NHL Semi-Final Predictions

I’ve only got a few hours before game time so I’ll make this quick.

Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

I already wrote a brief statistical overview of the series and judging from that, this series will be a lot closer than most think. It seems that a lot of people are thinking that this will be an easy series for the Caps but it’s easy to forget that the Lightning were a slightly better team at even strength this season and have shut out the Capitals twice. It’s also easy to discount the experience of players like Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne who have been to the playoffs many times before and will be a big factor for the Bolts in this series. The Caps played some fantastic defense in their series against the Rangers but this forward corps has a lot more firepower in it.

That said, the Caps did a great job at limiting Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis during the regular season (2 goals, 6 points between the two of them) and the Lightning’s defense is pretty suspect (surrendered over 30 shots per game against Pitt) so the Caps should be fine if they can have a better offensive showing than they did last series. The Lightning are a team that is hard to outscore with the system they play in so it’s important for the Caps to score early and not fall behind in these games like they did against New York.

I still see Dwayne Roloson as the biggest factor in this series. As I have noted several times, he’s capable of stealing any game for the Lightning just like Lundqvist is for the Rangers and the Caps are going to need to get to the front of the net to score against him. Also of note is that the Lightning’s powerplay hasn’t been that great despite all of the potential there (when your team has to sign Marc-Andre Bergeron to help out then there’s a problem) and the Caps have a distinct advantage on both the powerplay and penalty kill. Washington will need to get to Roloson and jump on the Lightning early (much like they did in game 5 against the Rangers) if they want to win this series and they are fully capable of doing that so I think Washington will advance. Capitals in 6

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

Both of these teams were taken to seven games in the first round but it should be noted that the Flyers outplayed the Sabres in nearly every game and lost due to bad penalties and terrible performances by Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher (along with great performances from Ryan Miller). The Bruins struggled to control play against Montreal and have a much weaker forward and defensive corps than Philadelphia and it will show in this series.

The Flyers biggest issues are that they lack consistency and have some pretty brutal goaltending compared to Boston and Tim Thomas. However, Brian Boucher did play well against Buffalo aside from when he was pulled in game 5 and he should be fine if he can stop all of the shots he’s supposed to, which is always a concern with him. Getting Chris Pronger back should also help the Flyers both defensively and on the powerplay. The Flyers powerplay was bad..but Boston’s was even worse in the first round scoring zero goals.

In the end, I have to side with Philly on this one. There is just too much talent there and when they are on, they are probably the best team in the East but that team has only showed up a few times in the last month. Regardless, they should be able to advance past Boston. That and I don’t have too much confidence in a team with zero powerplay goals. Flyers in 6

Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators

Yes, the Canucks blew a 3-0 lead and were taken to 7 games by an 8 seed but the Blackhawks were probably one of the strongest 8 seeds in recent memory. Nashville is a better team than Anaheim but they do not match up that well with Vancouver and will need to avoid taking costly penalties if they want to win this series. It would also help if Rinne regained his regular season form because he wasn’t that good against Anaheim. Vancouver had their problems against Chicago and one of which was relying too much on their top two lines to create offense (see game 4-6) resulting in some ridiculous ice times. If they let guys like Chris Higgins, Max Lapierre and Cody Hodgson have more ice time, I think it will play a factor in this series since Nashville’s lower defense pairs were very shaky against Anaheim.

The only way I see the Preds pulling off the upset here is if Rinne can regain his form from the regular season and if Shea Weber and Ryan Suter can really shut-down the Sedins. Duncan Keith had his problems against them but these two have been a better tandem this seasons o we’ll see what happens. The Preds are a good team but they kind of have an unfavorable matchup here. Canucks in 6

San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings

Probably the toughest series to predict. The Sharks ousted the Wings in five games last year but this team looks a little weaker than that and the Wings look a lot stronger, too. It’s a little hard for me to imagine that Red Wings coughing up leads like the Kings did but I also think the Kings have a better defense than Detroit and I don’t think Jimmy Howard will have a lot 50+ save performances in him. However, Niemi really struggled for San Jose against LA and I think that will continue against Detroit. Same with the Sharks defense having a lot of gaffes which I think Detroit will make them pay for.

This one really could go either way but the fact that the Sharks have three solid lines contributing could go a long way in this series and the playoffs but I think the Red Wings still have the edge here. The only thing that doesn’t exactly work in their favor is that Howard has struggled against the Sharks in the past. Red Wings in 6


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