Saturday, 17 May 2014

NHL Playoffs: Round 3 Predictions and Musings

While the first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs went about as much as expected (I got 7 of 8 predictions correct), the second round produced a lot of shocking results.


Hawks in 6 Hawks in 6 Y*
Kings in 6 Kings in 7 Y
Bruins in 4 Habs in 7 N
Penguins in 6 Rangers in 7 N

Thanks to the more predictable Western Conference, I was able to go 2 for 4 with one perfect pick. That leaves me 9 for 12 for the playoffs, thus far.

Hawks v. Wild - As usual, the Wild were almost-unbeatable at home, but were outclassed by the much stronger team. Kudos to the Wild for playing their hearts out.

Kings v. Ducks - The Kings certainly don't make it easy for themselves, but they managed to edge out another California powerhouse. I wonder how much they'll have left in the tank. Admittedly, this is the series I watched the least.

Bruins v. Canadiens - I picked the Bruins to sweep, and they really are the team with more talent and size ... but, the Canadiens were not intimated, and took the play right to the Bruins.

Yes, Carey Price pretty much carried the Habs for most of the series, but just look at how Tomas Plekanec reacts (or doesn't) to this Brad Marchand cheapshot to the face.

"I ain't even mad!"

The Canadiens were not at all scared of the big bad Bruins, instead playing an aggressive speedy style that put the Bruins back on their heels. It was astonishing, and also great to see. I'm not fond of Therrien's coaching, but he's certainly pushing the right buttons right now.

*** Now, allow me to go on a bit of a tangent.

Milan Lucic is one of my favourite all-time players, especially since I got to see him grow up as a member of the Vancouver Giants. He led our WHL club to a Memorial Cup, and his story is one of perseverance.

That said, I've lost a lot of respect for him the past few weeks.

First, he seems to have taken up the hobby of spearing other players in the junk. A player of Lucic's size does not need to resort to such stickwork, and he's always been able to stick up for himself fairly in the past. 

Second, the whole 'handshake line' nonsense. Yes, I think the forced handshake line tradition is overrated, but glaring at Dale Weise and threatening him with violence is just lame. Suck it up, shake hands, and move on. Lucic just comes off whiny, and seems to have picked up bad habits from douchebag Marchand.

So, for now, Brendan Gallagher has surpassed Lucic on my list of favourite Vancouver Giants. ***

Rangers v. Penguins - This was the series that my gut told me would be an upset, but I went against my gut and picked the Penguins. Lesson learned.

The Penguins, like the Bruins, ran into a really hot goaltender. The lack of depth on the Penguins did not help matters, and Crosby/Malkin can't do EVERYTHING. Already, GM Ray Shero has been canned, and head coach Dan Bylsma might be soon behind.

It's not like the Penguins played poorly...really, they had the majority of chances and puck possession...but they just seem to flame out in the playoffs like the San Jose Sharks. To his credit, Marc-Andre Fleury played fairly well in this series.



These are the two teams I consider the cream of the crop, despite the Kings not-as-dominating regular season record. The addition of Marian Gaborik has given the Kings much-needed offense, and Jonathan Quick has decided to stop being a merely average goaltender.

I think the Hawks edge will be the fact that the Kings will eventually run out of steam. The Kings have to travel a LOT more than the Hawks have, and the Kings have played two brutal seven-game series.

The Hawks have had some physically challenging series, too, but should be a bit more fresh. Otherwise, this is a battle of two great clubs.

Predictions: Hawks in 7


(It's 2-0 New York in Game 1, as I type this...)

Honestly, I have no idea how to predict this series. I did not expect both teams to make it this far, and both teams have ridden red-hot goaltenders. One upset team in the conference finals makes sense, but two???

I do like the depth of the Canadiens more, especially up front. The Habs also have superstar d-man PK Subban, and should be able to generate more offense, overall.

Still, it's pretty much a toss-up, so let me flip this coin...

Prediction: Canadiens in 7

Thursday, 1 May 2014

NHL Playoffs: Round 2 Predictions and Musings

The first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs was definitely full of surprises ... and a lot of groin shots. Seriously, what the hell?

How did I do with my first round picks?


