Eastern Conference Round 2: 2011 NHL Playoffs
As far as my NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Round 1 predictions go, I was 3-for-4. The Pittsburgh Penguins let me down and I finished the entire first round with an overall record of 7-1. The NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference quarterfinals didn’t lack for intensity and excitement, either. The Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens series was a 7-game thriller. The Philadelphia Flyers – Buffalo Sabres series was a 7-game thriller. Oh, and yes, the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning went the full 7-games, too. The Washington Capitals dispatched the New York Rangers in 5-games. Onward we skate to the NHL Playoffs Round 2!
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
The #1 seed Washington Capitals against the #5 seed Tampa Bay Lightning
The Washington Capitals bring their new, somewhat more defensive-minded approach to the second round of their 2011 NHL Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning and they’re going to need it against the likes of Martin St. Louis, Vince Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, and Steve Stamkos. The Capitals have no shortage of firepower in Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and a currently ice-cold Nick Backstrom.
Michal Neuvirth could be the difference-maker here. The Rangers weren’t slouches despite their #8 seed, Neuvirth turned them aside time and time again on the way to a 5-game ouster which included a shutout. While Nick Backstrom’s offensive vaporized, the two Alexs (Ovechkin & Semin) picked up the slack for him, each tallying 3 goals in the series. The Capitals made quick work of the Rangers and are well-rested for their matchup against the Lightning.
While Dwayne Roloson is 41-years old, age certainly didn’t stop him from putting up the best save percentage in the 1st-round for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is also an astounding 6-0 in playoff elimination games, adding a 1-0 shutdown of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of that series to advance. Unlike the well-rested Capitals, the Lightning have but a mere single day off after a long series which starts tonight. Do they bring tired, battered bodies to the ice or do they bring an “in the groove, no breaks, game-on” mentality to this one?
Despite the offensive prowess on both sides, I believe this boils down to defense and goaltending. Throw in the rest factor with the Washington Capitals coming off of a short series while the Tampa Lightning are coming off of a long, emotional series and you can see why I’m going with the Capitals, figuring it’ll take 6 this time.
The #2 seed Philadelphia Flyers against the #3 seed Boston Bruins
For me, this one is going to come down to two-words: REVENGE FACTOR. For those of you who don’t subscribe to such alleged hocus-pocus, you still have to believe that no one, most especially the Boston Bruins and their fans, have forgotten about last year’s epic, historic NHL playoffs collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers while up 3-0 in the series. The scrappy Flyers club dug deep. Even after having gone down 3-0 in the Game 7, they came back, won, and went onto the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. Boston has shown early signs of resolve this post-season already, coming back to win their 1st-round series after dropping the first two games. Faced with a game 7 elimination, the Bruins closed out the Montreal Canadiens.
While I can talk about all of the offensive potential on both teams, there are substantial differences which necessitate that I avoid the usual breakdown and go with simplicity. The erratic play of the Philadelphia Flyers along with the “Keystone Cops” routine at goaltender is troublesome. The revenge factor for the Boston Bruins looms large. Tim Thomas was the best goaltender in the league during the regular season. Those are three big checkmarks that go to the side of the Bruins. They’re the Buffalo Sabres “grititude” with more talent and the Sabres took the Flyers to 7-games.
As a tried-and-true Philadelphia Flyers fan, my heart says “Flyers in 6.” As an objective viewer of the game play, statistics, and hocus-pocus: my official pick (for those keeping track) is: Boston Bruins win this one in 6-games. I promise that if the Flyers do win the NHL playoffs semifinals series, which is my wish, I will take it as a prognostication loss.