Just one day after the first round was finally wrapped up, round two of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals gets underway tonight. So we’ll not waste any time and get right to our predictions.
As you do so, also take time to look back at how your first round predictions turned out. Personally, I went 7-1 missing only the Flyers/Sabres outcome. What is interesting to note here, however, is that all eight teams that won a majority of the vote in the Fan Polls two weeks ago actually went on to win their round one series. So reach around and give yourselves a nice pat on the back as you all went a collective 8-0.
Now, let’s see if you can duplicate that effort.
#1 Washington vs. #5 Tampa Bay: Washington won season series 4-1-1.
These are not the same Washington Capitals as we’ve seen from the previous postseasons. They have a little bit more to them than simply being an offensive powerhouse. They get reliable play on the blueline these days and the goalkeeping has not been a liability.
Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin each scored three goals for the Caps during their 4 games to 1 victory over New York. Ovechkin also chipped in with 3 assists while Semin finished with a +4 rating. Defenseman Mike Green scored once and added four assists and was a +3.
Total Voters: 498
Caps keeper Michal Neuvirth had a 1.38 GAA, .946 SV% with one shutout in the five games against the Rangers.
Last night the Lightning completed their series comeback win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. After falling behind 3 games to 1 they stormed back winning three straight. Goalie Dwayne Roloson was key to their victory in game seven as he stopped all 36 shots he faced. His efforts made Sean Bergenheim’s second period goal stand up as the game-winner.
Overall, Roloson was 4-3 against the Pens with a 1.77 GAA, .949 SV% and that one all-important shutout in game seven. His 243 were the most of any netminder in round one.
One other key for the Bolts was the play of their penalty-killing unit. They were successful in denying the Penguins 34 times on 35 man advantage situations. They’ll need more of the same against the Caps.
The man responsible for the Lightning PK unit is assistant coach Wayne Fleming, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor in Tampa. Head coach Guy Boucher dedicated the series win to Fleming.
To their credit, the Penguins presented a game puck to Tampa Bay to give to Fleming, something that the Bolts bench boss was very grateful for.
“I thought the Pittsburgh Penguins showed a lot of class, giving us the puck right after the game, and we are going to give that puck to Mr. Fleming”, he said after the 1-0 win Wednesday night.
If both teams get repeat performances from their men between the pipes, this one could be a great one to watch and go the distance. I think that will be the case and the series will indeed go seven games.
My pick: Tampa Bay in seven.
#2 Philadelphia vs.#3 Boston: Boston won season series 3-0-1.
The Bruins finally shook off the Montreal Canadiens with a 4-3 overtime win Wednesday night. Nathan Horton’s goal 5:43 into OT was his second game-winner past regulation and three of Boston’s four wins took more than 60 minutes to achieve.
Total Voters: 495
They’ll now take on the Philadelphia Flyers who themselves needed all seven games to finally get past the Buffalo Sabres, despite being shut out twice by Ryan Miller.
Claude Giroux’s 9 overall points, (1 goal,8 assists) was second only to Montreal’s Michael Cammalleri’s 10, (3 goals, 7 assists), during the opening round of this year’s playoffs. Danny Briere’s six goals led the Flyers and only Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne has also scored that many thus far in postseason.
But unlike Selanne, Briere will have a chance to build upon it.
One big question mark for Philly is when they might see center Jeff Carter return to action. The Flyers leader in goals during the regular season injured his right knee during game four.
Tim Thomas went the distance in goal against Montreal and came out of the series with a 2.25 GAA and .926 SV%. He logged 453:49 TOI during the seven games. Montreal’s Carey Price actually topped that with 455:29 TOI.
It’s a good thing the Bruins got a lot of experience winning in OT during the playoffs over the last couple of weeks. I think they may have to burn the midnight oil a few more times against the Flyers. And I’ll give Boston the edge here in part to their ability to do so, plus their edge in goal with Thomas.
My pick: Boston in seven.
#1 Vancouver vs. #5 Nashville: Season series split 2-2.
The Nashville Predators find themselves in unchartered waters…the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. After knocking off the Anaheim Ducks, they now share those waters with the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks.
Total Voters: 463
Vancouver, as you all know, escaped their opening round series with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, being forced to a seventh game despite taking the first three. Some will speculate that this took a lot out of the Canucks and will hamper their chances. However, I think it’s just as likely that what happened to them…or almost happened to them…can prove to be just what they needed, a bit of a wake up call.
One can only bet that nothing will be taken for granted by Vancouver from here on out…no series lead will be considered safe.
The Predators will have Martin Erat back in the lineup. The forward missed the final two games of the series with Anaheim following a hit from Jarkko Ruutu. Erat’s 50 overall points tied for the team lead during the regular season.
The two teams will get round two underway tonight out in Vancouver.
My pick: Vancouver in six.
#2 San Jose vs. #3 Detroit: Sharks won season series 3-1.
Rested and ready, the Red Wings will wing their way westward to try and reel in the Sharks. The Big Red Borg have been waiting patiently for the second round to finally get here after leaving the carcass of the Coyotes along the playoff curb in the middle of last week.
Total Voters: 454
Jimmy Howard enters the series sporting a 2.50 GAA and .915 SV% in the playoffs after stopping 108 of the 118 shots he faced against Phoenix. Antti Niemi was roughed up a bit in the six games against LA, escaping the series with a 3-2 record and a 3.99 GAA and 8.36 SV%. Antero Niittymaki was 1-0 with a 0.66 GAA and .967 SV% during the 91-pus minutes he played against the Kings.
Ryan Clowe led San Jose with 7 overall points, (4 goals, 3 assists), during round one while Pavel Datsyuk’s 2 goals and 4 assists led the Wings.
The Sharks took three of the four games played during the regular season an may benefit from coming off their series win over Los Angeles with just enough days off in between to get some rest, but not so much they could lose some of that playoff intensity edge.
However, as I’ve told some of you before, this is the playoffs and if there I’ve learned anything during my almost 46 years on this earth…you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t bet against the Wings come playoff time.
My pick: Detroit in six.