Thursday, May 04, 2006

NHL Quarter Final Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference

Western Conference picks, as well as some more information, can be found here.

Our Eastern Conference predictions from the first round can be found here. This is how we fared:

Avi: 3/4 correct (Ottawa, Carolina, Buffalo)
Abboud: 3/4 correct (Ottawa, Carolina, New Jersey)
Nate: 3/4 correct (Ottawa, Carolina, Buffalo)
Grabia: 4/4 correct (Ottawa, Carolina, New Jersey, Buffalo)
2k6 3/4 correct (Carolina, New Jersey, Buffalo)

(1) Ottawa Senators
(113 pts.)
(4) Buffalo Sabres
(110 pts.)
Ottawa won season series, 5-3
Game Times

Emery's on fire, Buffalo was inconsistent in the first round, and Ottawa owned the regular season matchup, outscoring the Sabres 28 to 8, and winning five of their eight games.

Nevertheless, I stand by my round-one predictions: the Senators are doomed in the second-round without Hasek. Once again, the Sabres won’t ice the best player in this series, but they’ll ice the better team. That’s good enough for now.
Pick: Buffalo in 6.

After a shaky finish to the regular season, Ottawa Goalie Ray Emery asserted himself against the Bolts, posting a save percentage in the .920s and leading his team to a five-game series win. He impressed me so much that I’m willing to revisit my previous assertion that the Sens couldn’t go farther than the second round. Buffalo comes in on the heels of a hard-fought six-game series win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Their goalie, Ryan Miller, has been solid as well, and they’re getting production from everywhere in the lineup.

Both teams sport deep offenses, with the Sens having more top-end talent. On defense, they should also have the speed to keep up with Buffalo’s relentless attack. For all of their depth, I don’t think that the Sabres have the firepower to match up with Ottawa, especially with the way that Spezza, Havlat, and Heatley are playing. They’ll be game, but unless Ray Emery collapses, or Ryan Miller flat out steals the series, they’re going to fall short.
Pick: Ottawa in 6.

The Senators, for the most part, rolled over Tampa Bay’s limp goal tending in the first round. There were times, however, where Ottawa would take a one or two goal lead, fall asleep at the wheel, and let the Bolts get back in the game. If they play this way against Buffalo, they will get burned and could end up losing a few games due to their complacency. Ryan Miller is Ray Emery’s superior in net, and the Sabres have a team mentality that screams “giant killers”. Ok, that bit about team mentality and “giant killers” is made up, but I like Buffalo in this one.
Pick: Buffalo in 6.

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum."
--They Live

This is the series to watch. The Oilers and Carolina are my two favorite teams, but this one is going to be a barnburner. Two fast, talented teams that can roll all four lines. Buffalo is better in net, but Ottawa has the advantage with their defencemen. I am going to go with the Sabres, but it will go all the way to the end. Sorry Sens fans, one more year of suffering.
Pick: Buffalo in 7.

(2) Carolina Hurricanes
(112 pts.)
(3) New Jersey Devils
( 101 pts.)
Season series tied, 2-2
Game Times

Which of my first round comments to stick by? Choices are: "Carolina is the real deal," or "Only a fool would bet against Brodeur."

The Canes showed alarming weakness in their first two games agains the Habs, most of it going by the name Martin Gerber. A change in net and a stick to the eye reversed the momentum. They reeled-off four disciplined wins in tight games, backed by 22-year-old Sherwood Park native Cam Ward, who put up a .955 save percentage over those matches.

New Jersey has its own momentum: an imposing 15-game winning streak, and a 17-4 goal differential in the first round. Only one of the two streaks can last. Will it be the rookie's or the veteran's?
Pick: New Jersey in 6.

The Devils have been hot for weeks, while the Canes got second life in the playoffs when they went to Cam Ward in goal, and have been on fire since. The Devils steamrolled through the first round, while the Canes reeled off 4 wins in a row to overcome a 2-0 deficit.

The key matchup here is between the goalies – proven veteran Martin Brodeur, possibly the best in the game, against streaking rookie Cam Ward. Both teams will get offense from 2-3 lines, and have a defense that’s more adept and moving the puck than moving bodies out of the crease. I think that this will be a wide-open series, so it will probably come down to which goalie plays better. If this is the case, you have to pick Marty. He’s proven himself time and time again. Conversely, as someone who had Cam Ward on his fantasy team this year, I can attest to the fact that Ward tends to be inconsistent at times. After a hot finish to the Habs series, he’s due to slip up in the next few games.

The games may be close, but the series won’t be. The Devils will outplay the Canes and earn a series win.
Pick: New Jersey in 5.

“…the most notable problem with this team is their lack of depth. Beyond Brodeur and their number one line of Gionta, Gomez and Elias, the talent on this team begins to drop off sharply.”
--Nathan Muhly, April 2006

As much as it hurts me, I can admit it when I’m wrong. The Devils’ top line was unstoppable and the Jagrless Rangers were hapless in the four game sweep. Brodeur’s Devils have played well enough to make me believe they will win the cup this year.

After a rough start in the first round Carolina have won four in a row and look like the caliber team we saw in the regular season. Cam Ward has done an amiable job, filling in for Gerber, but Henrik Lundqvist, the last rookie goaltender to come up against the Devils, faired poorly. The Canes may go back to Gerber at some point in the next round, but even his experience pales in comparison to Brodeur’s.

Sabres vs. Canes would make an unbelievably exciting series, but I feel the Devils will roll over everyone in the East and eventually claim the cup.
Pick: New Jersey in 6.

Jesus: "Liam and me, we're going to fuck you up."
The Dude: "Yeah well, you know, that's just like your opinion man."
--The Big Lebowski

Everyone else is going with the Devils, and after their demolition of the Rangers, it isn't hard to see why. I still believe in the Whale, however, despite the shaky start against Montreal. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that 4 of the 7 games these teams play go into overtime.
Pick: Carolina in 7.


At 10:05 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

It's funny that not one of use mentioned how ell Elias played in that first round for the Devils. We all talked about the goaltending.


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