Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Klau Broz NHL Playoff Predictionz, Conference Semis

In the annual challenge we saw an even first round prediction competition, with the Klau the Elder emerging with an 8-7 lead in points. Same scoring applies to round 2, a point for picking the winner, a bonus point for getting the games. Filling in for DKlau for one series is cousin of Klau, and good friend of the blog, David Pace. He’s a genius, listen to him.


It’s been an exciting playoffs so far. Here’s to another exciting round of playoff hockey. Lacem up!

Rangers vs Bruins


JKlau


Both teams are coming off of big Game 7 wins, for opposite reasons. For the Bruins, it was a thrilling come from behind victory that saw them score two goals in the dying minutes to send it to OT, and Patrice Bergeron sealed the deal in OT. I guess Toronto wasn't stronger.

For the Rangers, the series against the Capitals saw the home team take every game heading into a game 7 that was shaping up to be a thriller. From a Rangers perspective it was great. From a hockey fans perspective, it really wasn't. The Rangers came out and dominated the Capitals, gave Henrik Lundqvist goal support. Turns out he didn't need it, as he notched his second consecutive shutout to end the series.

For New York, goaltending will have to come through. This hasn't exactly been a problem for them, but Henrik Lundqvist needs to keep up his strong play. Historically, the Rangers really need him to not give up more than 2 goals in a game for them to really have a shot. He gave up 3 goals in games 3 and 4, but a lot of goals he gave up in the series were off of bad bounces or deflections. Can't fault him. Games 6 and 7 showed he's in the zone and he'll be tough to beat. Offensively the Rangers need to get it going, and perhaps the 5 goal outburst in game 7 will help. Derick Brassard led the team in scoring in the 7 games, notching 9 points in his first career playoff appearance, which as been stellar so far. They've gotten the secondary scoring. The question is, where is the primary scoring? Ryan Callahan finally notched a goal in game 7. Rick Nash didnt score a goal, and Brad Richards only had one with no assists in the series. The frustration has been evident for those guys, and against a tough defensive team like the Bruins, the Rangers will need them. The Penalty Kill did pretty well against a great Washington Power Play, and they will need to keep that up as well.

For the Bruins, Tuuka Rask is as solid as they get. Playing in a defensively strong system like Boston's onlyhelps. Offensively, David Krejci has been the first round stud for Boston, nothcing 13 points in their 7 game series. Milan Lucic has been a menace on the stat sheet, as well as with his phsyical play. The Rangers will need to counter that. The major concern heading into the playoffs with Boston (who I admit, I doubted) was who was going to step up with the points. They've gotten solid contributions throughout, inculuding former Ranger Jaromir Jagr, who deserves a welcome reception in MSG. Defensively, Boston likes to take the body, which should make this a fun series to watch as both teams are capable of throwing their weight around.


Matchups between these two teams always tend to be very tight games, so expect some tension in this series. Its a tough one to call, because both teams like to play low scoring games. I could definitely see this going the distance, and even though my subjective side is saying the Rangers, my objective side says Bruins in 7.

DPace 

Fans of these original 6 teams know what’s coming – defensive, grind it out hockey with both teams showing long stretches of painfully pathetic offense. Add the fact that each team will face a comparatively stronger opposing goaltender in Round 2 and scoring will be at a premium. 

For the Boston Bruins, the regular season underachieving first line of Lucic/Krejci/Horton were the stars of Round 1 accounting for 11 of the 22 goals. Look for the Rangers to clamp down on Krejci, limiting his free space to create scoring opportunities for Horton and Lucic. On the flip side, the star regular season second line of Seguin/Bergeron/Marchand were the goats of Round 1 as both Seguin and Marchand were goalless. Things were so bad that Seguin was demoted in Game 7 and scored his only point of the series assisting on Bergeron’s series winning OT goal. For the Bruins to succeed they will need more balance between the top two lines and to play with the same sense of urgency as they did in the last 10 minutes of Game 7. 

For the Rangers, we know they will be solid defensively and in net but again the question is who will step up offensively.  Getting goals from role players only takes you so far and the 3 points combined in Round 1 from Rick Nash and Brad Richards isn’t going to cut it if the Rangers want to advance further. They may catch a break this series with a possibly serious lower body injury to Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg adding to the already injured Andrew Ference and Wade Redden. 

Get ready for one-goal games galore especially as 6 of the last 7 Bruins series have gone the distance.


