Round 2 of the playoffs are nearly upon us crazy hockey fans. The HabsWorld writers provided their predictions on the next four series.
Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Brian La Rose predicts: Lightning in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Canadiens in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Canadiens in 6
(Brian) I’d have felt a lot better had Detroit been the opponent here. Forget the regular season nightmare, as hard as it may be, but I still don’t like Montreal’s chances.
Last round, we saw that a goalie with a reputation for being really sharp against the Habs shut them down. Now, Ben Bishop’s between the pipes and he too has a reputation for shutting the Canadiens down. Montreal’s offence isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders here; facing a goalie that they have little confidence against probably isn’t going to help, especially in the early going.
Tampa didn’t play the greatest in the first round which is cause for a bit of optimism. However, their blueline is now healthy and it’s hard to imagine Steven Stamkos getting shut down for another series. As long as Bishop continues his strong play, I have to give Tampa the nod in this series.
(Alex) I think Tampa Bay’s dominance over Montreal ends in the playoffs. Ben Bishop was supposed to be the saviour following Anders Lindback’s horror show last year when Bishop missed the Montreal series with an elbow injury, but he’s looked shaky at times during the Detroit series. They do have an explosive offence, and what’s terrifying is that Steven Stamkos hasn’t taken off yet, as the team’s been buoyed by Tyler Johnson’s heroics.
Montreal has seen secondary scoring bail them out but the top guns need to add to their workman-type games and start filling the net – Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Plekanec. Aside from Andrei Markov, and P.K. Subban at times, Montreal’s defence has been very good. And then there’s Carey Price, who just elevated his game to another level. I don’t fatigue will be much of an issue for Tampa Bay. I have to go with goaltending shutting down a potent offence against a rookie playoff goalie who won a series, is 2-0 in elimination games, but has shown he can be beaten. The wild card is the power play of either team.
(Norm) The Red Wings forced Tampa to a game 7 by playing stingy defence and opportunistic offence. These are qualities the Habs have done in spades, in both the regular season and round one against Ottawa. Tampa biggest offensive weapon, Steven Stamkos, was kept relatively quiet, and their goalie (Ben Bishop) looked ordinary. I believe the Habs can continue to frustrate the Lightning in the post season, but it won’t be easy.
New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals
Brian La Rose predicts: Rangers in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Rangers in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Rangers in 6
(Brian) After making the Stanley Cup Final last year and winning the East this season, it’s hard to pick against the Rangers. I don’t think they were at their best against Pittsburgh and they still won that series somewhat handily.
Washington, meanwhile, was pushed to the limit by the Isles, particularly in the physical side of the game; that wear and tear will come into play here. Defensively, they’re capable of shutting a team down and when Braden Holtby’s on, he can win a game by himself which should keep this series somewhat close.
New York is down one of their better forwards in Mats Zuccarello but they should still have enough firepower and depth up front. It’s also hard to bet against a rested and healthy Henrik Lundqvist so I’m giving the Rangers the edge here.
(Alex) Not sure why I have a feeling this one goes the distance. Clearly one team is rested compared to the other but you get the feeling after watching Washington beat the Islanders, and maybe more so quelling the Jaroslav Halak rhetoric, that there’s a sense of belief to be wary of. The Rangers are a very good team but they didn’t handle the Penguins the way I expected. Yes it was a 4-1 series win, but they were all close games – Rangers fans will be quick to remind you how close the Stanley Cup Final was with L.A., despite it being a sweep for the Kings. Washington has a galaxy of offensive weapons, pretty solid defence and a reasonably good goaltender, with a coach that knows how to get the best out of his players, making them a very dangerous team. At the end of the day, I give the nod to experience, Game 7 at MSG and Henrik Lundqvist being able to steal more games than Braden Holtby, but still a rough ride for the President’s Trophy winners.
(Norm) The much improved Capitals have shown some maturity in the first round, disposing the pesky Islanders in 7 games. They showed a much stronger commitment and effort on defence to get there, and goaltender Braden Holtby has been outstanding in net. With some offence from their top forwards Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, secondary scoring was also provided by Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Evgeni Kuznetsov. The Rangers scoring has been lead by their top skaters Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, along with defencemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist only allowed 8 goals in 5 games versus the Penguins, showing he’s playoff ready. Henrik has similarly stellar numbers against the Capitals in the regular season, and the Rangers took three out of the four games against Washington in the regular season. I expect that trend for New York will continue, and the Rangers will advance into the next round.
