Friday, April 27, 2012

Klau Broz' 2012 NHL Predictionz Round 2, Western Conference Semis

Wow! Did you see that? The first round of the NHL Playoffs was ridiculous!

Three Game 7s in the East, Presidents' Trophy winners getting straight up dominated, hockey teams from the desert showing teams from the North how it's done, goalies that you've never heard of putting teams on their backs, and goalies who've been doing it for 20 years (to the day, Marty) doing the same. Probably the only series that stuck to the script was the St. Louis vs. San Jose show down, which saw the favorites advance in five games.

All in all, nothing made sense, as those who paid attention to NBC Sports and their local partners' coverage instead of the media-hyped, supposed "dirty play" throughout the playoffs witnessed some amazing hockey. Typical of the NHL Playoffs to end its first round and begin its second round the same day, not to mention!

As far as the Round 1 Predictionz went, the Klau Broz were par for the course, with older bro Danny nailing the bonus point for guessing the Blues in 5, giving him the 5-4 advantage in points in this year's KSBz NHL Playoffs pick'em contest.

Danny and Jason will start with their Western Conference Semis Predictionz today, as Phoenix and Nashville face off in Arizona tonight at 9:00 pm EDT on NBC Sports! The Eastern Conference Semis will be posted tomorrow before the Rangers face the Capitals at 3:00 pm EDT.

Danny's picks first, followed by Jason's...OK, go!

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators

DK: You cannot ask for a better goaltending matchup. Up-and-comer Mike Smith, who couldn't get a starting job in Tampa Bay last year, has had a memorable season thus far. Round 1 against Chicago was no exception, as he posted a .950 save percentage against one of the more potent offenses the league has to offer.

In Nashville, we have a Vezina finalist in Pekka Rinne, whose .944 save percentage in Round 1 was not too shabby either. His acrobatic skills combined with his intelligent positioning makes him tough to beat. Veteran David Legwand really played well against his hometown team, and Alex Radulov's return to the NHL was very much welcome in The Music City.

Antoine Vermette, stepped up to lead Phoenix in one of the most exciting playoff rounds in recent memory, with five of the six games going to OT. And with the "Oasis" Keith Yandle impressing as always, this Phoenix team really proved that they can skate in the desert.

This series can go any which way. Expect low-scoring, tight, defensive-minded games - a ratings nightmare for the NHL, but a dream matchup for true puckheads. This comes down to a battle of the men between the pipes. The nod goes last week's BofD, Mike Smith, and the Coyotes.

Phoenix in 7.

JK: Phoenix, winners of their first playoff series since moving to the desert oh so long ago, certainly has a lot to prove. Mike Smith has continued his redemption story by stopping the high-powered C-Hawks offense. Radim Vrbata, the crafty veteran Coyotes leader, tallied just a single point in the first round. He'll have to step up in Round 2 - and he can.

Nashville faired much better in the first round than most experts predicted (Danny, for one). A series against Detroit had seven games written all over it. There must be some kind of power shift in the Central Division when St. Louis and Nashville advance while Detroit and Chicago are left in the shovel snow. (Except, of course, Columbus is still painfully awful, but, that's another point for another post.)

In this series, the Preds have an amazing goalie in Pekka Rinne, and a defense in front of him that makes everything so much easier. Those two ingredients, alongside a well-spread out offense will be the keys to Nashville's ignition for success. Alexander Radulov is proving that you can wait until your team is good enough for you (he played for the Preds for a while, then ditched them in 2008 to play in Russia. Now, he's come back to re-sign right before the trade deadline and to go for a cup - touche, Alexander), and David Legwand still has it. The Kostytsin brothers bring a lot and so does Mike Fisher (he brings Carrie Underwood). That's enough for Preds fans right? All in all, though, while there isn't a real super star offensively in the Tennessee hockey program, coaching mastermind Barry Trotz manages to get the most out of enough guys to be successful. Nashville is the better team. It'll be a very tough series.

Nashville in 6.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings

DK: Whichever team wins the West, they will head into the Stanley Cup Finals with a great goalie, as the second Western Conference Semifinal features arguably the two best goalies in the league. The Blue's Bryan Elliot finished the year with a 1.56 GAA, which is almost 20% lower than his series counterpart in Jonathan Quick, who finished second in the league in that category. During the first round, Los Angeles' inability to put pucks in the net all year paled in comparison to the poor goaltending of Roberto Luongo (surprised?), so, be careful betting the longshot in this one.

Patrik Berglund and Andy McDonald lead the way offensively for St. Louis. Both had breakout series vs. San Jose. This team has had a strong work ethic since day one and they easily beat a more-than-capable team in the Sharks during the first round. Bryan Eliot and the St. Louis D will have no problem shutting down the mediocre attack posed by the Kings - but again, it's the goalie matchup that will determine this, and it can go either way.

St. Louis in 6.

JK:  In the end, the loss of a Sedin proved too much to bear for the Canucks, as the 8th seeded L.A. Kings shocked them in a quick five games. I said in the first round preview that Quick would steal a couple of games for LA. - I never imagined he could steal the entire series. Since then, Roberto Luongo has asked for a trade, and Vancouver riot police have gone into panic mode.

The Kings, one of the League's worst offenses, statistically speaking at least, managed to sneak just enough by the playoff swiss cheese that is Luongo as their above-average-strength backbone bailed them out once again. But against the Blues, they go up against a team on a roll, one that is not missing its best players.

I'll admit the fact that I've underestimated the Blues in the past. I thought playoff experience would catch up to them against San Jose. Instead, they dispatched their opponent fairly quickly and made D-Klau look like a boss, and me look pretty bad. The skill of guys like Andy McDonald, Patrick Berglund and David Perron give them a strong, and often-overlooked attack, while grit guys like TJ Oshie bring a different and more forceful element that LA did not see in the first round.

Obviously, goaltending will be key in this matchup. Brian Elliot, who was left off the ballot for goalie of the year (probably because of the time-splitting with Halak) has not shown any signs of slowing down, but as Quick has shown, he can steal a series. I wouldn't be surprised either way. With that said, my gut says Quick won't steal two series in a row.

St. Louis in 5.


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