The second round of playoff games are over, and we're down to just four teams remaining.
In the first round, I correctly picked half of the series winners, while Maggie the Monkey was good on five and wrong on three. In the second round, I again got half of them right, and Maggie got just one. For the third year in a row, after 12 playoff series, I'm tied with a monkey in my prognosticating skills.
This round, I correctly predicted that the Pens would beat the Rangers, but I guessed that the Habs would beat the Flyers. Out west, I missed badly when I said that the Sharks would beat the Stars, but I was good in picking the Red Wings to advance. Maggie only correctly picked the Wings.
Here are my picks for the conference finals, followed by some brief analysis:
The Eastern Conference final promises to be excellent. The two teams, separated by 300 miles of Interstate 76, don't like each other one bit. The Flyers won five of the eight regular season games between the teams. They have met in the playoffs thrice before, and the Flyers have won all three series. Most recently, in 2000, the Flyers beat the Pens 4-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
For the Penguins, they've been getting it done with a balanced offensive attack and a very stingy defense. M-A Fleury has allowed just 16 goals in nine games, and the penalty killers have killed 34 of 38 manpower disadvantages.
The Flyers have been getting it done with some spectacular goaltending by Marty Biron. Save a couple of stumbling blocks, he's been very solid. He's certainly been challenged way more than Fleury has. Biron has faced 395 shots at an average of 32.9 per game. The next guy on that list, Evgeni Nabokov, faced 333 shots at an average of 25.6 per game. Fleury, for comparison's sake, has faced a total of 256 shots at an average of 28.4 per game.
They've also been getting it done by "Mr. Playoffs" Danny Briere, who stumbled in the regular season but has 14 (8/6) points in 12 playoff games. Also, RJ Umberger, who had 50 points in the regular season, has 11 (9/2) in the playoffs.
The Penguins have three guys with 10 or more playoff points. Evgeni Malkin has 14 (6/8). Sidney Crosby has 14 (2/12) and Maid Marian Hossa has 10 (5/5).
By contrast, the Flyers (who have played three more games), have four guys with 10 or more. Briere leads the Flyers with 14. Umberger has the aforementioned 11. Vaclav Prospal (whom I refuse to call "Vinny") has 12 (3/9) and Mike Richards has 11 (4/7).
After cruising through the first two rounds, this will be a challenge for the Penguins. The Flyers are a more physical, more motivated group than the Pens have seen thus far. I fully expect this one to go the distance, with lots of road games won and lots of overtime. And some spectacular goaltending. Oh, and probably some fighting.
Out west, I haven't been folowing as closely, but I don't think the Stars can put up much of a fight against the Red Wings juggernaut. The Stars have been playing some low-scoring games, and that won't cut it against the Red Wings. The Wings have been averaging 3.8 goals for per game, while the Stars have only been managing 2.9. In the six game series against the Sharks, they scored just 15 times for an average of 2.5.
The Red Wings have been on fire, thanks largely to the outstanding play of Johan "The Mule" Franzen, who leads all players with 11 goals. To that, he has added 3 assists, for a total of 14 points. Henrik Zetterberg (7/6) and Pavel Datsyuk (5/8) have 13 points apiece.
Detroit won the season series 3-1. Including the Minnesota North Stars days, the Wings and Stars have met three times in the playoffs, and the Wings have won all three series. Most recently, the Wings won 4-2 in the 1998 Western Conference final.
The Stars, like the Flyers, have four players with 10 or more points. In 12 games played, Mike Ribeiro has 14 (3/11). Brendan Morrow (7/4) and Brad Richards (2/9) each have 11, and Mike Modano has 10 (4/6)
While Marty Turco has been good, I think it will come down to the even better goaltending of Chris Osgood and a superior Wings team dictating the flow.
I think the Red Wings will have a pretty easy time of this, with the Stars winning their lone win at home.
So far as I can tell, Maggie hasn't made her picks yet, but we have a few days off before the series start. The West will begin on Thursday and the East will start on Friday.
3 years ago