NHL Round One playoff picks

With an obligatory reference to Dave Hannah, below are my NHL playoff picks for Round One:

East

Washington/NY Rangers: A worse Rangers team almost upset a pretty decent Caps team two playoffs ago. Lundqvist is the better goalie (and one of the most underrated in the NHL, in my opinion). Without an Ovechkin or a Backstrom, the Rangers are deeper up front– either Wolski-Boyle-Prust or Drury-Christensen-Zuccarello is a nice 4th line. The Rangers actually had a better goal differential than the Caps (+35 vs. +27) in the regular season, too. Still, Callahan is injured, and more importantly, Ovechkin is Ovechkin, and he’s due. I may regret this, but Caps in six.

Philadelphia/Buffalo: The Sabres have Ryan Miller. The Flyers have Bobrovsky/Boucher. I think it will be Bobrovsky, and I think he’ll be pretty good, but Pronger is either out or less than 100%, and I like the Sabres’ depth to match the Flyers’ depth and someone (Kaleta? McCormick? Gerbe?) to agitate the hell out of the Flyers. Buffalo in six.

Boston/Montreal: Thomas is the better goalie. Boston is probably the better team. Montreal won four of six in the regular season, which doesn’t mean much to me as far as the playoffs, but I still like this matchup for the Habs. Montreal in seven.

Pittsburgh/Tampa Bay: Even without Crosby and Malkin, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Penguins in the finals. The Pens were +36 in the regular season; Tampa was +7. A hot Roloson (see Edmonton 2006) is the only thing that can win this series for Tampa Bay, but a D that features Marc-Andre Bergeron (see Edmonton 2006) won’t help. Pittsburgh in five.

West

Vancouver/Chicago: Many Vancouver fans wanted Dallas, but I don’t know that it really matters. Dallas had a negative goal differential and the goaltending and D were probably worse, and of course the Blackhawks still have Toews and Kane and Hossa, but I think the Canucks smoke them. The Canucks scored the most goals (262 vs. Detroit’s 261), allowed the fewest (only the Predators were within 10), had the top power play percentage (only the Sharks and Ducks were within 1.0%, though Chicago was 4th), and was tied with the Caps for the second best penalty kill percentage (only the Penguins were better). The loss of Malhotra hurts, but I still see Vancouver in five.

San Jose/Los Angeles: I wouldn’t have signed him to a four-year extension, or even a two-year extension, but I like Niemi, and I don’t really see any weaknesses on the Sharks up front, on D, or 5 on 4 (though as a wise man known as Tom Benjamin once noted, teams win because they have strengths, not because they don’t have weaknesses). On a similar note, I don’t think the Kings are doomed to lose because Kopitar and Williams are missing, but I just don’t see LA having the firepower to match up well here, with or without them. San Jose in six.

Detroit/Phoenix: I can see Detroit being upset by someone, and the goaltending here favors the Coyotes, but nothing else does, and Detroit is one team that can win with mediocre goaltending (a.k.a. the Osgood exception). Detroit in six.

Anaheim/Nashville: Anaheim was one matchup I didn’t want as a Canuck fan, even though the Ducks’ goaltending is a question mark (a healthy Hiller? a healthy Emery? Dan Ellis??) and the D drops off after potential Norris winner Visnovsky. The Predators will win a first-round series one of these seasons, and actually had a better goal differential than the Ducks (+25 vs. +4), but even with Rinne outplaying whomever, I think the Ducks will win in five.

I went with the “worse goalie” in four out of eight matchups (assuming Fleury is better than Roloson, and Niemi/Quick is a wash– if Quick is the “better goalie,” make it five of eight). So much for Dave Hannah.

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One Response to “NHL Round One playoff picks”

  1. […] I was rooting for them halfheartedly this postseason, not expecting much– I went with Buffalo in six for the opening round, more optimistically as it turned out with Boston in six the next round– enjoying […]

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