After going a dismal 3-5 in the first round of the playoffs, I shall now embarass myself again by publishing my picks for the second round of the NHL postseason. I believe St. Louis is the class of the remaining teams, but they have a very difficult matchup upcoming.
St. Louis Blues (2) vs. Los Angeles Kings (8)
The problem for the Kings in my eyes is they run into a juggernaut in the Blues. To me, St. Louis is the frontrunner for the Cup and it’s because of their depth, talent, and committment. They’re deeper than the Kings when you look down the lineup, as I’ll take the Blues bottom six over LA’s in a long series.
Talent wise I think these teams are pretty even, even though names like Backes and Pietrangelo aren’t considered upper echelon at this point, they should be. It’s the committment that does it for me for St. Louis, though, as they have players who could boost their stats but don’t because they are dedicated to playing the way Ken Hitchcock wants. Blues in 6.
Phoenix Coyotes (3) vs. Nashville Predators (4)
I just don’t buy Phoenix longterm. Their rope-a-dope way of winning games could very well propel them to a second round win, but in the end, their lack of talent will oust them from the postseason. Regardless, they’re a great story and the likes of Dave Tippet, Mike Smith, and Shane Doan deserve full credit.
Goaltending is on par with Smith and Pekka Rinne duelling, an even matchup that we didn’t see in Phoenix’s win over Chicago. Nashville has the firepower and talent edge and will not be let down by their goalie, and I think they’ll win this series. But Phoenix plays it too tight to the vest to be swept. Predators in 6.
New York Rangers (1) vs. Washington Capitals (7)
The Rangers had a tough time with the Ottawa Senators in round one, and I feel like the Capitals are markedly better than their capitol brethren. Washington showed me a lot in their seven game series win over Boston, as they proved to be resilient and stingy defensively. I think they’ll be able to slow the Rangers attack and score enough of their own to win this series.
Obviously, Henrik Lundqvist is the better goalie, but I don’t feel like we’re talking about a massive chasm between he and Washington’s Braden Holtby. I don’t see the Caps losing a ton of games because of goaltending, and I haven’t been a big believer in the Rangers all year. I think Washington exploits their defensive weaknesses. Capitals in 6.
Philadelphia Flyers (5) vs. New Jersey Devils (6)
Philly can score, we know that. But can they get NHL level goaltending? They didn’t in their first round win over Pittsburgh, but thankfully, Ilya Bryzgalov was better than a horrid Marc-Andre Fleury. I don’t see this being a goalies duel period, however, as Martin Brodeur is prone to more bad games than we’ve ever seen.
Basically, I just like New Jersey. I think they’ve got some extremely high end players up front and some very effective players who have been here before, ala Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. Not to say the Flyers aren’t good, because they are, but for I like this matchup for New Jersey and the Zajac line against the Giroux line should be one of the best matchups in ages. Devils in 6.