The second day of the playoffs are about to start, and the HabsWorld writers provided their insights and predictions on how these series will go.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
Brian La Rose predicts: Rangers in 5
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Rangers in 5
Paul MacLeod predicts: Penguins in 7
Louis Moustakas predicts: Rangers in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Rangers in 4
(Brian) There are certain matchups where I think the Penguins could have been a threat, including against Montreal. This isn’t one of them though. The Rangers are a team that can effectively shut down opposing top forwards and have a balanced attack that will prevent them from having to win all low scoring games.
Then there’s the goalie situation. On the one hand, you have Henrik Lundqvist, a proven playoff performer, plus a strong backup in Cam Talbot. On the other, there’s the erratic Marc-Andre Fleury. There’s a clear advantage here and when you add that to the other things New York has going for them (instead of goalies being the only advantage as would have been the case in other matchups), the Rangers should get through this round.
(Alex) Is anyone going to take Pittsburgh? Aside from the obvious Presidents trophy winner against a team that limped into the playoffs dialogue, has anyone actually watched this Pens team play in the last few weeks? Hideous. They’re terribly injury-ridden with the defensive core being decimated, their engine has had a disappointing year (by his lofty standards), Evgeni Malkin drifts in and out of injury, and it would appear in interest sometimes, and Marc-André Fleury has shown his ability to blow it since that own goal debacle in the World Juniors final. New York is a team fresh off a cup finals appearance with the added bonus of Rick Nash remembering he was an elite scorer, and Keith Yandle bulking up the blue line offense. The Rangers look good and while the President’s trophy ‘curse’ looms, I can’t see it being this Penguins team snuffing them out.
(Paul) if the good Fleury shows up, the Pens are going to reverse roles and defeat a favored opponent.
(Norm) The Penguins are a reeling team, that has dropped significantly during the stretch run of the end of the regular season. Several losses to injury are a big factor, and the scoring prowess of superstars like Crosby and Malkin has been relatively poor. The Rangers have been a dominant team in all areas, and very consistent throughout most of the season. I don’t see Pittsburgh putting up any W’s in this series.
Detroit Red Wings vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Brian La Rose predicts: Lightning in 5
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Lightning in 5
Paul MacLeod predicts: Red Wings in 7
Louis Moustakas predicts: Lightning in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Lightning in 5
(Brian) While last year’s playoff struggles should make everyone a tad unnerved when picking Tampa Bay, that learning experience will serve them well here. They have a deep forward group that can make the best of goalies look ordinary and that should be enough to offset what looks like a pretty weak set of blueliners.
As for Detroit, their goalies are ordinary at best. In fact, it seems likely they’ll switch starters at some point in the series. Their top guys have lots of experience and savvy which is nice but I could see the Lightning averaging close to four goals per game which is a lot to overcome. Detroit’s offence just isn’t good enough to put up that much of an attack each night.
(Alex) The Red Wings have been in a downswing for the last month, with big questions surrounding their goaltenders. The big two, Zetterberg and Datsyuk, are ageing – but still have some gas in the tank, while the defense is suspect. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, have Ben Bishop in goal this year and have a fleet of very impressive youngsters that all seem to be rounding out at the right time. If you’re riding on talent versus talent, Tampa bay has got to be a runaway. It will take something real special from Mike Babcock to suppress this Lightning team who are eyeballing a rematch of last year’s first round matchup with the Habs. Maybe looking too far ahead will be their undoing. But not likely.
(Paul) A hard fought battle. A coin flip and hope for the Habs.
(Norm) Unfortunately for the Habs, I don’t believe the Red Wings will get past the Lighnting in the first round. Both are strong skating teams with great coaches. Detroit’s defence and goaltending are no match for Tampa’s.
Winnipeg Jets vs Anaheim Ducks
Brian La Rose predicts: Jets in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Ducks in 6
Paul MacLeod predicts: Jets in 6
Louis Moustakas predicts: Ducks in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Ducks in 7
(Brian) Bruce Boudreau’s teams always seem to struggle when the playoffs arrive. They’re more of a finesse team that attacks and while that results in regular season success, it doesn’t help as much in the postseason. Their goaltending is another area of concern. Anaheim can still score goals in this series but can they stop them?
Winnipeg, meanwhile, is built for the playoffs. They have the ability to grind games out which will take its toll as the series progresses. I also like the balance they have up front; they don’t have the top line game breakers like the Ducks but they have two solid trios plus a third unit capable of producing. While their goaltending is also suspect, their defence should help keep pucks out of the net.
I could see this series going both ways but I think the Jets can pull off the big upset here.
(Alex) Talk about two teams I thought would be on the outside and not even getting a sniff at a post season spot when the year started. Great to see hockey alive and well in Canada (except in Toronto and Edmonton) and this should be a great series. I take Vancouver based on them having more experience and home ice advantage. That’s it. Both these teams have been such a pleasant surprise that, aside from the hate that will inevitably ooze from the provincial neighbors, there is a feel good story there. But like I said, Vancouver has the experience to punish a youthful and excited Flames team. One blip for the Canucks is if their top line offense dries up, I’m not sure how much secondary scoring they’ll be able to muster. It’s a real pity Mark Giordano missed the last 20 games of the season. What a year he was having before getting shut down.
(Paul) Another upset. The hard-hitting Jets ground the Ducks.
(Norm) The Jets will surprise some by pushing the Ducks around, physically and on the scoreboard. I don’t see them getting past Anaheim, unless their game breakers like Perry and Getzlaf are completely shutdown. There’s too much to like about Anaheim to see them upset but they will be pushed to the series limit, and will be banged up entering the second round.
Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues
Brian La Rose predicts: Blues in 7
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Wild in 7
Paul MacLeod predicts: Blues in 5
Louis Moustakas predicts: Blues in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Wild in 6
(Brian) St. Louis has been a perennial underachiever for a while now. But, they have a strong blueline and a very deep group up front and their style of play is conducive to playoff hockey. Of course, no one trusts their goaltending which is why I don’t have this one ending quicker than seven games.
How far can Devan Dubnyk carry a team? How much longer can this run of his last? While those are big questions, the other is whether or not they can score. Their offence is good on paper but has yet to produce results. No matter how good Dubnyk is, if their top players don’t pick it up, I can’t see them getting through this series.
The Blues have failed to make it out of the first round for two straight years. The third time will be the charm despite their goaltending concerns.
(Alex) Personally, I think the Blues are the new San Jose Sharks. Impressive during the season, abysmal and disappointing come playoffs. They have a great team with some real scary offensive weapons but I think it stalls in crushing fashion. Lost in the hoopla of Ottawa’s sensational run, the Wild put together some pretty impressive play to work themselves into the postseason. Devan Dubnyk has been one of the hottest goalies in the NHL and I think it continues in stifling fashion as the Wild send the Blues to another early exit. Bold prediction – Vanek learns from last season and shoes up when it counts this time.
(Paul) The playoff ready Blues teach the Wild a hard lesson.
(Norm) If ever there was a script for an underdog winning a hockey series, it’s got to be this one. I like Minnesota’s goaltending compared to St.Louis’, and their defensive squads are similarly matched. The Blues forwards are somewhat better, but the Wild have shown to be a plucky team in last year’s postseason, so I expect them to repeat that performance this year.