Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Klau Broz' 2012 NHL Playoff Predictions, Part 2: First Round, Eastern Conference

Bring on the Percocet

By Danny and Jason Klau

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The Klau Broz laid out their Western Conference Predictions on Monday.

The Eastern Conference was dominated this year by the Atlantic Division, boasting the four highest point totals in the conference, resulting in as many playoff berths. Look for those teams to exert their will on the rest of the conference.

The Rangers have the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since '93-94 (if you have the MSG network then you're probably well aware of the fact). Since that memorable season, the Blueshirts haven't even finished second in their division, except for the '95-96 season, thanks to head coach Colin Campbell and a few other names worth repeating. So, you can't blame Rangers fans for being excited about this year's team.

(1) New York Rangers vs (8) Ottawa Senators

DKlau: Having said that, the Rangers have not played their best hockey for the last month of the season. It should be noted, however, that as soon as Pittsburgh got close to them, they turned it right back on. This leads me to believe that Tortorella (my pick for the Jack Adams Award) will have his men ready for battle against the Sens.

The Rangers face a high-octane offense in Ottawa, lead by top scorer Jason Spezza. Daniel Alfredsson has to know that he doesn't have too many chances left at a cup run, but even the best players don't all win the big one (see: Jeremy Roenick).

The Rangers attention to detail will be apparent in this series. They've won many games this year by simply making fewer mistakes than their opponents. That often is the difference between a 1 seed and an 8 seed. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan is not afraid to be on the ice blocking shots, and his will teammates follow his lead as they have throughout the regular season. Having Henrik Lundqvist in net doesn't hurt either. The Rangers should shut the Senators down. Rangers in 6.

JKlau: Both the Rangers and the Senators find themselves in a bit of a slump going into the playoffs, and as the Rangers have been able to maintain their 1 seed, the Sens slipped to 8.

For the Rangers, it will always start in net. Henrik Lundqvist had a career year behind a tough blue line - it has gotten hard to put pucks in against the Rangers. That tough blueline includes the likes of Ryan McDonagh, who made the most of an opportunity to play on the top pair this season and Dan Girardi, who made the All-Star game - though, many feel his partner is the better player. Michael Del Zotto also rebounded this year and has emerged as a more-than-capable second pair D-man.

Ottawa though, has a guy named Erik Karlsson, and he's no slouch on the backend either. He's young, but it looks like he'll win the Norris Trophy for best defenseman.

Offensively, both teams have weapons. The Rangers, though, might be about to unleash their secret one. Rumors have been running rampant about the potential to sign their top prospect, Boston College star Chris Kreider. Scouts unanimously agree that he is the real deal, and if they can get him signed in time, he might be a key ingredient. He'll join Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan "the right way" Callahan on a team with serious talent. The Senators though, will have to match, which isn't out of the question. Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza are top notch and Daniel Alfredsson is an Ottawa legend for a reason.

The Senators took 3 out of 4 during the season, but the Rangers are just flat out a better team. Its the Rangers series to lose and I don't think they will. Rangers in 5.

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals

DKlau: It should be interesting to see how the Capitals react to their underdog role. The Caps have struggled in the regular season for the first time since the '05-06 campaign. Perhaps they saved their best hockey for the end of the year this time?

They face the defending champions from Boston, meaning this series won't be short on star-power. Boston is one of the toughest teams to beat in the league because they can beat you from all sides. Milan Lucic had 61 points this year (he might have had more had he not spent 135 minutes in the penalty box - Boston had the #2 ranked offense while being third in penalty minutes accrued). They can kick their oppenents' asses and score on them while you're on they're ground, basically, and in this series, they will.

The Capitals might steal a game or two early, but they won't be able to match up for seven games. Not with their goaltending. Boston in 5.

JKlau: The defending champs will have a pretty tough matchup with the Capitals. After a slow
start to the year for Ovie and the rest of the Caps, the team has gathered itself, coming close to a division championship, but in the end falling short.

The playoffs have been tough on Washington in the Ovechkin era. Secondary stars like Alex Semin haven't gotten the job done - he'll have to prove himself if he wants to earn a pay raise in free agency this year. But even if he does, the Caps may just be outmatched. The Bruins, although a defensive team, have some guns on offense. Tyler Seguin should give the Caps blue line trouble with guys like Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic in the mix. The Bruins have a spread out offense and a tough blue line led by the big Z, Zdeno Chara, as well..

In net, Tim Thomas shares an alma mater with multiple Sportzbroz contributors (not me) so you know they'll show love here. He's a better goalie than Tomas Vokun, or Michael Nuevirth, or Brian Holtby, or whatever goalie Washington decides to use.

Washington did well to turn their season around and make it this far, but history has shown that the Capitals haven't had the drive, the focus, or the toughness to do damage in the post season. Coincidentally, they play a team that has all of those assets. They'll make it a series but it will inevitably be Boston in 6.

(3) Florida Panthers vs (6) New Jersey Devils

DKlau: The Devils are perhaps the smartest team in the league, having maintained control of the 6th seed for most of the 2nd half of the season. That earned them a matchup with the Florida Panthers, winners of easily the worst division in the NHL. Florida gets home ice in this series because they happen to play in a weak division.

