The second round of the 2014 NHL playoffs continues tonight. Here are the HabsWorld contributors’ predictions for the remaining 3 post season series.
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh
Brian La Rose predicts: Pittsburgh in 5
Alex Létourneau predicts: Pittsburgh in 6
Kevin Meldrum predicts: Pittsburgh in 7
Simon Aronson predicts: New York in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: New York in 5
(Brian) If goaltending is the story of this series, things will not end well for Pittsburgh. While Marc-Andre Fleury performed better in Round 1 this year compared to 2013, he was still mediocre. Henrik Lundqvist has proven to be more than capable of stealing a series in the past. However, it won’t be goaltending alone that settles this. Most of the Penguins’ top forwards scuffled against Columbus and it’s hard to imagine that they’ll do so again this round. New York has a balanced attack with several lines capable of scoring but most of their players aren’t anywhere near the threat of the likes of Neal, Kunitz, and company who form Pittsburgh’s secondary scoring. Kris Letang could be a big factor here now that the rust is off from his lengthy absence, I expect he’ll make his mark in this series.
(Alex) While it’s easy to point the finger at Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh’s problems in the back end, a chunk of it is misplaced. He made two huge saves in game six against Columbus where he kept the red light off, one immediately following a Blue Jacket goal in the third period of that nearly blown 4-0 lead. Pittsburgh’s defense is terrible, but they can probably get away with it against a Rangers team that doesn’t exactly make it rain offensively. Evgeni Malkin woke up in game six, but Sidney Crosby doesn’t look right. Pittsburgh’s been getting secondary and tertiary scoring, which is great, but it can’t last forever. Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen are the Penguins leading scorers through the first round. Henrik Lundqvist has the ability to shut down any offense in the NHL, and with a defensive team in front of him, they can strike hard and fast on the counter attack. They’re well balanced and put away a pretty strong Philadelphia team, one that could have probably beaten Pittsburgh. There are some game-breakers in New York, but not as many as Pittsburgh boasts. Ultimately, while I see the games being close, Pittsburgh has too many weapons and I find it unlikely they stay dormant for much longer. The Rangers will have to sort out their powerplay troubles to stand a chance.
(Kevin) I think the Pens stars Crosby/Malkin are really going to be factors in this round. They can win a series on their own if they turn it up a notch. Fleury just has to stay in the net; he really only let in a couple of bad goals in the Columbus series and one was a bad decision. I believe he will be ok. The Rangers have the edge on D & goaltending but not by much. It will be a close series but I give the edge to the Pens.
(Simon) This is a tough series to predict as the Pens were anything but dominant in their first round win. Likewise the Rangers were hot and cold. I think in the end the Rangers superiority on the back end and in goal will give them the edge over the Penguins.
(Norm) Both teams were evenly matched during the regular season. Pittsburgh struggled in the first round with Sidney Crosby curiously goal less and Marc Andre Fleury fighting the puck at times. The Rangers have the edge in goal with Henrik Lundqvist and on defence. That will be enough to take this series.
Chicago vs Minnesota
Brian La Rose predicts: Chicago in 5
Alex Létourneau predicts: Chicago in 5
Kevin Meldrum predicts: Chicago in 5
Simon Aronson predicts: Chicago in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Chicago in 5
(Brian) I have to admit, I didn’t think the Wild would put up much of a fight against Colorado and it surprises me that they’re here. I didn’t like their defensive depth and goaltending before and I still don’t now, especially with one of their netminders not being 100%. Their forwards, however, are capable of keeping Minnesota in high scoring affairs. Will those forwards get enough opportunities to score though? Chicago’s defence corps is much, much better than that of Colorado’s so the amount of Minnesota’s scoring chances are sure to plummet. Add that with a comparably deep Blackhawks attack and you have a recipe for a quick series unless Corey Crawford struggles mightily, something that I don’t expect to happen.
