NHL Playoff Preview – Conference Finals Edition

Eastern Conference

M2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs A2 Ottawa Senators

  • Schedule:
    • Game 1: Saturday 5/13 in Pittsburgh
    • Game 2: Monday 5/15 in Pittsburgh
    • Game 3: Wednesday 5/17 in Ottawa
    • Game 4: Friday 5/19 in Ottawa
    • Game 5 (If Necessary): Sunday 5/21 in Pittsburgh
    • Game 6 (If Necessary): Tuesday 5/23 in Ottawa
    • Game 7 (If Necessary): Thursday 5/25 in Pittsburgh
  • Ottawa won the regular season series 2-1-0
  • Pittsburgh has beaten Columbus and Washington in their first two series despite being outplayed by Washington in the second round.  The Penguins will enter this series with a healthy Matt Murray for the first time in the playoffs and he will most likely be Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup to start the series.  Fleury has been amazing in the playoffs thus far, despite Pittsburgh being outshot in most games.  The security net of having Murray behind Fleury should add some insurance for the team in case Fleury’s play regresses some.  Pittsburgh’s defense, the area of biggest question from the start of the playoffs, has actually played quite well and head coach Mike Sullivan continues to do an excellent job at running a system that allows his defensemen to easily move the puck out of the defensive zone.
  • Ottawa has reached this point by beating Boston and the Rangers in the first two rounds.  It seems as though no one really understands how the Senators have gotten to the conference finals, yet here they are.  Coach Guy Boucher has been very good in his return to the NHL despite implementing a system that is relatively boring and suffocates the opposing team.  The Senators have an excellent defense that has depth to it and captain Erik Karlsson, the team’s best defenseman has also been the team’s best offensive player.  The team has also continued to get surprising production from unlikely sources, such as Bobby Ryan and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
  • I think that Ottawa is finally the team that can keep up with Pittsburgh’s speed and plays a very strong insulating game around goaltender Craig Anderson.  The Senators also bring about something that Pittsburgh has yet to face in the playoffs in an elite caliber defenseman such as Erik Karlsson.  However, Pittsburgh also brings more offensive depth than Boston or the Rangers have which will test Ottawa’s defensemen more than they’ve faced so far in the playoffs.
  • Prediction: Pittsburgh wins in 6 games

Western Conference

P1 Anaheim Ducks vs WC2 Nashville Predators

  • Schedule:
    • Game 1: Friday 5/12 in Anaheim
    • Game 2: Sunday 5/14 in Anaheim
    • Game 3: Tuesday 5/16 in Nashville
    • Game 4: Thursday 5/18 in Nashville
    • Game 5 (If Necessary): Saturday 5/20 in Anaheim
    • Game 6 (If Necessary): Monday 5/22 in Nashville
    • Game 7 (If Necessary): Wednesday 5/24 in Anaheim
  • Anaheim won the regular season series 2-1-0
  • The Ducks won their first round matchup with the Flames by sweeping them and then beat the Oilers in the second round in seven games in somewhat controversial fashion.  As I mentioned in my second round recap, I don’t think that the better team won that series and that Edmonton should have advanced.  However, Anaheim is still a good team, with a very talented defense. They have also gotten key production from players like Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg who have been the team’s best forwards.  These forwards, combined with their defense, have helped to take the pressure off goaltender John Gibson so that he hasn’t had to be elite.  I think that if they have one shortcoming it is the depth that they have at forward.  If they suffer an injury or two, it could severely hinder the Ducks’ chances at winning the Western Conference.
  • Nashville has continued to shock the hockey world after sweeping the Blackhawks in the first round and then dismissing the Blues in six games in round two.  They have gotten to this place by getting excellent goaltending from Pekka Rinne, great defense from one of the best units in the league, and continued scoring from the most productive line in the playoffs.  They also have amazing depth and have been able to take forwards out to give them a rest and replace them with rested players and to sometimes provide a different type of attack.  They can hit quite well and are able to play a physical type of game and are also talented enough to almost score at will.
  • I think that the Predators forward depth will be too much for the Ducks to handle in this series. They have a great balance of experience and youth, grit and skill.  I feel confident that the Ducks will try to match Ryan Kesler’s line up against the Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen, and Filip Forsberg line as much as possible, but that still leaves James Neal’s line to face a slightly easier matchup.
  • Prediction: Nashville wins in 6 games

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