Round 1 – How Am I Doing So Far?

This one going to be just an off the cuff look at how my predictions are fairing so far.  Quick analysis – not too bad, but on reflection, I think my picks were too close to the norm.  Or said a different way, I needed more upset specials.  Without further babble, lets get to it.

Eastern Conference:

Capitals vs Flyers:

Where are we: Capitals have a 3-1 lead

What I said: Caps 6

Mason

Thoughts: For most of the series, it has just seemed the Caps have too much for the Flyers.  Too much firepower, too much composure, and too much Holtby.

Seems strange to say it as a lifelong Penguins fan, but I was happy to see Philly get a win.  Ed Snider deserved better.

Have to feel a little bad for Steve Mason, he has truly been victimized, traumatized and vilified in this series.  As good as he was at time this season, this was a  truly “Little Shop of Horrors” party for Mason, who likely will need to wait until next year to post his first playoff win.

None of the things I thought could derail the caps have occurred.  Holtby has been good, but really hasn’t had to steal one. The Caps certainly appeared to get the energy up for the playoffs, and Philly’s physical game has deteriorated to goonery, and the Caps powerplay has taken advantage.

Bottom Line: I expect I am missing the call here by a game.  Caps put Flyers to rest in 5.

Penguins vs Rangers:

Where are we: Penguins have a 3-1 lead (game 4 5-0 win as I type)

What I said: Penguins in 6

matt-murray-620

Thoughts: Other than a lackluster game 2 loss, the Penguins have looked faster, more explosive and better defensively (something I am not sure has ever been said about a Pittsburgh hockey club!).

Most amazing, in a series facing Henrik Lundqvist, the Penguins have started two goaltenders with 0 playoff starts, and have a series lead. Jeff Zatkoff started game 1, and was solid early before the Penguins got their legs beneath them, on their way to a big opening win.  He was a little less stellar in game 2 (but in my mind he was not the reason for the loss) so on comes Matt Murray.  In my mind, Murray looked calm and composed in leading the Penguins to a big win at MSG.  More of the same in game 4.

Of my concerns, so far it does not appear that the Pens got hot too early.  They have looked very good at times, and getting Evengi Malkin back from injury only adds to the Pens chances.

Phil Kessel has looked like a committed hockey player in this series.  Eric Staal…not so much.  My new favorite young Penguin is Connor Sheary.  Should I order a new jersey?

Bottom Line: Penguins have a chance to end this in 5, and get some rest ahead of a tough match-up with the Caps.

Panthers vs Islanders:

Where are we: Series tied 2-2

What I said: Panthers in 6

DL_1.6.16_Tavares3

Thoughts:

Well, I kind of felt this one could be interesting, and to my own detriment, I ignored much of my analysis.  For those of you living under rocks, this has been a John Tavares coming out party.  He has been dominant at times, and his will to win has been evident.

Special teams have been an advantage in this one, as expected the Islanders have performed well. Islanders rocking along at a 30% clip on the powerplay.

Reilly Smith has channeled his inner John Druce in this one, already with 8 points in the playoffs.

This has been a wildly entertaining series to watch, but this is the biggest thing that has startled me.  Roberto Luongo has not been the clear cut best goaltender in the series so far.  He needs to be to get the Panthers to the next round.

Bottom Line: My Panthers in 6 pick looks shaky, I am awful worried the Isles may pull a bit of an upset here.

Lightning vs Red Wings:

Where are we: Lightning have won series 4-1

What I said: Lightning in 7

Dats

Thoughts: This series was my opening night game, given that I was in Detroit, and no bar I went into was willing to put my life at risk for the Penguins game.  I do enjoy both of these teams, and this series has been good, and surprisingly full of”old school” chippy at times.

Kucherov has been dominant at times for the Lightning, and my “sleeper” Drouin has looked like a guy with a lot to prove.  He has certainly given Stevie Y a good problem to have.

Too easy to say goaltending has been a factor for Detroit.  They lost 4 close games, games they could have won with a bounce or two.  Mrazek gave them a boost in game 3, but they simply didn’t have enough to win this series.

I hate it for Pavel Datsyuk, who we may have seen the last of now.  Would have preferred a Kobe-like departure for the cerebral “Magic Man”, but not all endings are written by Disney.  This one appears to be more like Little Caesers.  Not horrible, but not great either.

