It’s been an event filled Stanley Cup playoff so far. Here are the HabsWorld writers predictions for the third round, discussing the final four teams and who they expect will move on to the finals.
Ottawa Senators vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian La Rose predicts: Penguins in 6 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Penguins in 6 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Penguins in 6 games
Gordon Black predicts: Penguins in 5 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Penguins in 6 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Penguins in 5 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Penguins in 6 games
(Brian) I don’t want to entirely take away what Ottawa has accomplished so far but it feels like they’re the team that has a whole lot of horseshoes working in their favour right now. They’re pulling off the late comebacks, they got to face the not-so-good version of Henrik Lundqvist, and now they get to face an injury-riddled Penguins’ back end. To their credit, they’re getting solid production throughout their lineup which is crucial for any team at this time of the year while Erik Karlsson has been nothing short of spectacular.
For Pittsburgh, they took their foot off the pedal against Washington but were still able to get the job done. Sidney Crosby’s health is certainly cause for concern but they still have the firepower to be dangerous even with the captain not at 100%. Their back end isn’t exactly loaded with talent but they seem to be able to do just enough to win, a trait that goes back to last season as well.
I have a hard time trusting Craig Anderson to steal games. I also have a hard time trusting Marc-Andre Fleury but he has won a few on his own already to prove me wrong and if he falters, Matt Murray is more than capable of proving elite goaltending as well. I think that will wind up being the difference in what should be a pretty tight series otherwise.
(Alexander) Frankly, I’m stunned Ottawa made it this far. Having watched enough of the New York/Ottawa series, I came to a few conclusions. 1) Erik Karlsson might be the best player in the NHL, and his foot is injured. 2) Even with Karlsson’s brilliance, Ottawa is an average team. 3) The Rangers blew it. Kudos to Ottawa for the comebacks, but good teams don’t let that happen consistently over six games. Pittsburgh on the other hand waited until game 7 to play their best game of the series, a series they should have put away earlier. There is such a strong balance on those four lines that matchups must be a nightmare for coaches. I haven’t watched enough Pittsburgh hockey this year, but Evgeni Malkin sure does disappear quite a bit. If he shows up and Fleury continues this run, I don’t like Ottawa’s chances. While the Senators scoring is also fairly balanced and should trouble a solid, but at risk, defence, their own defence is a problem. They’re slow, prone to errors and they no longer have a confident goaltender behind them, who’s big saving grace was he wasn’t as terrible as Lundqvist in the second round. It would be a real shock to see them get by this Penguins team.
(Hilding) No matter what Habs’ fans may think about their rivals down the road in Ottawa, it will be a shame to see the Senators’ run come to an end. Not only are they the final Canadian team remaining in contention, but they have also been a great story. The way the team rallied around Craig Anderson during a difficult time in his personal life, has been truly inspirational. Topping that off, Erik Karlsson has reached a new stratosphere of eliteness, as he powers through injury to bring superstar performance after superstar performance. Sadly, these qualities will not be enough to beat the Penguins. Sure, the Pens’ also have a battered superstar captain, but Mr. Crosby has a stellar support system behind him. The way the Penguins have handled not only the Crosby adversity but also the loss of Kris Letang, makes them a very scary opponent. They are poised to repeat and should not let the Senators stand in their way.
(Gordon) This is a matchup that was likely not predicted by many at the start of these playoffs, but that is what makes this time of year so great – anything can happen. The Senators seem to have really bought into Guy Boucher’s system and they are hanging on in games while getting timely scoring when they need it most. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has looked dominant at times but that has not always translated onto the scoresheet. The Penguins have been rocked by injuries to key and depth players alike and it has definitely affected their consistency- if not their ability to pull through when they need to. Surprisingly, Fleury has been their best player of late – and with Crosby probably still suffering effects of his concussion, that will have to continue if the Pens are to outlast the scrappy Sens. Karlsson has been Karlsson-ing – and that gives Ottawa a chance every night. Id love to see this series go the distance but I don’t know how many miracles the Sens have left, especially if the Pens start to get a bit healthier.
(Norm) One of the more interesting, Cinderella-like stories this post season has been the Ottawa Senators. Many didn’t believe they would last one round, yet they’ve now advanced to the third round. Erik Karlsson has been fantastic in all areas of the ice, in all situations. Craig Anderson’s story of his wife’s fight with cancer has been inspiring. Clark Macarthur’s return from another concussion after a long absence in the regular season, along with his overtime winning goal in the first round. There’s also the fact that Ottawa represents the last Canadian based team left in the playoffs. There’s a lot of reasons to root for the Senators, even though I’m a Habs fan.
However the Penguins represent such a strong team in many ways. Marc Andre Fleury has been outstanding in the first two rounds of the playoffs, despite the rumour that he was likely going to be the backup to Matt Murray before the playoffs began. The defencemen are all solid players, although they do miss their #1 guy Kris Letang. Pittsburgh’s forwards have been excellent on both offence and defence, lead by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, currently #1 and #2 in playoff scoring. Both teams have excellent coaching, with the ability to make necessary in game strategy changes along with the same approach game to game.