Avalanche in 5 Wild in 7 N
Hawks in 7 Hawks in 6 Y
Ducks in 6 Ducks in 6 Y*
Kings in 7 Kings in 7 Y*
Bruins in 5 Bruins in 5 Y*
Habs in 7 Habs in 4 Y
Penguins in 5 Penguins in 6 Y
Rangers in 7 Rangers in 7 Y*

Wow, I got 7 out of 8, including 4 perfect picks :) Too bad I had no money on the line...

A few first round thoughts, before I predict the next round.


I will never get tired of seeing Patrick Roy angry.

This series was definitely a "home-ice advantage wins", except for Game 7. The Wild were absolutely terrific at home, where Mike Yeo could match up his lines well vs. the Avs top line of Stastny, Landeskog, and MacKinnon. The Avalanche spent way too much time in their own zone when playing in Minnesota, and Roy was simply outcoached by Mike Yeo.... yes, Mike Yeo.

Darcy Kuemper was brought in after Bryzgalov sucked in Games 1-2, and was easily the better of the three goalies who played in the series. He should carry the torch the rest of the way.


Yes, the Blues won the first two games, but their loss was inevitable :(

The Blues have a very good team, but they definitely need toughness on the blueline. Bouwmeester, Pietranglo, and Shattenkirk are all fabulous defensemen, but that is a lot of Marshmallow on the back end. The physical Hawks had their way in front of Miller, and showed why they, and not the Blues, win in the playoffs.

Ryan Miller was also a complete bust and had a sub 90.0 SV% with the Blues... so much for THAT #1 GOALIE WE'VE ALWAYS NEEDED! The Blues should not waste any money signing Miller to a long-term deal.


Although I predicted the Kings to win in 7, nobody could have thought the series would go the way it did... with the Sharks winning the first 3 games and the Kings becoming just the fourth team, ever, to come back from that deficit.

The Sharks looked unbeatable, and then the Kings woke up and the Sharks just choked. Expect a coaching regime change.


Backup goalie Anders Lindback didn't lose the series for the Lightning, but he certainly did nothing to help the Bolts have a shot. The Lightning need a real backup next season, as coach Cooper had so little confidence in Lindback that he ran Ben Bishop into the ground. The Bolts definitely deserved better than a sweep.


The Jackets have a ton of heart, but injuries and an awakened Malkin did them in.

The Penguins have a lot of glaring holes, starting with Marc-Andre Fleury. Although his SV% is much higher than it has been in the past, his glaring miscues late in games make any Pens fan nervous. In addition, the Penguins get completely outchanced when Crosby and/or Malkin are not on the ice, by a WIDE margin.



Minnesota exposed the Avalanche's weaknessess, but what do they do against a team that has so few?

The Wild play so well at home, so I expect they can take two games from the Hawks. Darcy Kuemper has shown that he is a pretty good goaltender, and gives the Wild a distinct advantage over Corey Crawford.

The Hawks, on the other hand, came off a brutally physical series against the Blues. The Hawks might end up running out of steam faster due to the beatings they took.

Still, I don't think the Wild will pull the upset.

Prediction: Hawks in 6


Another Battle of California pits the 'How the hell are they winning so much?' No-longer Mighty Ducks of Anaheim versus the awakened LA Kings.

The Kings seemed to have found their stride, and choke opponents to death with Sutter's stifling system. It's boring, but it works!

I still think the Ducks play worse than their record shows, and their luck has to run out. The Kings can better stop a one-line team than the Stars could.

Prediction: Kings in 6


An Original Six classic, and a real David v. Goliath battle. You pit the big physical Bruins versus the tiny, speedy Habs, and you get quite a contrast in styles.

The Bruins are my pick to take the East, and should roll over the Habs without a big sweat. Carey Price matches up decently with Tuukaa Rask, but the rest of the roster? The Bruins have every advantage, by a mile.

Prediction: Bruins in 4


If there was a series to pick an upset, this might be it. The Penguins look like they have too many glaring weaknessess, and will eventually implode. Looking at advanced stats, the Penguins, as a team, rank quite low in Corsi and Fenwick. To put it in basic terms, the Penguins tend to possess the puck less and generate fewer scoring chances than the opposition.

That said, I would expect a much more physical team would do well against the Penguins, as past history has shown, than the Rangers.

Prediction: Penguins in 6.