Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Second round picks

I'll review what I had for the first round as well.

Penguins vs Senators
This could be a really interesting series. The Penguins, although they ran away with the East in the standings, were less impressive by Fenwick than in previous years--they didn't even break even with the score tied, while before they got to ~55% easily...Meanwhile, NYI got better as the year went along, to finish above 52% with the score tied. John Tavares isn't alone on that team...Crosby and Malkin are probably good enough to get past the possession difference (if there is any at all) with their tremendous playmaking abilities (i.e. raising shooting%), while Fleury/Vokoun, at worst, should be able to match Nabokov.

Penguins in 6.
Even though I got the result right, the Islanders skaters were better than I thought. They outplayed Pittsburgh's in four of the six games. (Scoring chances: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4, Game 5, Game 6.) Trouble is, goaltending on both sides was awful. I guess Fleury/Vokoun technically did match Nabokov, though, so there is that. Regardless, unless Pittsburgh gets better in a hurry--or unless the Islanders truly had a fabulous group of skaters--I think the Penguins are in for an exit once they face another good team.

Speaking of which...
The Canadiens somehow become a top possession team, and made the playoffs in spite of Price...Ottawa was also surprising...With Erik Karlsson back in the lineup, and with Montreal's limp to the playoffs after clinching a playoff spot, Ottawa could suddenly go streaking.
But I'll take the team with home ice and better possession here.

Canadiens in 6.
I didn't think Carey Price (and Peter Budaj) would continue to give Montreal awful netminding, but they did. Possession-wise, I think I got this one right. Check out the scoring chances (tracked by En Attendant les Nordiques):

Game 1: 30-13 in favor of Montreal (Ottawa wins, 4-2)
Game 2: 23-15 in favor of Montreal (Montreal wins, 3-1)
Game 3: 20-13 in favor of Ottawa (Ottawa wins, 6-1)
Game 4: Tied, 14-14 (Ottawa wins, 3-2 OT)
Game 5: 18-17 in favor of Ottawa (Ottawa wins, 6-1) 

If you toss out the blowouts, Montreal really got Halak'ed in two games and lost another 50/50 game. I'm not sure whether Ottawa's skaters were bad (like Pittsburgh's) and benefitted from poor netminding at the other end, or whether Montreal ramped up their game to dominate a solid, not great, possession team in Ottawa. I'm also not sure whether those final three games indicate Ottawa made adjustments and got better as the series went along--maybe Montreal also just came out ridiculously strong in the first two games--or whether that's just a fluke of three games, two of which were blowouts. (For what it's worth, I asked the guy who compiled that scoring chance data, and he said Ottawa become more competitive thanks to injuries and Montreal imploding when down 2 goals.

I'm also not sure whether to trust the larger sample of shot counts (which had the teams closer to even) than the scoring chances. (The two should converge at some point.)

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.

Rangers vs Bruins
The Capitals' run over the past six weeks has been driven mostly by great goaltending from Braden Holtby and Ovechkin scoring every five shots. I really don't think the Capitals are all that good a team...(We run into a lot of sample size issues with the short season, so I'm trusting bigger samples here, rather than, say, the last ~15 games, during which the Caps have basically broken even by shots with the score close.)...The more I read, the more I feel this series should go seven, but I can't shake this pessimistic feeling.

Here's hoping I'm dead wrong.

Rangers in 6.
Yep, missed on this. Looks like the Capitals improved more than I thought. I also think there is a significant coaching element in here--Oates has done a nice job making adjustments in this series, and his system in general seems like it's the Rangers' kryptonite: skating defensemen go a long way toward neutralizing NYR's dump-and-chase and cutting off the along-the-boards zone exit; puck-savvy defensemen can shoot and shoot and shoot from the point; the forecheck puts a lot of stress on NYR's D (okay, that's a NYR-specific issue).

That being said, Lundqvist allowed only two goals in the final three games of the series, including back-to-back shutouts in elimination games for NYR. He's playing better than any goalie save Anderson. The Rangers only dominated one game (while the scoreline wasn't laughable, at least)--I definitely overestimated how good their skaters are.
The Maple Leafs had a legitimately great PK. James Reimer is probably, at worst, an average starting netminder. Aside from that, well, the Leafs were heavily outshot and were buoyed by 09-10-Washington-level shooting at fives. They're not talented enough to do that consistently, and I expect that to plummet, and along with it, the Maple Leafs' offense.
The Bruins have been a great possession team this year and have elite netminding. If any series is a sweep, it's this one.

Bruins in 4.
Toronto was good in two games, not so much in the others. I didn't think they'd collapse after holding a three-goal lead with 10 minutes to go (and a two-goal lead with two minutes to go), though--I thought it would be the Leafs' scoring that dries up.

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.

Blackhawks-Red Wings
The Blackhawks weren't as good as their record--do you actually think Corey Crawford and Ray Emery are great goalies?--but they posted really good shot differentials. Minnesota was better than it was last year, but still not good enough to really legitimately challenge Chicago (beyond the challenge inherent in hockey that comes from goalies).

Blackhawks in 4.
Meh, being one game off aside, seems like I pretty much got this one. The Blackhawks sleepwalked through a period or two in a couple of games, but when they were skating, Minnesota had no chance.

If you remember two years ago, the Ducks were a poor possession team...In the first round, good (not great) possession team Nashville bounced the Ducks in 6.
I'm thinking more of the same here, except these Red Wings are better than those Predators.

Red Wings in 5.
Seems like I underestimated the Ducks, or overestimated the Red Wings. The Ducks managed to be pretty competitive for the most part, although there were stretches of games where the Red Wings simply outclassed Anaheim. Maybe Anaheim made a conscious decision to shoot more, or maybe they match up well with Detroit.

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.

I flipped a coin.

Sharks in 7.
Well off here, but three games were close by chances (and all four were by the scoreboard).
This looks like the best series of the playoffs, and it's too bad one of these teams has to go home early....While their goaltending hasn't been great, both teams were just amazing in the possession game...When they met in the playoffs last year, the Kings matched up very well, gave the Blues all sorts of issues, and won in a sweep...But St. Louis is better...LA wasn't quite as good as it was beforehand...Is that enough to overcome the huge gap that existed before? I'm not sure it is.

Kings in 6.
The Blues did a little better than I thought they would, dominating Game 1, for example. But I think I pretty much got this one, even down to Regehr not being an ideal partner for Doughty and--against my head--Brian Elliott being solid.

The Blues may not have been as good as Chicago, but they were certainly better than the Ducks/Red Wings. Especially now with Quick looking in top form, Los Angeles should get a bit of a break in this next round. It's always possible for an underdog to pull a surprise, though.

San Jose needs their top-six to at least play LA's to a standstill. Joe Thornton struggled playing power-on-power in the regular season before he started getting easy minutes with Burns and Galiardi--McLellan put Couture and Marleau on the other team's best--but he'll need to beat either Kopitar or Richards-Carter here, and I don't think he'll be able to. 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.

Later rounds

I got LA-Chicago and Ottawa-Boston, with LA topping Boston in the final. 

No comments:

Post a Comment