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The Puck Stops Here

Second Round Playoff Predictions

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs are over.  Here are my first round picks.  I went 5-3, missing the losses of each of the top three seeds in the East Conference.  The fact that the West Conference was significantly better when playing the East Conference in the regular season coupled with the defeats of the top East Conference seeds make a West Conference Stanley Cup winner look quite likely at this point.

Here are my second round predictions:

San Jose Sharks defeat Detroit Red Wings  This series is billed in many people’s minds as the top playoff team in recent years against the biggest playoff chokers of those times.  I do not buy into that.  It isn’t logical that merely by wearing the laundry of a given team, a player who has won big tournaments in his life can no longer do it or that by wearing that laundry a player is suddenly able to win more often than he could otherwise.  San Jose has more dangerous offensive players than Detroit.  San Jose had six 50 or more point scores this year to Detroit’s two.  San Jose had three 80 point scorers and Detroit’s top scorer had 70 points.  Detroit does have a better defence, led by Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, but it is not a big difference.  San Jose’s Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Rob Blake lead a good defence.  San Jose has the more proven goalie in Evgeni Nabokov.  San Jose is the more talented team right now.  If the Sharks win, they will shed their unwarranted reputation as playoff chokers.  That’s OK.  The Washington Capitals can take over as the unwarranted choker team in fan’s minds.

Chicago Blackhawks defeat Vancouver Canucks  Chicago is the better team here.  They have more offensive weapons with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.  They have better defencemen in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.  That is not to say that Vancouver is not a good team.  Roberto Luongo is the stronger goalie, though he has yet to show his ability to steal games.  The Sedins are very good players, but Chicago has more offensive weapons. 

Pittsburgh Penguins defeat Montreal Canadiens  Montreal had a good performance from goaltender Jaroslav Halak to come back from a 3-1 deficit against Washington.  They will need him to be extra-ordinary against Pittsburgh as well.  Pittsburgh is the defending Stanley Cup champions and has a strong group of offensive players led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and others.  They should be strong enough to stop the surprising Habs.

Boston Bruins defeat Philadelphia Flyers  The Flyers had a surprisingly strong performance from their number three goalie in Brian Boucher to get out of the first round.  They have key injuries to Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne.  They are unlikely to be able to continue winning in the playoffs.  Boston is not the strongest playoff team either, but they have much stronger goaltending with Tuukka Rask playing especially well and have top offensive player Marc Savard returning from injury.  Boston should be able to defeat the Flyers.

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Comments

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How did those regular season individual stats work out for the Caps? Wings in 6. The choke continues. Each conference needs their choker. SJ is the West’s.

Posted by Wings_in_NYC from New York on 04/29/10 at 11:20 AM ET

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PSH, how about the fact that the reason the individual player stats on the Wings aren’t as impressive as on the Sharks is because most of the Wings’ top guns missed time during the season.
And if you’re using regular season as the measuring stick to make your playoff predictions, how about the fact that Detroit went 3-0-1 against SJ this season, including 2 wins in San Jose without Franzen.
I’m not going to say Detroit is definitely going to win, San Jose truly is a very talented team.
But to use statistics for individual players from regular season as proof that San Jose will win is asinine.

Posted by George0211 on 04/29/10 at 11:35 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

If the Sharks win, they will shed their unwarranted reputation as playoff chokers.  That’s OK.  The Washington Capitals can take over as the unwarranted choker team in fan’s minds.

Definitely agreed on this count.  I think the Wings will be able to beat the Sharks because their defense is better, as I tend to put more stock in a great defense with a good goaltender than a good defense with a great goaltender.

Besides, I think that the Wings are collectively in Evgeni Nabokov’s head (besides, Pavel Datsyuk loves playing against Russians, even if Nabokov isn’t technically from Russia)

I’m also rooting for the Blackhawks over the Canucks, but I don’t think either of those teams has the goaltending to get past whoever wins the Sharks/Wings series.

Definitely agree that Pittsburgh will be too much for Montreal.

I could see the Boston/Philadelphia series go either way, but I think that Boston has a much better defense and (for right now in this point in their careers) better goaltending than New Jersey did and that will make a big difference in that series.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/29/10 at 11:43 AM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

So, going to betus.com and putting money on the Wings, Canucks, MTL, and Flyers. Worked well last time!

