1st round opponent, Boston, has been awful on the powerplay in recent playoff history. All in all, there’s no real winner in this matchup. Edge - Even
Coaching: Dale Hunter has had a ton of success in the OHL, limited success in his playoff runs as a player, and is coaching in the NHL for the first time. John Tortorella has already won a Stanley Cup and knows how to press the buttons of his team quite well by now. Experience is a big factor in the playoffs. Edge – New York
Result: Rangers in 6. Defense wins championships, and while the Caps have shown a strong new commitment to defense, they don’t have the personnel to handle it quite like the Rangers do. Defensive depth wins this low scoring series.
Offense: The Flyers ranked 2nd in offense in the regular season and had a monster 1st round, crushing Pittsburgh with their offensive depth. It doesn’t even matter what New Jersey can do (average offense if you are curious). Edge - Philadelphia
Defense: Philadelphia’s defense was nothing special in the first round. Meanwhile New Jersey’s was a bit better, but not spectacular either. There was a big difference in the regular season between these two however, as New Jersey had a top 10 defense and Philadelphia was in the bottom 10. Edge – New Jersey
Goaltending: In recent history, neither Bryzgalov nor Brodeur has looked sharp in the playoffs. Beyond recent history, Brodeur has had just a little bit of playoff success (multiple Stanley Cups are impressive I guess). Bryzgalov can’t be trusted as he didn’t look strong in the Pittsburgh series either. Edge – New Jersey
Special Teams: Philadelphia had a top 5 powerplay in the regular season and absolutely destroyed Pittsburgh (who had the 3rd ranked PK in the regular season) in the 1st round, scoring on over half of their chances. New Jersey had the best PK in the regular season, but only killed at a 69% rate in the playoffs. With PK’s suffering in the playoffs, Philadelphia’s powerplay gets a huge advantage. Edge - Philadelphia
Coaching: Peter Laviolette pretty much crushed Dan Bylsma in coaching strategy and adjustments in the first round. He has gone deep in the playoffs before and has a Stanley Cup ring from his time with the Hurricanes. Peter DeBoer is currently on his first ever playoff run in the NHL as a head coach, after coaching the team he just beat (Florida) to 3 playoff-less seasons. Edge - Philadelphia
Result: Devils in 7. Despite Philadelphia having a majority of the advantages, which will win them some games, I would put my money on Brodeur making a strong push in what could possibly be his last year in the NHL. Bryzgalov just isn’t trustworthy enough for me.