Here are my predictions for Round 2. I am not going to go too deep into why I made these picks as these are more for fun, and, as I have stated before, I think playoff predictions are little more than random guesses.
Chicago Blackhawks v. Minnesota Wild – Hawks in 5:
I wrote a short overview of this series yesterday so I won’t go too deep into this reasoning. Simply put, while the Wild are an improved group from last year’s first round matchup of these two teams, I don’t think the result will be any different. The secondary scoring provided by youngsters Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle make the future a little brighter for the Wild, but their overall depth falls far behind the Blackhawks. Maybe more importantly, the goaltending is so far in Chicago’s favor. Corey Crawford had to win the game for the Hawks in game one while Ilya Bryzgalov did nothing to silence his critics. I see this series going no more than 6 games if the Hawks can pick up their play in game 2.
Anaheim Ducks v. Los Angeles Kings – Kings in 6:
While many may see this as an interesting choice to pick the 3 seed over the 1 seed in the Pacific, I see this as a pretty simple call. The Kings dominated possession all year long, while the Ducks relied on unsustainable shooting percentages from a thinner offense than many people realize. Although I think Jonathan Quick is just an average goalie, I think the Kings possession game is great enough to carry them into the Conference Finals with relative ease. Oh, and having Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, and Marian Gaborik on the same line helps too.
Boston Bruins v. Montreal Canadiens – Bruins in 6:
I came up with these predictions before the round started, but I’ve been playing catch-up since creating this blog just a few days ago. This series should still end with four Bruins victories despite the game 1 loss. The Bruins dominated much of the play and outshot Montreal 51-33. Again, Boston has been a possession giant this year, rolling over the much-maligned Eastern Conference in the process. On the other hand, Montreal has had some ups and downs this year, but I am not as easily swayed by their recent success as some others. I think the addition of Thomas Vanek provided a big boost, but not enough to carry this team any deeper in the playoffs. In the end, I think Boston is just too strong of team to succumb to a Montreal hot-streak. And, as if we needed more reason to hate Boston, the groupthink racism provided by the fans after PK Subban won it in overtime has me hoping all the more that this prediction turns out wrong.
PIttsburgh Penguins v. New York Rangers – Rangers in 6:
Six games seems to be my comfort level here, but I think New York has the edge in this series (again I came up with my picks previous to the outcome of this game). I know it seems odd to pick the Rangers over a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but New York was an impressive possession team all year long with a 53.6 FF% at 5on5 score close, good for sixth in the league. Pittsburgh ranked 16th with an average FF% of 50.2%. If that wasn’t enough evidence, the goaltending matchup is no-contest. Henrik Lundqvist is a top 5 goalie in this league, and while I think Jonathan Quick is just an average goalie, I know Marc-Andre Fleury is a bad goalie. Fleury has a career save percentage of .910. Conversely, Lundqvist has a career save percentage of .920. This is only a difference of 10 goals every 1,000 shots, but I still know who I would rather have in net between the two.