The second round of the 2012 playoffs is about to begin, and the first round has left an ample number of
highly ranked teams in the wake, and off to the golf course. Among the wounded are the league leading Vancouver Canucks, last season’s Cup winning Boston Bruins, and the highest scoring and fourth highest team by points, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Habsworld writer’s team has contributed their predictions for the next round of these exciting playoffs.
PHO vs. NAS
Alexander Letourneau predicts NAS in 6
Brian La Rose predicts NAS in 7
Mitchell T. predicts NAS in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts PHO in 6
(Alexander) From the back out, Nashville is the better team. Pekka Rinne will play better than Mike Smith and the one-two punch of Shea Webber and Ryan Suter will lead the charge offensively, defensively and physically. Look for Alexander Radulov to continue playing great hockey and being a game breaker in this series. Nashville is a deep and dangerous team. Not to take anything away from the Coyotes though. Smith played excellent hockey in the Chicago series and knocked off a very good team. It was a rough series though and coming into this one, I see Nashville being in better shape. The season series was split down the middle with each team winning both games as the visitors. Rinne started every game, posting a shutout in one victory while Jason LaBarbera started the first three games before Smith took over in a 5-4 shootout loss in their final meeting. Good on Phoenix for finally winning a playoff series but I can’t see them closing out the Predators.
(Brian) Like St. Louis/Los Angeles, this is a series that should be low scoring as both goalies stole the show in Round 1. For most Montreal fans, the Preds are probably the sentimental favourites with several former Habs on there although a Nashville series victory will weaken the value of the 2nd rounder received in the Hal Gill trade. The Predators’ offence got some boosts at the deadline but goals were a bit hard to come by at times. Even though they’re facing a better goalie this year in Mike Smith, I have to think that their offence will be better. For Phoenix, I think their run stops here, I don’t think they have the firepower. Smith can and will steal a game or two along the way but it won’t be enough.
(Mitchell) At this point I think the Western Conference is the Predators conference to lose. They have the goaltending and the defence to win against all of the teams remaining in Conference. If they can continue to get goals from a number of different players this team has a good shot at winning its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The team has the best defender left in the playoffs in Shea Weber and a supporting cast that is both deep and talented. Alexander Radulov has proved that he has both the passion and the skill to be a key member of this team in their playoff run and all these factors will combine to be too much for the Pheonix Coyotes. The variable in this series is the goaltending. Goaltending can always make or break a series in the playoffs but this series for what it lacks in intrigue elsewhere the goaltending situation should fill in. Pekka Rinne is a proven netminder in this league and is a Vezina trophy finalist. Against him is Mike Smith, a surprise hero in both the season and the playoffs for the Coyotes this season. Rinne is good, but if the Predators can’t score against Smith the Coyotes could take this series.
(Norm) The Phoenix Coyotes against the Nashville Predators represents the first time both teams have faced each other in the post season. Both teams have had similar histories in the NHL, with financial problems faced by the pair at different times. Both squads have built their teams through prudent management and stellar coaching. Both teams are riding their #1 goalies, with red hot Predator Pikka Rinne, versus white hot Coyote Mike Smith. Expect low scoring from this series with close games. I’ll give Phoenix the edge.
STL vs. LAK
Alexander Letourneau predicts STL in 7
Brian La Rose predicts STL in 6
Mitchell T. predicts STL in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts LAK in 7
(Alexander) Did not see that one coming. Five games to knock off the high-powered Canucks was impressive. I was wrong about Jonathan Quick. He was a stud in that series and there’s no reason to think he won’t be again against St-Louis. And where did Dustin Brown come out of? He has been nothing short of a one man wrecking crew. The Kings are a dangerous team coming into this series and will make it tough for this St-Louis group. The Blues disposed of the San Jose Sharks with relative ease but will have their work cut out for them. Defense and goaltending will win them this series. The few scoring chances the Blues do generate will have to turn into goals because the quality of goaltending will be high. Expect a few 1-0 games. Quick has owned the Blues this season, starting three of the four meetings, winning two with shutouts and losing a 1-0 decision. Jaroslav Halak got the brunt of the starts for St-Louis, getting two shutouts, one in a shootout loss, but will not be available to start the series. Brian Elliot will have to match Quick save for save. LA took the season series, winning three out of four but I see St-Louis squeaking out of this series, probably with a 1-0 double overtime victory in game 7.
(Brian> The Kings pulled off arguably the biggest upset in the first round and should be riding a high heading into the series. St. Louis, meanwhile, disposed of the Sharks somewhat easily; both teams have had plenty of rest as well. What I think will hinder LA here is that the Blues play a grittier style than Vancouver did, they won’t hesitate to get into the tough areas and go for the dirty goals; that’s a staple of most Ken Hitchcock’s teams. Vancouver’s reluctance to do that regularly was a large factor in the Kings moving on. Both squads have goaltenders capable of stealing some games which means we should be in for a lot of lower scoring contests…poolies, consider staying away from a lot of players in this series if you can.
(Mitchell)I didn’t pick either of these teams to make it to the second round. That being said they both put up solid efforts in the second round and proved that they are both solid teams. However, one of these two teams will not be continuing to the Conference final. I picked the Blues to lose in 7 games to the Sharks, a prediction I quickly regretted. The Sharks never came close to defeating the Blues who took the series in 5 games. Meanwhile the Kings defeated the heavily favoured Canucks in 5 games as well. However, despite the relative ease the Kings had in defeating the Canucks it will not be as easy with the Blues. The Blues are a solid unit with great goaltending all the way up to a couple of solid forwards. The team has the clear coaching advantage as Ken Hitchcock has proved once again why he is one of the best minds in hockey today in turning this Blues team into a contender. This series, like the other in the West should be low scoring but that won’t stop the Blues from ending the Kings cup hopes. This series is St.Louis’s to lose. They play a better system, have two solid goaltenders and have young talented players who may just make a name for themselves during this series. The only thing that stands in the Blues way is Jonathan Quick, the best goaltending in the Western Conference.
(Norm)While I really like the Blues this season, the Kings are the best Cinderella story of the playoffs so far, and I’m a sucker for an underdog story like this one. Jonathan Quick was outstanding in the first round, and veterans Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar will lead the way in what’s sure to be a hard fought series.