Bottom Line: It’s over Johnny.  Ken Holland has a lot of work to do to get the streak to 26!

Western Conference:

Stars vs Wild:

Where are we: Stars lead series 3-1

What I said: Stars in 5

stars

Thoughts: Pretty much what I expected so far.  Dallas far too good for a Wild team without their heart and soul guy Parise.

Kari Lehtonen has been stellar so far when he has needed to be for the Stars.  Still hard to imagine we dont see Niemi at some point in the playoffs, but so far so good for Lehtonen.  No issues so far with goaltending, though there really hasn’t been a significant, sustained push.

Jason Spezza has been a force as well so far, and of course Jamie Benn has been as advertised.

Special teams have not been a huge advantage to either team; the problem there is that Dallas is far superior 5 on 5.

Bottom Line: Pick looks solid here, Stars in 5.  They really need the rest, because they will need the health advantage, facing winner of Blues and Hawks.

Blues vs Blackhawks:

Where are we:  Blues lead series 3-2 (Chicago wins game 5 in OT).

What I said: Blues in 6.

CgIg87rW4AAjnpe

Thoughts: This series has seen a remarkable amount of controversy.  Coaches challenges, Crawford losing his mind and drawing a powerplay, more reviews, and questionable calls.

Other than that, mostly as I saw it coming in.  Blues have benefited from their depth.  Elliott has had a serious coming out party, he really has been a difference maker in the series.  Close games, overtime games.

St. Louis has also been better on the powerplay (a 33% clip) which has been a deciding factor.  Oh, and this Tarasenko kid is pure sniper.  If you missed it, go look at the highlights.

The Blackhawks to me have exhibited the heart of champions, but maybe the wear and tear of this dynasty run is getting the best of them.  That and the lack of a #4 defenceman.

Bottom Line: Blues can make me look pretty good here, if they can just channel their Karate Kid quotes:

51882709

Ducks vs Predators:

Where are we:  Series tied 2-2 (Ducks win game 4).

What I said: Ducks in 7.

Preds

Thoughts: This one is hard to figure out, and it is not a series I have seen a lot of.  They jumped out to a lead in game 1, and that seemed to rattle the Ducks.  My boy “Real Deal” James Neal got another party started.

So I start to dig into stats to find some reasons for this surprise series.  To try and find some heroes.

Is there a hot scorer leading Nashville?  Not really, Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with 3 points in the series.

Is Pekka Rinne stealing games?  Not really, he has a pedestrian 0.900 save percentage.

I would suggest he was a little better though than John Gibson, who despite the prodigy status, does not appear to give the Ducks the best chance to win. Freddy Andersen stepped in and gave the Ducks a shutout in game 3.

It now appears that after an early wobble, the Preds couldn’t get the knockout on the Ducks.  I think there is some LL Cool J playing in that Ducks dressing room.  “Don’t call it a comeback…”

Bottom Line: Shaky start, but my Ducks in 7 still appears safe.

Kings vs Sharks:

Where are we:  Sharks lead series 3-1.

What I said: Kings in 6

logan-couture-nhl-san-jose-sharks-nashville-predators-850x560

Thoughts: I don’t know how I got this so wrong.  I should have known, I mean look at those Sharks playoff beards!  They started growing those Canada Day.

Its a 3-1 series, but the games have been close.  Four one goal games. And the games have been fast and intense, really for what I have seen nearly perfect playoff hockey.

The Sharks have been great on the powerplay,at nearly 28%…but the Kings have clicked at nearly 23%.  But in a close series, 2 more PP goals for the Sharks have provided the necessary two wins.

The Sharks best players have been their best players.  Burns and Pavelski have 5 points a piece.  The Kings leading scorers – Jake Muzzin and Tanner Pearson with 3. To quote Paris Hilton; “That’s Huuuuuuuggggge!”

And finally, goaltending.  Surprisingly, Martin Jones (with a 0.922 save percentage) has been just a bit better than playoff legend Jonathon Quick (with a 0.905 save percentage).

Can the Sharks vanquish a playoff demon?

Bottom Line: I am not feeling good about another playoff comeback for the Kings.  It could happen, but this feels like Sharks are in control.

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