Latest posts by Beerguyrob (see all)
- Your “I Guess Preseason Gets Exciting Next Week?” Monday Evening Open Thread – August 20, 2018
- Your “How Do I Do This Again?” Sunday Evening Open Thread – August 19, 2018
- Your “I’ll Pluck You!” Wednesday Evening Open Thread – August 1, 2018
First off, a song:
That’s cathartic. Now, on to the matches.
St. Louis versus Nashville
Both teams looked really good in the first round.St. Louis came out and handed defeat to a declining
North Stars Wild team that looked ready for golf season before the round started. Nashville answered all Hawk-haters dreams in four games, a scenario no one could have predicted given the firepower Chicago possesses.
The most telling stat from this series is that “Chelsea Dagger” didn’t play once, because Chicago scored all three of their goals on the road.
The second round brings us a match-up of a team that’s failed to live up to their talent in previous seasons versus a team with an all-star goalie and a lot of youthful exuberance that punched way-above weight in the first-round.
St. Louis has the edge in scoring talent. The WHA-era list of names is formidable: Stastny, Tarasenko, Steen, Sobotka, Paajarvi and Lehtera. It’s like looking at an old Winnipeg Jets roster from 1973. Given enough room, talent like this should be able to fill any net, no matter how well protected. Nashville has some fun up front with Forsberg & Fiala, but not enough overall firepower to hold the Blues in check.
Both teams have pretty equivalent defences. St. Louis has gotten far despite having their best defenceman – Kevin Shattenkirk – now playing for the Capitals. The solid combination of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo will see the majority of icetime during this round, especially if penalties start telling the story. Nashville counters with a 1A & 1B combination of Josi & Ellis and Webber & Ekholm, which really showed effectiveness on both the PP and PK.
Goaltending is clearly in Nashville’s corner. Jake Allen is perfectly serviceable, but this series hangs on Pekka Rinne’s ability to keep St. Louis’ stars from filling the net. Tie-games going into the third will favour the Predators.
It’s going to be a tight series, but I’ve got to give this one to the team supported by Internet Dad.
Prediction: Blues in 6.
Edmonton versus Anaheim
On paper, this is your classic “team of steady veterans” versus “how far can these rookies go on just talent” match-up.
Anaheim are the steady hands here. They have four deep lines, with a favourable combination of Ducks lifers – Getzlaf, Silfverberg, Perry, Cogliano – and guys they’ve successfully brought into their fold – Kesler, Vermette, Eaves – all combining to help them ace the Flames in four straight. They play a solid, consistent game that borders on boring, but serves to get them their victories. The Oilers are run & gun – if their stars are hot, then the net is full; if the opponents defence can tie them up, they can be easily blown out.
Defence is also on the Ducks side. Anaheim has three consistent pairings they can throw out at any time, and their size should be an impediment to the Oilers’ speed. The Oilers are young & efficient up front, but their back end won’t be able to handle the pounding of Anaheim’s big men.
There was lots of combination-juggling during the season, and the mixing continued in the playoffs; only victory ensured consistency.
Goaltending is pretty equivalent. John Gibson of Anaheim looked shaky at times in the Calgary series, and can develop a case of the yips pretty quick if the Oilers can find a way through the Anaheim defence. Meanwhile, Cam Talbot found a way to stymie the Sharks in Games 5&6, allowing the Oilers to find enough holes to beat the Sharks. He’s going to have to be better here, because Anaheim has fewer weaknesses than San Jose.
As you can see, the brain says one thing, but everything else says “Fuck Ryan Kesler”.
Prediction: Oilers in 6.
Washington versus Pittsburgh
These two teams meet again in the NHL’s marquee match-up of this round. Let’s flash back to how that went in 2016:
There’s not much that needs to be said about the respective offences. Both teams have immense firepower and personalities up front. They pretty much cancel each other out.
On defence, the most important Penguin is injured. Kris Letang is out until training camp due to a herniated disc, and his lack of presence on the blue line will hurt the Pens in a shortened series. Everyone else they have is satisfactory, although Olli Maatta dives like a Peruvian soccer player. Plus, this is where Washington’s acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk will hopefully pay dividends, as they have someone who can help kill the penalties Brooks Orpik is likely to pick up.
The Caps have the clear goaltending advantage. Future Canadian Olympic goalie Braden Holtby is going to be the Vezina Trophy winner. While he does tend to take a nap during some games, the tight window of the playoffs should allow him to keep focus. The Penguins have to rely on notorious head-case Marc-Andre Fleury, since Matt Murray got hurt in first-round Game-1 warm-ups. Fleury was able to hold it together in the first-round because they started at home; God help him during the first two games in Washington.
Everything seems to come up Capitals, but lets go to the memes:
I don’t know if it holds true this year. Another sign of the locals’ fear is that this
was on the Capitals website this morning. How the hell are there any tickets left? Have Caps fans turned into 90s Braves fans?
Game 2 will be the key; if Pittsburgh can get a split, it might start another round of nightmares. But I want to lean towards the team that did Canada a favour by getting rid of the Leafs.
Prediction: Capitals in 7.
Ottawa versus New York
I want to just type “Fuck the Rangers” 50 times, but I already used my “Fuck” quota up on Anaheim.
On paper, this is a mismatch. The Rangers were a better team during the regular season than Ottawa – they got more points; scored 40 more goals; have a Hall of Fame
smoothie machine goalie. Yet Ottawa won two of the three meetings this year, and outscored the Rangers 8-5, with one shutout.
The forwards are where the two teams divide. Ottawa doesn’t have someone who can take over a game. They have four lines of role players. Bobby Ryan & Kyle Turris are the closest the Sens have to a “threat”. On the Rangers, the law firm of Kreider, Stepan & Zuccarello is as good as you’ll find outside the Pittsburgh-Washington series. Ageing wooden stick relic Rick Nash seems to have legs enough for one final run at a Cup, and the youth around him is carrying him along. The Rangers just need to be able to pierce the Sens defence.
The defence on both teams is fairly consistent. Perennial Norris candidate Erik Karlsson anchors a solid 6-man team in front of the Ottawa net. The Rangers seem like they’ve had the same 6 guys playing in front of Lundqvist since 2012, that’s how well they seem to mesh. It’ll come down to which team can hold up the opponent’s rush better.
In net, you’ve got The King versus the heartwarming story. Henrik is the poster boy for 21st century goalies. That he doesn’t have a Cup by now is Glen Sather’s fault, not his. Craig Anderson’s year has been marked by his wife’s battle with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare nose, head & neck cancer linked to Epstein-Barr virus, that led to him taking leave during the season while she started a radiation & chemotherapy regimen of 36 total treatments. She looked great during Game 6, as the cameras couldn’t help but keep using that narrative.
Neither keeper has looked bad, but Anderson has faced more shots & overtime games – if that means anything.
Ottawa is a good team, but the Rangers are a better team.
Prediction: Rangers in 6.
There you have it. Make sure to point out my wrongness where applicable.
The Western Conference gets going tonight (8:00; 10:30) and the East starts Thursday (complete schedule here), so we’ll have something to turn to between picks when avoiding the needless, relentless “DRAFT DESK BANTER”.
– Nashville at St. Louis – 8:00 | NBCSN / Sportsnet
– Edmonton at Anaheim – 10:30 | NBCSN / CBC
– something’s on TNT & TSN.