Bruins in 7

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa


JKlau


The Penguins had a tough time against the Islanders, almost letting it get to game 7 before a late rally and OT win notched them a 6 game series. A big reason for that is goaltending. Marc-Andre Fluery proved last year was no fluke, he actually is terrible come playoff time. After a game 1 shutout in which his team flat out dominated, Fluery showed his true colors and, as the old addage goes, he couldn't stop a beach ball. Thomas Vokun would be counted on and he performed well. However, there are question marks next to him, as he hasn't really had a ton of playoff experience. Still, he's a veteran and did well in the two starts he had. He'll need to play well to give his team a shot. Offensively, the Penguins need no introduction. Crosby looked like Mario Lemxieux with highlight reel plays, Evgeni Malkin is a beast and Jerome Iginla wants a cup, badly. For Pittsburgh, the best defense is a good offense, but that doesnt mean their Dman are anything to shrug at. Kris Letang and Paul Martin can handle themselves, and Brooks Orpik is a good all around guy. If they get solid goaltending to bail them out when needed, it will not be easy to score on them. 

Ottawa is coming off of a big, 7 over 2 upset, which both us Klau Broz accurately predicted. Montreal tried to play the tough guys, but Ottawa proved to be tougher. They will need to carry that intensity into the next round, even after having a few days off. They will also need to keep up the offensive production. They walked all over Montreal, and 10 players notched at least 3 points in the 5 game series. In fact, only four players on the roster didn't get on the scoresheet. Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson led them in that regard with 6 points each. The sens are getting contributions all around, including from their D, and its not just Karlsson. Mark Methot and Sergei Gonchar can gun, and Chris Phillips, who only had one point in the series, is capable of doing more. He'll focus more on the defensive aspect though, something he does very well. 

The Sens are healthy, and are a force to be reckoned with. They are playing with a level of confidence up and down their lineup. The pens on the other hand, struggled to shrug off the Islanders and need to up their play. They were on less lucky bounce away from a game 7, and they will need to turn it around. 

Senators are hot at the right time, Ottawa in 7

DKlau

Pittsburgh Vs Ottawa


The New York Islanders made life uncomfortable at times for the Penguins, who struggled to dispatch them in 6 games.  Poor goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury was masked by equally bad goaltending from Evgeni Nabakov. Tomas Vokoun righted the ship for the Penguins, who won both games he started despite being badly outplayed on Long Island in the 6th game. They clash with an opponent  who will not gift them as many goals as the Islanders did. 

Craig Anderson - who would be the frontrunner for the Vezina trophy had he not been injured for a good portion of the (half) season continued his sturdy play in goal in a hard hitting series against North of the border Rivals Montreal.  The Senators outscored their rivals 20-9 while easily beating them in 5 games, arguably the most impressive team in round 1. Erik Karlsson led the way on defense, averaging over 26 minutes a game despite only recently coming back from a gruesome Achilles injury. If he and Sergei Gonchar can minimize the damage caused by Sidney and Malkin, Ottawa could shock the hockey world. Daniel Alfredsson is 40 years old and might not return next season, which would make this his last chance at a cup.  He led his team with 6 points in the first round.  Ottawa got scoring from every part of the ice and played a physical game that Pittsburgh will find hard to match. 

Ottawa in 5

Blackhawks vs Redwings

Jklau


One of two original 6 matchups in this second round, and boy is this series an interesting one. The Chicago Blackhawks are coming off of a 5 game win over the Wild, who to their credit, made it a little bit more interesting than I had predicted. Still, a game 5 in Chicago was not going any other way. The Hawks are simply a dominant team. Toews and Kane are world class talents, and secondary threats in Hossa and Sharp are the primary guys on most NHL teams.In net, Corey Crawford is certainly a beneficiary of the team he plays for. Still, he is a solid goalie who isn't just going to get beat easily. even if you find yourself actually having some puck possession against the B'Hawks, Crawford holds his own. 

Detroit is coming off of an interesting series. Anaheim had a big opportunity to close it out, twice, but Detroit battled hard and pulled out the needed W's in games 6 and 7. The dynamic duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will always be lethal and they get some secondary scoring throughout their lineup. Guys like Dan Cleary and Valteri Filpulla have been here before and know what needs to be done. There are however, some younger guys looking to make a name for themselves in Detroit, not the spot the Wings typically find themselves in. Defensively, Niklas Kronwall is just plain scary. Don't get caught with your head down when he's on the ice. He can certainly keep a lot of teams honest. They have some solid Dmen after him, but no superstars. They like to play a puck possession game, but the question is, can they play that way better that Chicago. Jimmy Howard is a pretty good goalie, but he has a major test ahead of him and he's going to have to really step up if Detroit has a shot. 

I think Chicago gets through this one again. B'Hawks in 5.

DKlau

Chicago Vs. Detroit

The stars aligned to bring about a rematch of the 2009 Conference finals which saw Detroit advance en route to that season's Stanley Cup. That season's Blackhawks squad was young and inexperienced, with Superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews shining in their sophomore seasons. Chicago used the experience gained in those playoffs to win the following seasons Stanley Cup.

