North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

NHL Playoff Second Round Picks

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Given how insane and unpredictable the first round was, I feel pretty confident in my picks. I nailed one of the series – Blues over Sharks in five – and picked the right team in a few others: the Rangers, Devils and Coyotes all moved on. And I’ll admit, I was completely, 100 per cent wrong in my Canucks-in-four pick. Although did anyone see the Kings just obliterating the team with the NHL’s best record?

What’s interesting to me is how close the first round was. 16 games went into overtime, with three of those going to a second OT. Altogether, 32 games were decided by one goal! I don’t remember there ever being a first round this exciting, this close and this much fun to watch. And yes, I’m including 1993, the best NHL postseason ever. It sets a high bar for the second round. Picks follow the jump.
Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers v. (7) Washington Capitols
Both of these teams are coming off of gruelling series, with the Caps coming off one where all seven games were decided by one goal. The Caps are playing way better than I thought they were capable of and rookie goalie Braden Holtby has both played the most minutes (449) and faced the most shots (248) of any goalie thus far in the playoffs. Sometimes rookie goalies really catch on in the playoffs: see Cam Ward, Felix Potvin or, most legendarily of all, Ken Dryden. Another stat to look at: how little the Rangers are scoring. They made it through the seven-game series with a goal differential of +1 and scored the fewest of the four teams left in the East. If they’re having trouble scoring before facing the playoffs hottest goalie, what happens when they do? Capitols in six.

Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, warming up before
game six of the Philly/Pittsburgh series

(5) Philadelphia Flyers v. (6) New Jersey Devils 
If the Rangers can’t score, the Flyers sure can: their 30 goals is the most any team has thus far in the playoffs. And don’t look now, but Claude Giroux leads the league in goals and assists. But there’s troubling signs: they also allow a lot of goals (26), by far the most among active playoff teams. And they take a lot of penalties, too: three of the 10 most penalized players thus far are Flyers. And they allowed nine power play goals in their six game series, too. How are the Devils? They scored five power play goals and 18 total, most of any team not in the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia shootout. Now, the Penguins offense is much better than the Devils, but Marty Brodeur has played better than Marc-Andre Fleury and I don’t trust either of Philadelphia’s goalies. Devils in five.

Western Conference
(2) St. Louis Blues v. (8) Los Angeles Kings
This could be a low-scoring series. Both of these teams are coming into this series with hot goalies: Jonathan Quick has a 1.59 GAA and a .953 save percentage, while Brian Elliot has a GAA of 1.37 and a .949 save percentage (not to mention Jaroslav Halak’s 1.73 and .935 stats). And together, each team allowed just eight goals – although the Blues played one game less. On the other hand, the Blues can score. Andy McDonald has eight points through five games and the playoffs best shooting percentage (and 3.2 goals created). The Kings are a nice story and they beat up on a good, if flawed, Canucks team but I don’t see two upsets in a row. Blues in six.

They’re having a fun time, but remember how lucky
 the Coyotes are this postseason!

(3) Phoenix Coyotes v. (4) Nashville Predators
Not exactly a traditional series, eh? The Coyotes got here the tough way, after beating Chicago in a series where five of six went to overtime. And while it’s nice to get the bounces in the extra frame, it’s hard to look past how the games got there: Phoenix coughed up late leads in four games. Yes, Mike Smith has looked good (1.81 GAA, .950 save percentage) and has better stats than Pikka Rinne, but he’s not the problem. The problem lies with Phoenix’s defence, with it feeling like every game was mostly spent in front of Smith, especially in crunch time. The Coyotes feel especially flawed and especially lucky; after manhandling Detroit, Nashville just feels good, man (also they have some stellar crowds). Nashville in five.

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Written by M.

April 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm

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