Calgary Flames vs Anaheim Ducks
Brian La Rose predicts: Ducks in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Ducks in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Ducks in 5
(Brian) I was wrong about both of these teams in the first round and both squads really surprised me with how well they played. I didn’t think Anaheim would play as physical as they did (it also helped that Winnipeg’s injuries were too much for them to overcome) and I liked their resiliency in coming back to win their games.
For Calgary, their youngsters responded well to the first challenge but Anaheim is a different animal than Vancouver. I expect that the Ducks will do a better job of limiting the Flames’ top line and I have my doubts that their secondary scoring will contribute enough.
The goalie battle is really interesting as it’s Anaheim’s castaway (Jonas Hiller) versus his cheaper replacement (Frederik Andersen). Both goalies have had their ups and downs this year but I’d give the Ducks the edge here as well as up front and on the blueline. Calgary has had a nice run but I expect it’s going to end here.
(Alex) Well, how about those Calgary kids? Didn’t see that coming against Vancouver, and I don’t see a repeat against Anaheim. The Ducks just swept a pretty good Winnipeg Jets team, with two wins coming in the most bumping building we’ve seen in the playoffs. It wasn’t dominant, but it was meticulous in the way they beat an inexperienced team. Calgary earned an emotional, and deserved, series win over Vancouver, but are very inexperienced. But, when things are clicking, they’re clicking and there’s some serious young talent there that can’t be ignored. While Calgary will keep the underdog status here, the conversation will switch to one of expectations having been raised a little more, which could have an effect on a team where no one really expected much out them. Anaheim is not Vancouver, but they do have a history of not achieving what’s been expected of them. I expect a hard fought series but there’s some championship pedigree on the Ducks that you can’t dismiss.
(Norm) The Flames feel good story during the post season has given Calgary fans a lot of hope. Their top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan stepped up big in the first round against Vancouver, scoring 7 goals and 17 points. Their work ethic continued to shine in the first round. Anaheim is a much bigger team, with more offensive ability, and matches up better on defence and goal. Anaheim has a 20-0 record at home against Calgary which is a huge advantage. To douse the Flames, they’ll need to be physical enough, and at least match their opponent’s effort level. Calgary’s Cinderella-esque playoff run will be over in round two.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
Brian La Rose predicts: Blackhawks in 7
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Blackhawks in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Blackhawks in 5
(Brian) Goaltending can be a wildcard in any series but it especially is the case here. If Corey Crawford struggles, this could be over in a hurry. And, of course with Devan Dubnyk, there’s always the question of if he’s finally going to revert back closer to his performance of past years.
The Wild are a hot and cold team offensively which makes it hard to lean towards them even with Chicago’s goaltending woes. Some nights they’re dominant, other nights they’re way off. And as much as I like their top defence pairing, I can see the Hawks’ forwards having a field day with some of the so-so blueliners Minnesota trots out on a nightly basis.
I expect this series will have a bit of everything. Some games will have strong goaltending on both sides, others will be one-sided blowouts which is why I have this one going the distance. But in the end, I think Chicago will pull it off.
(Alex) Chicago wins, I’m just not sure if it’s in six or seven. There’s not much to be added about the Blackhawks. They’re winners, they know what to do, they’ve done it before, what more is there to say? But it gets interesting with the goaltending duel. Devan Dubnyk has been the hero for Minnesota for months, and I don’t expect that to change. Scott Darling has filled in admirably so far, but I could see Corey Crawford getting another crack in this series – how he plays is anyone’s guess given his two porous outings this post-season. Minnesota will absolutely have to capitalize on their chances while the Hawks need to keep their heads and not automatically think they’ll be playing for another shot at the cup in the coming weeks. Pick your poison with the Blackhawks that could have an impact, while Zach Parise will have to find another level to his game, which isn’t a stretch. Hopefully the supporting cast follows for Wild fans’ sake.
(Norm) In general, I found that most upsets occur in the first round of the playoffs. It gets so much more difficult for an underdog team to continue their way in the second round and beyond, but it’s not impossible. With regards to the Wild, I really like the play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk so far. But Chicago, despite their starting goaltender Corey Crawford melting down in game one, was so strong in the first round against Nashville. The Predators were a better team defensively and in goal than the Wild, but were handicapped after star defenceman Shea Weber was injured. I do not envision Minnesota providing as much of a test as Nashville did.