In all honestly, I am going to put money all those except MTL.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 04/29/10 at 11:43 AM ET

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This series is billed in many people’s minds as the top playoff team in recent years against the biggest playoff chokers of those times.  I do not buy into that.  It isn’t logical that merely by wearing the laundry of a given team, a player who has won big tournaments in his life can no longer do it or that by wearing that laundry a player is suddenly able to win more often than he could otherwise.

This is such an obtuse misunderstanding of the knock against San Jose. It’s not the friggin jersey, it’s the players wearing it.

Thornton P/G(reg/playoffs) 1.02 / .68

Now for some comparable players that do win championships
Zetterberg .94/.94
Crosby 1.36/1.4
Getzlaf .93/.84
E Staal .89/1.0

Posted by steve on 04/29/10 at 11:49 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

It isn’t logical that merely by wearing the laundry of a given team, a player who has won big tournaments in his life can no longer do it or that by wearing that laundry a player is suddenly able to win more often than he could otherwise.

Like steve said, it’s the players, not the laundry. Nobody says it’s the laundry.

The Sharks core is built upon a trio of players that have been underwhelming in the post-season—Thornton, Marleau, and Nabokov.

The Wings core is built upon a trio of players that have been overwhelming in the post-season—Lidstrom, Zetterberg, and Franzen. Franzen hasn’t been hot this post-season, so Datsyuk has picked up the slack, just like Franzen picked up the slack for Pav last season.

That’s the difference. I don’t think anyone really believes there’s some organizational aura at play here…

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/29/10 at 11:56 AM ET

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these picks are as bold as your first round predictions.  you picked all the higher seeds to win.

Posted by maybe on 04/29/10 at 11:59 AM ET

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Chicago is the better team here.

OK then, let’s see…

They have more offensive weapons with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

...

The Sedins are very good players, but Chicago has more offensive weapons

Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp and… nope, that’s about it. While Vancouver has the twins (one of whom has an Art Ross Trophy, unlike anyone on the Hawks), Samuelsson (top goalscorer of the playoffs), Kesler (not only a Selke nominee, but a point-producer too), Demitra (good in the playoffs), and a couple of others who can step up (OK, I’ll make allowances for Versteeg and Ladd as well). Chicago do not have more offensive weapons, the Canucks are just as deep offensively if not more so.

They have better defencemen in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook

A pretty good top two, I’ll grant you. Beyond that… not so good. Brian Campbell is good offensively but is not at full fitness. The Canucks, again, have more depth - Edler, Salo, Bieksa, Ehrhoff, and that’s forgetting Willie Mitchell. Given that neither of these teams is reliant on one scoring line, I’d argue that depth of quality is more important than you give credit for.

That is not to say that Vancouver is not a good team.  Roberto Luongo is the stronger goalie, though he has yet to show his ability to steal games.

Luongo doesn’t steal games single-handed in Vancouver - he rarely needs to. Usually, he just has to make one big save for momentum - like in Game 1 OT, or in Game 6 off Ryan Smyth. He will undoubtedly blow at least one game in this series, where he won’t get the big save and then will mentally unravel - but the other 5/6 games, he’ll be better than the other guy.

Incidentally, for a stats guy, surprised you missed that Vancouver, 5-on-5, were the best team in the first round by a mile (only two teams managed to win their series without having the better 5-on-5 differential), as they were in the regular season. For me, this series comes down to whether the Canucks dire PK can improve (which it seemed to towards the end of the 1st round) - if it can, then Vancouver will go through, if not then CHI will likely win the series on special teams.

Posted by fredster from manchester on 04/29/10 at 12:38 PM ET

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Regarding the San Jose / Detroit series, the key question for me is “Can San Jose win IN SPITE of Joe Thornton?”

Mark Messier always talked about imposing your will upon the other team, and crushing their will to win. San Jose has not won very many battles of will. Despite a Western Conference Final appearance in 2004, they remain a very fragile team mentally. San Jose is a team that could have won—often should have won—but still finds a way to lose. Versus a healthy Detroit squad, I see no reason to think otherwise.