I’m leaning towards a close series with Pittsburgh taking this one based on their playoff experience.
(Paul) Pittsburgh will demolish a banged up Senators team in five games.
(Craig) The Senators have proven to be a tougher out than expected this post-season, with timely goaltending and tremendous play Erik Karlsson proving invaluable along the way. But Karlsson and co. are about to run into another of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby. Though the Sens are a scrappoy club, the Penguins are just too deep and experienced – meaning the get a chance at their second cup in a row.
Nashville Predators vs Anaheim Ducks
Brian La Rose predicts: Ducks in 7 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Ducks in 7 games
Gordon Black predicts: Predators in 6 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Predators in 5 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Predators in 7 games
(Brian) Nashville has made short work of their opposition so far while Anaheim barely squeaked through Edmonton to get to this point. Pekka Rinne has been at the top of his game while John Gibson isn’t exactly inspiring many with confidence at the moment. The Preds have a defence corps that matches up well with the underrated crew the Ducks have. Even offensively, I think the Predators have a slight edge, especially with Corey Perry scuffling and Patrick Eaves on the shelf.
All of that leads me to think that Nashville will win this series…which is why I’m picking Anaheim. Why? I’ve been terrible at picking so far so I figure my gut will be wrong at least once this round and I’m more confident in the Eastern prediction than I am this series.
(Alexander) Pushed to the absolute limit, the Ducks finally did what they’ve had so much trouble doing: close out game 7 at home. That’s a huge monkey off their back and with the confidence to build from that, I’d hate to play them at the moment. Ryan Getzlaf has been an animal during the postseason, and his teammates have all stepped up to the plate when needed. Strong defence, very strong goaltending (save game 6), and a roster that’s playing with an edge and mean streak – yikes. Nashville’s accomplishments so far have been impressive. Most impressive has been Pekka Rinne, who turned back time and has been flat out stealing games like it’s nothing. Right in font of him is the most talented defensive core in the NHL that has bailed out their team a few times during these playoffs. While Subban hasn’t rally had a huge effect on either series, he doesn’t need to for the Preds to have success. Nashville’s under the radar forwards have also been doing the work, and when you think back to the beginning of the season, you start to see why they were Cup favorites for many pundits. I don’t think they have what it takes to beat Anaheim right now, but I expect this to be the series to watch, looks like some good hockey is on deck.
(Hilding) This is a close one to call. The Ducks are excellent at putting the puck in the net and the Predators are phenomenal at keeping it out. In the end, the Ducks’ firepower combined with their playoff experience, should give them the slight edge. The Predators of course, boast possibly the best blue line in the league and Pekka Rinne has returned to elite form, entering the third round boasting a sparking 1.37 goals against average. No matter how good the Preds’ defence is, though, the Ducks have an embarrassment of offensive riches. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are in fine postseason form and are being expertly supported by the young guns Rakell and Silfverberg who are both contributing at a near point-per-game pace. While many Habs fans would love to cheer on PK in the Stanley Cup final, that dream may have to wait another year.
(Gordon) As I said in the first round predictions: if Rinne gets hot, then the Predators are my pick to come out of the West. Aside from potential issues with goaltending, the Preds really don’t have any holes and have by far the best top-to-bottom defense in the league (although Anaheim may be closer behind them than some think). The Ducks relied on a lot of luck to beat the Oilers last round and will be facing a far tougher challenge crossing their opponents blue line this time around. At the same time, line matching becomes a problem for Anaheim, as the Preds don’t sport a McDavid-style superstar to key in on and shut-down their attack. Should be a fun and physical series – and also the start of the next few years of speculation on whether or not Perry’s contract is trade-able.
(Norm) Anaheim came through in a big way winning game 7 on home ice against the Oilers, despite Edmonton taking the lead in that game. Their overall experience was fundamental in persevering in a long series, and the main advantage for defeating the plucky Oilers.
The Predators are off to a dominating start through the first two rounds, winning eight out of 10 games. Their goaltending has been outstanding with Pekka Rinne leading the way, allowing only 14 goals and sustaining an unheard of .951 save percentage. Couple that with their amazing defensive corps, the strongest 6 man group left in the playoffs. Their forwards have been solidly contributing a balanced attack and defensive style, which has delivered impressive results so far.
I expected the Predators to defeat the Ducks, and make history with their first Stanley Cup final appearance.
(Paul) Anaheim will dash Nashville’s hopes in six games.
(Craig) This matchup has the potential to be both tight and exciting to watch. Each of these clubs boast impressive depth on the backend, with two of the best defensive units in the league going head to head. While Anaheim may have a slight edge up front with the likes of Getzlaf, Perry, Silverberg and Rackell, Nashville has been getting it done all playoffs. In the end, Pekka Rinne’s consistency gives them the edge.