Thursday, April 28, 2011

Preview: Conference Semifinals

Same deal as last time. You can check out my previews for the first round: Caps-Rangers, East, West, Corsi.

Blind Corsi: Lightning in 6, Flyers in 6, Canucks in 6, Sharks in 7.

I'll have more on the Capitals and Lightning in a later post.

Bruins-Flyers is an interesting series. Both teams are deep up front, but the Flyers have more top-end talent. The Bruins are thin on the blueline, and while the Flyers are deeper, without Pronger, that's not exactly saying much. Boston has the best goaltending tandem in the NHL, though. While neither Bs special teams unit stands out, the Flyers' PP is pretty bad (so you now know why they brought back Pronger in such a rush), but their PK, first round lack of efficiency notwithstanding, is excellent. The Flyers will have to win this series at even strength, and given how good they were in round 1, I think that's how it'll go. The Flyers will find some average goaltending from either Boucher or Bobrovsky, and their superior forward corps should beat Boston. It won't be easy, especially with great two-way players like Bergeron, Chara, and the certain Vezina winner Thomas defending the other net, but Flyers in 6.

Vancouver-Nashville may be lopsided. If Nashville is to be competitive, Pekka Rinne needs to play like a Vezina finalist, Roberto Luongo must not, and Nashville's special teams must be solid. The Predators also need to show good discipline so as to avoid Vancouver's power play. I'm confident Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, along with David Legwand, can stop the Sedins, but I'm afraid Barry Trotz will run into the same issues as Joel Quenneville--matchups in Vancouver. Quenneville was forced to separate Keith and Seabrook--having one of his studs against Sedin-Sedin/Kesler is better than none, and in Vancouver it was "none" more often than not--and while Jonathan Blum has progressed into a solid defenseman, Cody Franson and Shane O'Brien are less reliable, and Alain Vigneault will, no doubt, be looking to exploit that matchup. Asking for Rinne > Luongo, a special teams hot streak, Franson and SOB playing the best series of their careers, and Mike Fisher to best Ryan Kesler is an awful lot. The Predators are tough, resilient, deep, and balanced, but not as good as Vancouver. Canucks in 6.

San Jose-Detroit should be an excellent series. I'm looking for plenty of scoring, lots of skill, lots of speed, great puck possession, you name it. It's Vancouver-Chicago minus a bit of the history and minus the goaltending. The Sharks didn't drive Corsi very well against Los Angeles, but dominated scoring chances. Meanwhile, Detroit ran Phoenix into the ground (except with Phoenix on the power play), and that was without Henrik Zetterberg in the lineup. Johan Franzen should be ready to go for Detroit, but with without a game-changing Zetterberg in the lineup, I can't see Detroit topping the NHL's best team since the turn of the calendar, especially without home ice. Sharks in 7.

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