To win, San Jose needs to take charge early and dominate. The longer the series goes, the greater the advantage to the Red Wings as doubts grow in the minds of the Sharks with the mantra “Oh, no, not again!”

If the Sharks CAN win, and come out of the series against Detroit healthy, I would give them better odds of going to the Cup than Vancouver or Chicago. The Red Wings are going to be a supreme test, and it will be very interesting to see how the Sharks respond.

Posted by Matthew McCallum from Redding, California on 04/29/10 at 03:53 PM ET

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‘San Jose had six 50 or more point scores this year to Detroit’s two.  San Jose had three 80 point scorers and Detroit’s top scorer had 70 points.’

That’s a fairly silly statement because it ignores the freak amount of injury time Detroit has had this year and ignores the points/game performance of Cleary, Filppula, Holstrom, Zetterburg, and Franzen.

21 points for Franzen in 27 games => well look at that 63 points over a whole season and now he’s’ rested and had time to get in game shape.

At least make a more consistent and sustainable (as you see it)  argument like that Detroit is old, tired and fragile…


‘San Jose has the more proven goalie in Evgeni Nabokov.’

Of course that ignores that Detroit’s back up is far more proven than Nabokov… and yes I know Osgood had a poor regular season but than again he did last year as well and his post season three years running is certainly better than Nabby by leaps and bounds. But maybe Greiss is elite?

Posted by Paul on 04/29/10 at 03:53 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Regarding the San Jose / Detroit series, the key question for me is “Can San Jose win IN SPITE of Joe Thornton?”

I would answer that if San Jose has to win in spite of Joe Thornton then they will likely lose.

I am arguing that San Jose wins because of Joe Thornton or at the very least Thornton plays well enough that he isn`t the story one way or the other to anyone objectively watching the series (I have to say objectively because Alex Ovechkin got 10 points - good for fourth in the playoffs right now and some yahoos think that he personally choked).

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/29/10 at 05:14 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Alex Ovechkin got 10 points - good for fourth in the playoffs right now and some yahoos think that he personally choked

Seven of those points were in games 1-4, the remaining three were games 5, 6, and 7.  I don’t think he choked or he deserves a lion’s share of the blame (especially given Green and Semin’s performances), but Ovie was given enough ice time to make a huge difference and couldn’t do it.

That said, he had a game-tying goal called off last night on a goaltender interference call that I think was crap.

I guess what I’m saying is that I agree that people who blame the Capitals’ loss on Ovechkin are yahoos.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/29/10 at 05:39 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The Caps scored 3 goals in games 5-7.  Ovechkin was in on 2 of them (your numbers are wrong he had 8 points in games 1-4).  The problem was that Washington didn’t score enough in the final three games, but when they scored Ovechkin was usually involved. 

In the playoffs, if you build an impenetrable brick wall in front of your goal, you will win the cup.  You may have to play some games that go well into overtime if your offence isnt scoring, but eventually you will win since you won’t allow goals.  Jaroslav Halak did a good job of impersonating that brick wall in the last three games of the series.  If Halak can do that the rest of the way, Montreal likely wins the cup (obviously I am arguing that he cannot), but it is one of those things that happen.  A team gets stoned by a goalie who is playing at the top of his game.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/29/10 at 06:06 PM ET

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Detroit is a top team in the NHL. They have come out on top for many years, and even though they may have had a rough start it does not by any means insinuate that they will fold when the crunch is made.
Detroit has strong players, and with the skill and experience on their side how can they be beat?
I do not believe that San Jose will beat Detroit, but they can try…..have fun with that!!

Posted by Christina on 04/29/10 at 06:17 PM ET

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I am arguing that San Jose wins because of Joe Thornton or at the very least Thornton plays well enough that he isn`t the story one way or the other to anyone objectively watching the series (I have to say objectively because Alex Ovechkin got 10 points - good for fourth in the playoffs right now and some yahoos think that he personally choked).

Pts/game       regular season/playoffs

Ovechkin 1.34/1.42
Thornton   1.02/.68

That some yahoos believe Ovechkin choked is irrelevant to Thornton’s expected performance. There is no historical statistical basis for the belief that Thornton will not choke.

Posted by steve on 04/29/10 at 07:25 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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