Thursday, May 30, 2013

Conference Finals picks


Here is what I had to say about Ottawa and Pittsburgh:
I sort of feel for underestimating the Islanders, so I'll make it up to myself now. The Senators probably have better goaltending and could be icing a better group of skaters (although a healthy Pens team probably isn't bad--remember, although they didn't break even this year in Fenwick, they had injuries to all their top possession players as well). I'll hope Anderson stays hot.
Senators in 7.
Craig Anderson may or may not be better than Tomas Vokoun, but Vokoun was much better in this series. Pittsburgh had the better group of skaters. Scoring chances, according to The 6th Sens:

Game 1: 18-14, Ottawa (Pittsburgh won, 4-1)
Game 2: 23-10, Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh won, 4-3)
Game 3: 28-24, Pittsburgh (Ottawa won in 2OT, 2-1)
Game 4: 25-20, Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh won, 7-3)
Game 5: 28-12, Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh won, 6-2)

Keep in mind score effects should dictate a better showing from Ottawa. I was hoping Pittsburgh was as weak as its #fancystats, but I guess the impact of those injuries was actually a big deal, and the Penguins are stronger than I thought.

I still don't think the Penguins are better than Boston, though:

I think the Bruins will have an easier time with NYR. Boston is a better possession team and has legitimately elite netminding (Rask has a .927 on nearly 4000 shots against...outstanding). The Lucic-Krejci-Horton line has been good, the Bergeron line can beat any other line in the East save maybe Crosby, and Jagr (or Seguin--the skilled forward out of the top-six) should be able to feast on the Rangers' lower lines and bottom pair.
Plus, the Bruins' physicality should wear down McDonagh and Girardi as the series goes along.

Bruins in 6.

Pittsburgh probably has better defensemen--Chara vs Letang/Martin/Orpik--but Boston's forward group is pretty scary, too. Bergeron has played pretty well in the postseason so far, and at his best he and Chara can beat either Malkin or Crosby, I'd think.

Given how the Krejci line has been playing (really well), it might be able to hold the other line (probably Malkin's) to a draw--remember that dominant Malkin, the one we see when Crosby is hurt, benefits from playing with Kunitz, too. (I'm not trying to prop up Kunitz here--he simply complements other skilled players pretty well by allowing them to spend less time doing the dirty work and spending more time what they do best--playmaking with the puck.) Iginla is a different sort of player, and I think/hope that Lucic, Horton, and Krejci can cycle that line away.

Plus, it's worth remembering that this isn't the same old Pittsburgh team, but with Crosby, Iginla, Morrow, and Vokoun--Jordan Staal could provide low-end-top line-level scoring in difficult minutes, and you basically lose all of that offense with Brandon Sutter instead of Staal. Pittsburgh aside from Crosby isn't as strong as it was in the past.

Basically, you can read Hockey Prospectus' preview, and now consider that I think Boston's offense is much better than it showed during the abbreviated regular season. Plus, it wouldn't surprise me to see Marc-Andre Fleury back in net at the first sign of trouble, and as long as he's playing, Boston has to be the favorite.

Bruins in 7.

Kings-Red Wings

Regardless, Chicago is either the second or third-best team in the league (after LA, maybe St. Louis), and even though Detroit is quite good, I think Chicago's depth will simply be too much for the older Red Wings to handle.
Blackhawks in 6.

Well, I guess I totally misread this. I kept thinking throughout the series that the Red Wings had given it their best effort in the game, and wouldn't be able to keep it up, but they did (as much as any team can be expected to--every team has its stinkers from time to time). That being said, the Hawks did win the series despite not much offense from Kane and Toews, so I guess their depth did win them the series.

San Jose needs their top-six to at least play LA's to a standstill...Couture and Marleau (especially with the way they've been playing recently) should be able to hold their own, and after that Pavelski needs to win the bottom-six battle for San Jose.
McLellan also really needs to protect the Hannan-Stuart pairing, which has been bad (though not as bad as when Murray was there). Against LA, I'm not sure there are any "protected" minutes, though.

The rest will certainly help San Jose. They need to beat up LA's D and cycle, especially early in the series, to give themselves a chance in Games 6 and 7. (Doubt this finishes quickly in favor of San Jose.) And they need to get Jonathan Quick off his game, because he's been very good so far in the postseason.

LA is just so stacked...can't see all this happening.

Kings in 6.

I wasn't sure after the first round whether Vancouver merely played poorly or whether San Jose was awesome. Guess it was more of the latter. I guess I should have also read into LA's post-deadline #fancystats fall a little more than I did. (I decided to trust the full season plus-sample for the Kings over the most recent 10-15 games.)

Even "awesome" San Jose had trouble with the Kings, though. "Awesome" San Jose is elite..."normal" LA is the best by a fair margin.

I don't know whether "normal" LA will show up again, like it did in Game 7 against San Jose, or whether we'll see a worse Kings team. Chicago has depth, and if the Kings aren't playing well, it may be too much for even them to handle. I think ultimately, though, Kopitar should be able to play Toews to a standstill or win, Richards should be able to handle the Hawks' second line, and with good discipline and reasonable special teams, the Kings should advance. (And that's not even considering that Quick is lights-out right now.)

Kings in 6.

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