Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NHL Playoff Predictions: Round One

"This is our decision to live fast and die young.
We've got the vision, now let's have some fun."

Not only do I feel like I owe it to both you the reader and myself to do a hockey column, but I'm kind of tired looking at my NCAA final prediction...yeah that didn't really go according to plan. So, it's taken me a week to get over that, and here we are. Also, with the hockey column will come an NBA column which I will produce as soon as the final seeds are announced. So, without anymore hesitation, here are my picks for round one of the NHL playoffs (season series in parentheses).

Eastern Conference:

(1) Boston vs. (8) Montreal (BOS 5-1):

Line: BOS -380

Okay, not so many stats here. This has "coke machine" theory written all over it. I will be absolutely shocked if the B's don't win in 6 or 7. I'm not so huge on them on the road, but I don't see any way that the Habs can beat the Bruins at the Garden. This is kind of like what happened with the Celts against Atlanta and Cleveland, where it seems like they were two entirely different teams on the road vs. the home court. I know that's an NBA analogy, but you have to go with what you know right?

Pick: Boston in 7

(2) Washington vs. (7) New York Rangers (WSH 3-1):

Line: WSH -300

For the rest of the matchups, I will try to bring up some key statistics. The Rangers led the NHL in hits this year. Washington was second on the powerplay, while the Rangers were 29th out of 30. However, the Rangers were first in the NHL on the penalty kill. The Rangers were dreadful as an underdog. When you think about the Caps, you obviously think about the Ovechkin factor. Combine him with Semin, and this team is offensively lethal. The Rangers obviously are a big team, and they can play some D, which could definitely cram the Caps' style. I think the Caps pull this off for two reasons: 1) Despite the Rangers' defensive efficiency, no one can hold down the Caps on offense and 2) The NHL will do everything in its power to keep Ovechkin in the playoffs for as long as humanly possible. This kid is the NHL's calling card, and if he gets bumped in the first round, I can see the ratings plummeting.

Pick: Washington in 6

(3) New Jersey vs. (6) Carolina (CAR 3-1):

Line: NJ -135

Carolina was first in the league with 4.6 power play chances per game, while the Devils were second-to-last in the league in power play chances. Carolina is 8-2 in their last 10, while Jersey is 4-5-1 in their last ten. The Devils were red hot when Brodeur returned, but they seem to be fizzling at the wrong time. If the 'Canes can steal one of the first two in Jersey, then I don't see how the Devils can win in Raleigh.

Pick: Carolina in 6

(4) Pittsburgh vs. (5) Philadelphia (PIT 4-2):

Line: PIT -165

Philly allows the second most power plays per game in the league. The Pens are 11-4 in their last 15 against Philly. This is my style right here. An instate collision of sorts with the Pens and the Flyers. When you look at the numbers, these teams are right next to each other in virtually every statistic. Obviously, you look at Pittsburgh and you think about Malkin and Crosby. With Philly, you're probably going to notice Jeff Carter, who was second in the league in scoring. This is another instance where I think the star power has to prevail though.

Pick: Pittsburgh in 5

Western Conference

(1) San Jose vs. (8) Vancouver (SJ 4-2):

Line: SJ -280

Anaheim allows the third most power plays per game, while San Jose was seond in the league in power play goals per game, and third overall with a man-advantage. This is possibly the worst draw the Sharks could have gotten while occupying the #1 seed. The Canucks are going to be a pesky team here, as indicated by the ridiculously low line. What's interesting is that Vancouver holds the experience card in this matchup. The Sharks have not been this touted for a Cup run in franchise history. I'm not going to do it this round, but I will have the Sharks getting bounced before they reach the conference finals.

Pick: San Jose in 7

(2) Detroit vs. (7) Columbus (Tied 3-3):

Line: DET -550

Columbus is last in the league in power play goals per game, while Detroit is leading the league. Detroit allowed the second fewest shots per game. Columbus was third. This is fascinating because of how huge the line is and the fact that these teams tied the season series. This is Columbus' first ever playoff appearance. There is going to be a major upset in the first round, and this is my pick. Don't forget that just over a month ago, the Blue Jackets served up at beatdown at the Joe, 8-2. Remember this as well: Columbus has the best home-ice advantage in hockey. You heard it here.

Pick: Columbus in 6

(3) Vancouver vs. (6) St. Louis (Tied 2-2)

Line: VAN -230

St. Louis was second-to-last in the league in shots per game. The Blues were third in the league on the penalty kill. Vancouver ranks seventh overall in total defense. This is another series in which I'm thinking the favorite is going to get way more than they can handle. St. Louis has a tremendous mark against teams in the West (20-8-4), and have won five of their last seven on the road. However, the Blues have struggled with the Canucks, going 2-5 in their last seven and 1-5 on the road against Vancouver. Still, the Blues split the series this year, which is convincing enough for me.

Pick: St. Louis in 6

(4) Chicago vs. (5) Calgary (CHI 4-0)

Line: CHI -155

Chicago had the third most power play chances per game. Calgary is ninth in overall scoring. Another thing of note: I love Chicago! I've never actually been to the town (I hear it's lovely, and Ferris Beuller and the Blues Brothers were both good movies based in Chicago), but their hockey team is probably in my "pseudo-like" teams. Of course I have my allegiance to the Boston teams, but in each league, there's always another team that I quietly pull for. Here's the list:
  • MLB: Red Sox; P-L: Royals
  • NFL: Patriots; P-L: Redskins
  • NBA: Celtics; P-L: Trailblazers
  • NHL: Bruins; P-L: Blackhawks
So, now you know. In any the 'Hawks!

Pick: Chicago in 4

So, not a lot there I know. I'm not going to lie, I don't have as much knowledge about the NHL as I do about most other sports, and what I do know is basically all about the Bruins. Still, I love the NHL playoffs because virtually every game goes down to the wire, and already in the first round, you have a few rivalries (Boston/Montreal, Philly/Pittsburgh) being hatched. Also, it helps that the B's are poised to make a deep run, which doesn't happen very often around here (last Stanley Cup: 1972, last Stanley Cup finals: 1990). Again, the NBA playoff preview will be up soon, and I'm cramming for the NFL Draft, which is in a week and a half! So, plenty more to come. Definitely check out the NHL playoffs though (the highlights are on Hulu, so you don't have any excuses), and I will see everyone later. Peace.


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