2011 NHL Playoffs: Second Round Picks

Bryan here with my second round picks.

Eastern Conference:

No. 1 Washington Capitals vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

The Capitals seem to draw the “worst” match-ups for them. The Rangers were the team fans didn’t want to see in the first round and the Lightning wasn’t fans first choice for most favorable match-up in the second round. The Caps did go four and two against the Lightning during the regular season but both of the Caps losses were shutouts.

Tampa Bay showed a lot of heart coming back and beating Pittsburgh after being down 3-1 in the series. Center Steven Stamkos seems to have found his shot again and right winger Martin St. Louis continues to come up with big goals. In Game 5 The Lightning went four of seven on the power play against the Penguins. That lead to an 8-2 route that changed the series.

The Washington Capitals were able to close out their series in five games. The Rangers played them hard. But the Caps were able to find ways to win. Left winger Jason Chimera’s double overtime game winning goal in game four brought excitement to DC. The Capitals showed their killer instinct in game five and sent the Rangers packing. But The Caps have some big issues. Penalties cost the team game three and nearly cost them game four. The Caps were in the penalty box seven times in both games three and four. Compare that to a combined six times in the box for games one, two, and five. But despite the penalties in games three and four the Rangers only went two for fourteen on the power play and that’s a credit to how good the Capitals penalty kill has been all year.

The key for this series is whose stars show up bigger. The Caps should get defenseman Dennis Wideman back this series and there seems to be nothing wrong with fellow defenseman Mike Green, both of whom will be key on the power play. The Caps need better defensive play from the John Carlson and Karl Alzner pairing. The Caps also need center Nicklas Backstrom to be more involved offensively.

Prediction: Even though Stamkos and St. Louis are playing great and the Lightning are riding high after a great comeback against the Penguins, the Capitals will be well rested and healthy. Alex Semin and Mike Green had a great series against the Rangers and left winger Alex Ovechkin has yet to play his best hockey of the playoffs. Talent will win out.

Washington Capitals in Six.

No. 2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No 3 Boston Bruins

The Flyers have a huge problem. Their goaltending has disappeared. All three netminders, Sergei Bobrovsky, Michael Leighton, and Brian Boucher, were pulled at some point during their seven game series against the Sabres.  While the Flyers were impressive in their game seven victory they were shutout twice by Buffalo.  Their inconsistency in the series was on par with their play for the last month.

After dropping the first two games at home Boston managed to find their footing and take of Montreal in seven. Goalie Tom Thomas was stellar at times in net and right wingers Michael Ryder and Brad Marchand really picked up their play. But, the top line of left winger Milan Lucic, center David Krejci, and right winger Nathan Horton struggled all series. Horton’s series winning overtime goal aside the top line needs to be better if the Bruins are going to take down the Flyers

The key in this series is who will be better in goal. Boston’s Tim Thomas is clearly better then any of the Flyers three goaltending options and if the Bruins can score early and play shutdown defense, they’ll have a chance. The Flyers have a huge advantage offensively. If center Jeff Carter is healthy and left winger Scott Hartnell can find his shot, the Flyers will be tough to stop.

Prediction: The Flyers have been too hit or miss lately and with the situation in net being so unsettled I’m not willing to give them the nod. Tim Thomas is going to be key for a Bruins win in this series.

Boston Bruins in Seven

Western Conference

No. 1 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 5 Nashville Predators

Vancouver should count their lucky stars. After jumping out to a 3-0 series lead over Chicago, the Canucks gave up seven goals in game four, five in game give, lost game six in overtime, and let the Blackhawks score with nineteen seconds left to force overtime in game seven. The Sedin brothers (center Henrik and left winger Daniel) and center Ryan Kesler were nonexistent in the second half of the series. On top of that goaltender Roberto Luongo is coming apart at the seams. It doesn’t matter how many highlight reel saves you make when you’re giving up the soft goals.

Nashville had no problems with Anaheim and took them down is six. The Predators were able to hold off the offensive fire power of right wingers Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne while taking advantage of goalies Ray Emory and Dan Ellis. Nashville found offense from center Mike Fisher and defenseman Shea Weber, each with three goals against the Ducks.

The key to this series is how will Vancouver play? Is Luongo going to be solid in net or shaky and get pulled again? Will the Sedins be a factor? Nashville can score.If Luongo’s not on his game and not getting the same  offensive support he was in the offseason the Preds will make quick work of the Canucks.

Prediction: The best team doesn’t always win but in this series they will. Vancouver will eventually find their offensive game and make it hard for goalie Pekka Rinne. I also don’t think Nashville has the kind of shutdown defense to stifle Vancouver like Montreal did to Washington last year.

Vancouver Canucks in Seven

No. 2 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 3 Detroit Red Wings

San Jose might have beaten the Los Angeles Kings in six games but it wasn’t an easy series and the Sharks looked rough at times. Goaltender Antti Niemi had a tough series, getting pulled in games three and five. Even without center Anze Kopitar, the Kings were able to score and keep games close but in the end they just couldn’t match the Sharks.

The Red Wings sweep of  the Phoenix Coyotes was the biggest shocker of the first round for me. Center Pavel Datsyuk and left winger Johan Franzen were able to score on Coyote goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov at will. With all the time off between series the Wings should have center Henrik Zetterberg back for this series. Goaltender Jimmy Howard is still an area of concern for the Red Wings. Their offensive and defensive play against Phoenix was so solid Howard didn’t need to be outstanding to win the series.

The key in this series is goaltending. Detroit and San Jose can match each goal for goal. So which goaltender will come up with the bigger saves? Niemi won the Stanley Cup with the Hawks last year and that experience gives him an edge over Howard. But the way Niemi played against the Kings, you can almost throw that out the window.

Prediction: These teams are so similar in every area that you have to look to the X-factors and the Wings have that in experience and coaching. Additionally, getting Zetterberg back will make Detroit an even better team then they were against Phoenix.

Detroit Red Wings in Six.

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