C3 St. Louis Blues 2 vs WC2 Nashville Predators 4
- My Prediction: I predicted that Nashville would win in 7 games
- Thoughts: This series proved just how important an elite Jake Allen was for the Blues in their first round matchup against Minnesota. Allen was still very good in this series, allowing more than three goals in just one game, but the difference between an elite Allen and a very good Allen was enough to cost the Blues the series. Anyone watching this series could identify that Nashville was the better team during the series as their forwards just didn’t allow the Blues defensemen anytime to make decisions. Nashville’s first line of Ryan Johansen, Victor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg was stellar, especially in the last two games and that was one of the series’ biggest different makers. Add to that the depth of their third and fourth lines plus their extra skaters who were able to slot in later in the series and the Predators had a significant advantage that the Blues didn’t. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has still not shown any regression in the playoffs and his ability to be a wall behind an elite defense unit is a nightmare for any opposing team. A fact of note: this will be Nashville’s first trip to the Conference Finals in franchise history.
P1 Anaheim Ducks 4 vs P2 Edmonton Oilers 3
- My Prediction: I picked Edmonton to win in 7 games
- Thoughts: What is goaltender interference? I think that this question is one of the biggest themes of the series. Games four and five were both heavily impacted by missed calls by referees and it ended up costing the Oilers the series. Edmonton was the better team in this series, had the better goaltending, and the Ryan Kesler line wasn’t as effective on Connor McDavid’s line as people expected. Anaheim is a good veteran team with plenty of playoff experience but they weren’t the better team in this series and as some point the NHL should release a statement on their horrible officiating in this series.
A2 Ottawa Senators 4 vs WC1 New York Rangers 2
- My Prediction: I picked Ottawa to win in 6 games
- Thoughts: This series came down to two goaltenders – Craig Anderson and Henrik Lundqvist – neither of whom were great through the first five games, and the team that got that extra save won the series. Ottawa’s depth came through in this series as head coach Guy Boucher was able to put players in the lineup, changing up the team’s playing style as well as give players rest when needed. Erik Karlsson continued to arguably the leading candidate to win the Conn Smythe Award and was excellent despite dealing with a foot injury. For the Rangers, their defense was their biggest shortcoming as it was all season long. Ottawa’s defense was able to skate with New York’s forwards better than Montreal’s were and it slowed the Rangers down significantly. New York’s inability to get the puck out of their defensive zone in a timely fashion hurt them greatly.
M1 Washington Capitals 3 vs M2 Pittsburgh Penguins 4
- My Prediction: I picked Washington to win in 6 games
- Thoughts: This is another series where the better team didn’t advance. The Penguins won despite being outshot in every game and 228-163 in the series. The only reason they advanced was because goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was much better than Washington’s Braden Holtby. In fact, the only area where Pittsburgh bettered the Capitals was in goals per game as the Capitals were better in goals against per game, penalty killing percentage, and faceoff percentage. The Penguins simply made the most of their chances and head coach Mike Sullivan has worked to establish a system that insulates the team’s hindered defensive unit. For the Capitals, this was their best chance to win a Stanley Cup with this core and they lost because they were unable to match Pittsburgh’s speed just like they had problems with Toronto in the first round.