Tonight round 2 of the playoffs begins. The HabsWorld writers examine the first two series, and provide their predictions.
Pittsburgh vs Ottawa
Brian La Rose predicts: Pittsburgh in 6
Jason Brisebois predicts: Pittsburgh in 5
Alex Létourneau predicts: Pittsburgh in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Pittsburgh in 6
(Brian) The Islanders gave the Penguins quite the scare in Round 1 which has some thinking they’re ripe for the upset. To be honest, I don’t think the Sens matchup as well as New York did. Speed is what gave Pittsburgh fits in the first round and although Ottawa isn’t slow by any means, they don’t have a lot of speedsters. Craig Anderson will provide a much tougher test for Pittsburgh’s high flying offence and as we saw all too well last round, he is capable of stealing games with ease. That said, I can’t see him stealing the series. If Jason Spezza comes back at a high level, it could be a lengthy series but regardless, Pittsburgh will advance.
(Jason) Sour grapes aside, I wasn’t overly impressed with Ottawa in the first round. They did play several solid games, but there were also lengthy stretches of play where they were utterly dominated. Montreal deserved a better fate than losing in five games, but several lucky bounces for Ottawa coupled with a few suspect calls meant that the Senators won the series more handily than they deserved.
I expect Anderson to steal at least one game against the Penguins, but not the series as a whole this time. Whereas Montreal did have a good season, I was unconvinced they deserved to be the second seed. Pittsburgh meanwhile, may have one of the best teams we’ve seen in the past few years, and are certainly the favourites to not just win the series, but the cup. Expect them to bounce back from their series with the Islanders and for their overwhelming amount of firepower to ultimately overcome Ottawa.
(Alex) The Islanders gave the Penguins more of a fit than I had anticipated. The Canadiens gave the Senators a near free pass in their first round matchup, so, I’d expect the Senators to be more fresh than Pittsburgh. Aside from goaltending, which I give the edge to Ottawa, Pittsburgh boasts the upside the rest of the way. Erik Karlsson is great, but he has defensive lapses that a lineup this talented can, and probably will exploit. Jason Spezza looks like he could make a return to action in the near term, but that won’t be enough, especially now that the Penguins have turned away from Marc André Fleury. I wouldn’t expect a cake walk for the Penguins but Craig Anderson will need to be out of this world to steal this series. He’s not playing a misfiring Canadiens club here. The defensive lapses on Pittsburgh’s side have cost them their starting goalie, not all the goals were Fleury’s fault (but some were downright awful by Fleury) and that will have to change. Ottawa showed they’re an opportunity-type team, willing and capable of weathering a storm before pouncing out of nowhere. Ultimately, the offensive power of the Penguins will overwhelm Ottawa’s towering defense and hot goaltender.
(Norm) The plucky Senators surprised the Canadiens with excellent goaltending, supreme scoring in the 3rd period and a tough team defence.
The Penguins were somewhat surprised to go to
6 games against the New York Islanders, but it may have helped better season them for the playoffs. Ottawa’s coaching will be
evenly matched against Pittsburgh’s, and they have the edge with goaltending, as the Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury struggled.
Pittsburgh has a clear advantage at forward in every way, but they will still have their hands full with the Senator’s team.
Los Angeles vs San Jose
Brian La Rose predicts: Los Angeles in 5
Jason Brisebois predicts: Los Angeles in 6
Alex Létourneau predicts: Los Angeles in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Los Angeles in 6
(Brian) Both teams took distinctly different paths to get to this series. The Sharks breezed past Vancouver with relative ease while the Kings won a war with St. Louis. While this means that San Jose should be less banged up, I figure they will have some difficulty adjusting to the level of physicality the Kings will surely be playing with. San Jose also has a murky playoff history with this core group which makes me hesitant to pick them despite the fact they were the only team to sweep in the first round. The Kings are on a nice roll and I think they should be able to win this with relative ease.
(Jason) Despite San Jose managing to sweep Vancouver, it’s hard not to pick the Kings in this instance. I wasn’t overly impressed by the Sharks’ four-game win over Vancouver considering the turmoil the Canucks have been in all season, something that was certainly reflected in their play throughout the series. While the Kings were taken to the brink – being down two games to none at one point – the final four games of the Kings-Blues series lead me to believe that the Kings are returning to their form from last year’s postseason. Quick has been solid throughout the playoffs so far (minus two gaffs that he has more than made amends for), and the Kings met the challenge of a St. Louis team that, like Montreal, deserved a better fate than a first-round exit.
This isn’t to say that this series will be a cakewalk – San Jose has an all-around decent team backstopped by a goaltender coming off an excellent season – but I simply cannot see them standing up to a Kings team that very well could go all the way again this year.
(Alex) The defending cup champions emerged from a brutal six game set with St-Louis in some of the most entertaining defensive hockey I can remember. And as great as that was, I think it could be a problem going into the second round. This is a team fresh off a cup victory, a grueling 48-game schedule and now a thumping series win. San Jose is the most well rested team of the playoffs. Not just because of the sweep over Vancouver, but because of the way they went about it. The Canucks barely put up a whimper as they were stomped by a Sharks team I didn’t think had the pedigree to do what they did. Antii Niemi is proving me wrong that he may belong in the upper echelon of goaltenders in the NHL, and he would have to outduel Jonathan Quick to really take a big step in that direction. At the end of the day, I give it to experience. San Jose was not tested against Vancouver and I’m curious to see how they react when faced with adversity from the latest team to win it all. I’m taking experience cancelling out fatigue as the Kings go back to the Conference Finals.
(Norm) The battle for California begins. The Kings got off to a slow start in the 1st round losing their first two games, but came to life
by winning 4 straight. Forwards Jeff Carter, Justin Williams and Dustin Penner were prime performers in the first series.
The Sharks top 4 forwards were all solid contributors. Look for Logan Couture, joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to
keep up their scoring. At defence, the Kings hold the advantage over the Sharks with the likes of workhorse Drew Doughty and veterans Robyn Regehr and Rob
Scuderi. In goal, the Kings have a slight edge with Jonathan Quick over Antti Niemi, both with Stanley Cups to their credit.