(Alex) While St-Louis put up more of a fight than I had given them credit for before the series started, Chicago showed the hockey world they can still party. This is a complete hockey team that worked its way past a few hiccups against St-Louis (Brent Seabrook’s suspension and Duncan Keith’s psychotic stick work early on) and reestablished their keys to success. Corey Crawford is looking in fine form and it seems all the gears are pumping for the Blackhawks right now. Now how about Minnesota? Didn’t see that one coming. Matt Cooke’s barbaric knee-on-knee hit that sidelined Tyson Barrie was the game changer in this series. Colorado looked lost afterwards as their lack of depth on a real good young team was exposed. The Wild have a scorching Zach Parise and are getting some balanced offense along the way. But with Darcy Kuemper’s injury, question marks arise between the pipes. Matt Moulson and Jason Pominville need to step it up if Minnesota’s to have any chance in this series. While I’d hardly call it worrisome with the team they have around them, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp each have a goal through six. I’d expect them to wake up in round 2. The Wild will show guts, but Chicago will take this one.
(Kevin) The Wild had some good breaks and a few bads one in the opening round matchup with the Avalanche but this series will be all Hawks. They have all the experience and are better in every other aspect of the game. It will not be a cake walk because it’s the playoffs. Hawks are just too good.
(Simon)No playoff series are easy but after the Blackhawks put two crushing overtime defeats against the Blues against them to win 4 straight. I think they will have no problem getting past the Wild. With the Wild’s question marks in goal the defending champs do it 5.
(Norm) Although the plucky Minnesota Wild surprised the Colorado Avalanche with a game 7 overtime win last round, that magic is not likely to extend much further with the Chicago Blackhawks. There’s so much playoff experience and veteran leadership in Chicago that it’s unlikely the Wild will go very far.
Anaheim vs Los Angeles
Brian La Rose predicts: Los Angeles in 6
Alex Létourneau predicts: Los Angeles in 6
Kevin Meldrum predicts: Los Angeles in 6
Simon Aronson predicts: Los Angeles in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Los Angeles in 7
(Brian) Having completed a 3-0 comeback for just the fourth time in league history, confidence should be really high for the Kings. The Ducks, on the other hand, are facing some questions between the pipes while injuries have taken a toll on some of their depth. Anaheim has silenced the critics who claim they’re just a one-line team but when I compare the rosters, boy do they ever look like a one-line team. LA’s defence corps typically does a good job of shutting down the oppositions’ top players and I question whether the likes of Cogliano, Perreault, and Bonino can pick up the slack enough to put them over the top in this series. I think the Kings are jelling at the right time and should be considered the favourite heading into this matchup even if the standings say otherwise.
(Alex) Well, are Los Angeles that hot or was this typical San Jose? A little bit from column A and a little bit from Column B, I guess. The Kings are flying high while Anaheim struggled much more than I expected against Dallas. What’s most troubling is the goaltending situation in Anaheim at the moment. Fredrik Andersen and Jonas Hiller don’t exactly radiate confidence right now. Jonathan Quick does. Anaheim’s getting the offense needed from the usual suspects, along with some secondary help. Anze Kopitar is on fire at the moment and the regulars consisting of Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Justin Williams have rounded into winning shape throughout their first series. Knowing how to win in the playoffs is one of the major differences between the two teams, and with LA coming back the way they did, albeit against the Sharks, they haven’t forgotten how to do it. And there’s that Quick guy. He’s the other difference as the goaltenders between the pipes at the opposite end are in shambles. Sorry to say it’s not looking good for Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne getting past this hot Kings team en route to cup glory.
(Kevin) I will give the Ducks a couple of wins because of Corey Perry & Ryan Getzlaf. The Kings are coming off an unreal comeback over the Sharks and they will be riding high. They have a clear edge on defense and goaltending. Quick is in a zone and the Ducks goalies are questionable. Kings will be the team that comes out on top of this series.
(Simon) After the Kings came back from a 3 game deficit to defeat the Sharks you know they have to be feeling pretty good. I think the combination of the Kings recent Stanley Cup success, their superior defense and Johnathan Quick will be too much for a Ducks team that features a goalie in Frederik Andersen that has a total of 34 starts in the NHL.
(Norm) Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer for the battle for SoCal. Both Anaheim and Los Angeles could easily end up in the finals this season. Another western showdown and I expect a nasty, physical series from both teams. The narrow edge goes to the Kings this time around, thanks to the goaltending of Jonathan Quick and the Kings grinding style.