Their roles have reversed now, as the younger Blackhawks have matured and are now heavily Favorited to represent the Western Conference in the finals. Each of these teams had vastly different experiences in their respective first rounds.  


Chicago's first round task became much easier before a puck was dropped, as Minnesota starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom withdrew himself from Game 1's warm-ups with a sports hernia. The Wild were left with an impossible task with backup goaltender Josh Harding, who appeared in just 5 games this season, left to lead the way. Having said that, it is tough to gauge how good Chicago is right now. Corey Crawford played well, posting a .950 Save % in the 5 games. Patrick Sharp lived up to his names netting 5 goals. Marian Hossa took advantage of the lackluster Minnesota goal tending, scoring twice in the decisive 5th game. Defensively they were solid, so far so good for Chicago. 

They run into a familiar foe who was brought to the brink by their first round opponents, but were able to survive a late game 7 onslaught against Anaheim.  Detroit showed grit and determination, winning 3 of the 4 games that went to overtime in that series, and coming back from a 3-2 deficit to win games 6 and 7. They will have to improve on both ends. They will not be able to dig themselves out of a hole like they did against Anaheim - a series they were actually outscored in. Jimmy Howard improved lat in that series, and he will need to continue that form and then some for Detroit to advance. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk will have to outshine Chicago's dynamic pair of Toews and Kane, as the Blackhawks certainly have the edge in secondary scoring. 

This poses as a dream matchup for the unbiased fan and should produce a competitive series. Chicago has the depth to outlast Detroit.

Chicago in 6.

Kings vs Sharks

JKlau

Its the battle of Cali in this exciting matchup. Both teams are coming off of four consecutive wins. The Kings dropped games one and two before winning four straight against St. Louis, and the Sharks obliterated Vancouver in a quick 4 game sweep.


For the Kings, it's the Jonathan Quick Show. In the 6 game series against the Blues, he only allowed three goals one time, and kept a talented Blues team from getting their offense going. They needed that, as every game in the series was decided by one goal. Sure he had a major gaffe in game 1 in OT, but the city of LA can forgive him for one bad play. Offensively the Kings could certainly hope for a little more. 5 players notched at least three points, but none clipped at a point per game rate. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will need to play at a high level to keep the Kings going. Drew Doughty is one of the best Dmen in the game and the other 5 on the backend are solid. They help out Quick the best they can. However, Quick and his D face a tougher challenge this series.

The Sharks are coming off of a four game shellacking of the Canucks. Vancouver should hoenstly be embarassed. The Sharks lit up Cory Schneider. Maybe it won't be Luongo who gets traded after all. Getting back on topic, the Sharks offense rolled in the first round. 5 players scored at a point per game clip, led by Logan Cotoure and Joe Pavelski who each notched 8 in the four game sweep. On D, Dan Boyle QB's the power play, and M.E Vlasic holds down the fort defensively. Antii Niemi had a hot start to the year before cooling down a bit. Still, he's done well recentlyand he has won a cup. The Sharks have always had high expectations come playoff time and even a tough matchup against the Kings won't change that.

When it comes down to it, I think the Sharks can outgun the Kings, and can get just as good goaltending when needed. Sharks in 7.

DKlau

The Los Angeles Kings found themselves in an 0-2 hole after 2 games in St. Louis. Have they recaptured the form they showed in last years playoffs - arguably the most dominant playoff run ever seen? They may well be on their way, and this round 2 matchup against the upstart San Jose Sharks will certainly shed some light. Goaltender Jonathan Quick has quickly recaptured his playoff form from last season, posting a .946 Save % in round 1. He needed to be as good as he was, as all 6 games in the series were decided by 1 goal. 

Speaking of goals, The San Jose Sharks were more than capable of scoring against Vancouver, being the only team to sweep their first round opponents. They got goals from the usual suspects in Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. They also continue to get top-notch goalkeeping from Anti Niemi - making these the only two teams left with a Stanley Cup winner for a starting goalie (Sorry Marc-Andre). This poses quite the matchup, as Los Angeles' top defensive pair of Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi are certainly capable of shutting down any teams top line. If they are able to, San Jose will have to get contributions from guys like Raffi Torres and TJ Galiardi. The 3rd and 4th lines will play a key role in this series and it is where someone like Mike Richards can shine for LA.

Home Ice advantage is the determining factor in this battle of well-matched teams.

LA in 7

So there you have it sportzbroz. The second round of the NHL Playoffs is underway and I can guarantee you its more exciting than any other sport going on right now. Get your head on straight and tune in.