The Devils are a quality team, well above average both offensively and defensively. Despite being the 3 seed, Florida was actually outscored by their opponents this year. And if you count an overtime loss as a loss (which it is, really), Florida went 38-44 this year. You may remember a below .500 team winning an NFL playoff game two years ago, but this isn't a one-game playoff. And it's hard to be confident in a team that has Tomas Fleischmann as their leading scorer.

Jose Theodore might steal a game, but Florida wont be able to shut down the likes of Kovalchuk and Parise for very long. Devils in 5.

JKlau: If you couldn't win your division it looked like everyone wanted to be a number 6 seed. The Panthers are the beneficiaries of the OT point, taking 18 points from losses. But in the playoffs, there is no stat labeled OTL. That's not to say though, that there isn't some talent. Jason Garrison and Brian Campbell are good offensive threats from the blue line and add a fresh dynamic to their team which they lacked for a while, but still, Florida lacks a guy who is a real threat, at all times. The guy who people take notice of all the time. The guy that forces other teams to use their best D pair whenever he's on his shift. Fact is, most teams wouldn't have a problem deploying their second pair against Florida's best.

On NJ, Zach Parise has one more shot to go all the way as a Devil and he'll make the most of it. Ilya Kovalchuk is a dominant player, Patrick Elias has the experience, and Adam Henrique is their quality rookie up front. Another quality rookie is Adam Larsson on the backend. Now is his chance to prove he was worth the 4th overall pick in the draft. He's part of a defense that includes standout Anton Volchenkov. They're D is solid. Not amazing but solid. With Martin Broduer in net, it should be enough for the Panthers.

Devils had 8 more points in the regular season, but since division leaders get home ice, it's the Panthers who will start at home. The home ice however, won't mean a thing. Maybe they take one but no more than that. I've got my money on the broomsticks though. Devils in 4.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Philadelphia Flyers

DKlau: The Flyers have a pension for violence when they feel over-matched, and the Penguins star player is vulnerable, to say the least. Don't be surprised if you see Sean Payton on the Philly bench for this one, only the NHL slaps you with just a 5 minute timeout for trying to injure your opponent. Bryzgalov is getting hot at the right time and he will need to be facing this offense. If the Penguins can stay disciplined and let the Flyers beat themselves, they'll get through with only a few scratches. Aka, bring the Percocet. Pittsburgh in 6.

JKlau: The cross-state rivalry returns in the playoffs, and things are sure to get heated. There's only one guarantee in this match up: the post-series hand shake will be tough for both teams.

The Penguins' dynamic offense is led by Evgeni Malkin, top point scorer in the NHL, and of course, Sidney Crosby. A side benefit to keeping Crosby out for most of the season is that he is now fresh and hot going into the playoffs. The underrated star on Pittsburgh is James Neal. Sure, he benefits from the teammates he plays with, but he's still proven he can be a major contributor in this league. Philly though, is no offensive slouch. Claude Giroux has proved he is one of the best, and Scott Hartnell has benefited from playing on a line with hi. And of course, there is the great Jaromir Jagr. Jagr, who is sure to hear the boo birds come out in Pittsburgh, although I will never understand why, has proven he is still a top player in this game. His experience will be huge if Philly wants to go far.

Goal tending has never been a huge strength in Philly, even with Bryzgalov. He had a huge month in March and Philly will need him to regain that form. Yes Bryz, the universe is so big. Just make sure your 5-hole isn't. Marc-Andre Fluery is a good goalie and he'll only look better if Pittsburgh can keep puck control.

Philly took 4 out of 6 from the Pens during the season, but those weren't the playoffs. Pittsburgh wins in a tough, hard fought 6 game series.

...

The NHL playoffs, which start tonight, are the greatest spectacle in all of Sportz. In a world dominated sponsorships and bloated contracts, the NHL is a league where the players play for the sweater they wear, where victory is determined by who wants it more. You’d be a fool to miss it.

8 comments:

  1. The Panthers and Devils split the season series 2 -2 with each team winning one on the road and one at home...The Devils outscored them 12 - 11 in those games (No clear cut advantage)

    In those four games, Versteeg dropped five goals on the Devils which is two more than Mr. Kovalchuk and one more than Elias and Parise combined (I guess he is not a real threat though) Samuelsson also had two goals for the Cats in those four games, the same amount as Elias and Parise.

    The Devils only dominant win against the Panthers came with Markstrom in net for FLA and he is no longer on the roster… Other than that, a shootout victory and two L’s (Both of which Brodeur was in net)

    Cats going to make it a series.

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  2. We knew Spencer would come through with some jab with those Cats comments...

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  3. Not predicting them to advance, just makie it a series...all in good fun (unlike Jalen and Skip going ham on each other on First Take)

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  4. Skip should have pulled the DUI card.

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  5. That would have been so loose...

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  6. This isn't the regular season, although I don't blame a Panthers fan for not knowing the difference. Welcome to the show, Cats!

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  7. Never said it was the regular season, simply stated stats from the regular season that could gauge the upcoming series.

    For instance, Philly went 2 – 1 in Pittsburgh this year, taking 4 - 6 overall, so in that series, the regular season was a good indication of what could, and did, take place in game one.

    Also, it should read, "Welcome back to the show, Cats!"

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  8. If Kris Versteeg is your biggest threat than your team has some problems. A good player, I'll give you that. But is he a guy you want to rely on in the post season? he's a good secondary guy. He had success playing in the shadow of Toews and Kane and Hossa and Sharp. He's not a go to guy.

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