2011 NHL Playoffs Predictions, Round Two: Caps, Bruins, Red Wings, Canucks
NHL Playoffs Predictions: Washington Capitals Vs Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers Vs Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks Vs Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks Vs Nashville Predators
After a perfect first round, I’m back at it and sticking with my pre-playoffs NHL predictions. The 2011 playoffs featured four Game Sevens, countless overtimes, and some of the most exciting games in recent memory. The Blackhawks nearly came back from down 3-0, the five seeds both won, and the top three seeds in each conference advanced. Here are the 2011 NHL Playoffs Predictions for the second round.
#1 Washington Capitals Vs #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
The Washington Capitals handled the New York Rangers with relative ease in the first round to advance in five games. They got a bit of help from Marian Gaborik in Game Four, and the Rangers offense looked anemic for most of the series.
Michal Neuvirth was a pleasant surprise in net for the Capitals. The combination of a poorly sustained offensive attack by the Rangers and Neuvirth’s strong play was too much for New York.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took out the depleted Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. After facing a 3-1 deficit, the Lightning outscored the Pens 13-5 to win the final three games of the series. Perhaps most impressive was a 1-0 win to close out the series in Pittsburgh. Dwayne Roloson was able to hold onto a shutout, despite a powerplay for Pittsburgh in the final minutes.
The Capitals have historically been known to be all about offense. This year featured a shift towards two-way hockey in hopes of making a sustained run in the 2011 playoffs. The high-powered Lightning offense will certainly look to test Washington’s newfound commitment to defense.
Dwayne Roloson will need to improve his play for the Lightning in net if they have any chance at slowing down Alexander Ovechkin and company. Quite frankly, I don’t think he has it in him. I expect the Capitals to score plenty of goals in the second round.
That’s not to say the Lightning won’t score either. After dismantling Marc-Andre Fleury in the final three games of the series, the Lightning proved that they too can score on an elite goaltender. The gap between Lundqvist and Roloson is at least comparable to the one between Michal Neuvirth and Marc-Andre Fleury.
A rookie goaltender has to be intimidated by Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis. An old goalie like Roloson is probably not going to be able to contain Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin. Believe it or not, this series will come down to defense, and who can help their goaltenders the most. Michal Neuvirth is a little bit ahead of Dwayne Roloson at this point, and I expect the Capitals to have a slight edge in just about every category.
I believe in the two-way hockey of the Washington Capitals. They’ll frustrate the Lightning and close them out quickly.
Capitals in 5
#2 Philadelphia Flyers Vs #3 Boston Bruins
The Flyers and Bruins are two of the coldest teams in the NHL. Luckily, the Bruins played the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, who were just as awful down the stretch. The Flyers stumbled for what seemed like the entire second half of the season, but found a way to sneak past the injury-riddled Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller choked, despite two shutouts early in the series, and needed to be pulled in Game Seven. Both teams were fortunate to make it through to the second round.
The Flyers as a team were much better than the Buffalo Sabres. Unfortunately, goaltending let them down. Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, and Michael Leighton were all pulled after shaky performances at some point in the series. Boucher got the chance to redeem himself that Leighton and Bobrovsky didn’t. He won Game Seven for the Flyers.
The Flyers scored at will on the Sabres, but they’ll face Tim Thomas in round two. Thomas set the single-season record for save percentage, but had pedestrian numbers against the Habs in the first round. The Bruins allowed 17 goals in seven games. Something tells me Tim Thomas is about to take over this series.
I loved ripping on the Flyers this season. Most of it is deserved, and I’ll admit that some of it stems from my Devils loyalties and the bitterness of 2011 (and 2010). When I picked the Flyers in round one, I took a bit of flack for it. Now, it will be an absolute pleasure to bet against Philadelphia once more.
I’ve said all season that there isn’t a single scorer on the Flyers roster that Philly can turn to when they need a goal. As a team, they have a very complete and balanced set of scorers. However, who is going to score the goal to beat Tim Thomas with the game on the line? I don’t think they have anyone.
I also said that they have mediocre goaltending. It’s a lot easier to make the claim now that all three Flyers goalies struggled against the Buffalo Sabres. Tomas Vanek is the only scorer that played the entire series for Buffalo. How on earth did the Sabres score this many goals? Man, I hate the Flyers.
Chris Pronger is clearly not 100%, but the Flyers are 2-0 when he plays. He clearly gives the Flyers an intangible lift. Since his presence helped win the Sabres series, I can’t knock the guy. I just don’t think that will be enough to beat the Bruins.
I love Boston’s depth, particularly on the backline. Zdeno Chara’s physical presence and Thomas Kaberle’s shot from the point provide a dangerous balance to their defense. They’ve received timely goals, especially from Chris Kelly, and Boston could get on a roll. If the Flyers goaltending slips again, this series won’t even be close.
Bruins in Six
#1 Vancouver Canucks Vs #5 Nashville Predators
I’m so proud of the Predators. They’ve made it to the second round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and that means at least four more games of Carrie Underwood. As the second-best defense in the NHL, I hoped the Predators would find their way to the Canucks in round two. Vancouver is the only team in the NHL that has allowed fewer goals.
The Canucks collapsed after taking a 3-0 lead in the series. Roberto Luongo choked in Games Four and Five and needed to be pulled. In Game Six he was benched, but an injury brought him back to the ice just in time to lose the game in overtime. Somehow, in Game Seven, Luongo shined. He held a shutout until the final minutes, and beat the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Predators defense disappointed against the Ducks. Luckily, Ducks goaltending continued its lackluster play and the Predators were able to outmuscle Anaheim in six games. They won’t be able to win high-scoring games with the Canucks. Even if Luongo struggles again, Vancouver will win.
I’m hoping for low-scoring, exciting games from this series. Both defenses have proven themselves capable of such a series in the regular season. I hope the Canucks don’t embarrass Nashville, but they certainly might.
Canucks in five
#2 San Jose Sharks Vs #3 Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings were the most impressive team in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. They swept the Coyotes without Henrik Zetterberg playing a single shift. Johan Franzen missed Game Four, but it didn’t matter. They’re an unstoppable offensive machine.
So are the Sharks. Down 4-0 in the second period of Game Three, the Sharks came all the way back to win in overtime. They carried that momentum to Game Four, and eventually won in six against the LA Kings.
Both played inferior teams in the first round. The Coyotes struggled to score and Ilya Bryzgalov had a terrible series. The Kings were without their best scorer. Consider these games a walk through for the bigger series that follows.
I like the Red Wings in this series. Their playoff experience outweighs their occasional defensive miscues. They’ll need to be sharp to win this series.
The Sharks choked last year after a remarkable regular season. They tried to blow the series with the Kings as well. Ultimately, I just don’t trust them. This should be a great series, but I give a slight edge to the Detroit Red Wings.
Wings in Six
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