So, that happened. (And yes, I know, those are no longer our tiebreakers. But the spreadsheet and table templates were already there and I’m lazy. For Entertainment Purposes Only™.)
The first round sure was weird, huh? I mean, it started out West with St. Louis vomiting up their division championship, and San Jose failing to take advantage of a faltering Anaheim down the stretch, losing to a bunch of shit teams in March and April to accept second. With those placements, instead of four dead easy picks and two second-rounders for the ages, we had four coin-flips that ended with two contenders dropping and two pretenders moving on. I’m still in such disbelief about the San Jose-LA outcome that I started writing up a preview of Anaheim-San Jose until I realized halfway through that they had actually lost. Then out East, we had the 3-1 lead become the most dangerous in hockey, the 2014 Canadiens unpredictably and inexplicably looking like the 1977 Canadiens against Tampa Bay, Steve Mason looking like a competent goaltender, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.
What’s that leave us with? Zero compelling match-ups in the Campbell (see you in the conference finals ,
San Jose and Chicago), and two compelling rivalries that both seem to have seemingly predictable results, though we shall certainly see.
Note also that my write-ups aren’t nearly as in depth this time around, in part due to time constraints, and in part because a lot of the core information hasn’t changed since round one, with the exceptions duly noted. Note also that in accordance with tradition, Matt’s picks will be late.
Smythe Division Finals
(1) Anaheim vs. (3) Los Angeles
Playoff History: None to speak of. Both teams have interesting histories with San Jose but nothing with each other. Yet.
Season Series: The Ducks went 3-0-2 in the first 65, outscoring LA 12-7. The possession metrics are hilariously lopsided, though: in 148.4 minutes of score-close hockey, the Ducks had just 35.1% of all shot attempts and a 113.2% PDO. The latter isn’t quite the highest number I’ve had in a season series yet, but that possession number…hoo boy.
Doogie Says: I wasn’t kidding when I said neither of these match-ups look particularly compelling. The Kings are one of the best puck-possession teams of the fancystats era, just came off a sweep of a fellow Stanley Cup contender (after spotting them three games!), and Jonathan Quick is starting to look like Playoff Quick again. And yes, if this goes on much longer I’m going to start treating Playoff Quick like the mirror version of Playoff Fleury. Meanwhile, Anaheim had mediocre underlying stats, barely escaped a first-round series against a wild-card team, and have a bunch of injuries from that series to contend with. They’ve got enough pure talent to hang for a while, but the Kings are a steamroller and very few teams in the League have a real hope of stopping them. And one of those teams just lost four straight to LA. Kings in five.
Gerard Says: Ducks in six. Because Game Theory. Look. Realistically, this thing is over for me. I’m down by 4 with 7 series left to go. Doogie and I will agree on at least 3 of those, so I have no choice. FTW!
Matt Says: I’m going to go with the Kings in six. Part of me wants to say even more games given the difficulty the Kings had with the Sharks, but then I look at the rest of my predictions from the previous round and stop.
Norris Division Finals
Playoff History: Just a paltry first-round matchup from last year, in which Minny was a speed bump en route to Chicago’s second Cup in four years.
Season Series: The Wild won the season series 3-1-1, though the final score tied at 14. Possession-wise, the Hawks held a surprisingly small advantage: just 52.2% of shot attempts with the score close, but a 95.4% PDO, in 143.8 minutes.
Doogie Says: Our other second-round bye is fairly similar to the first, save for the less-lopsided regular season underlying numbers. I’m not even sure it’s worth getting too much into it here, beyond noting that Darcy Kuemper left Game 7 with an injury and Ilya Bryzgalov, who was yanked from the Colorado series halfway through Game 2, is now The Guy. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are the defending champs, deep like the Marianas Trench, and better at pretty well every position. Hawks in five.
Gerard Says: Hawks in five. With, basically, all of my expected teams out, I’m going to go with Chicago. They are the most solid lock of this round, and Game Theory or not, I’d be crazy to bet against them.
Matt Says: Still sticking with the Hawks here, in five.
Adams Division Finals
Playoff History: Sort of goes without saying at this point; just look at the damned chart. This is the thirty-fourth time in ninety years that the two teams have met in the playoffs. Everything has happened. Everything is happening. Everything will happen.
|1929 SF||1930 SCF||1931 SF||1943 SF||1946 SCF||1947 SF||1952 SF||1953 SCF||1954 SF|
|1955 SF||1957 SCF||1958 SCF||1968 QF||1969 SF||1971 QF||1977 SCF||1978 SCF||1979 SF|
|1984 DSF||1985 DSF||1986 DSF||1987 DSF||1988 DSF||1989 DF||1990 DF||1991 DF||1992 DF|
|1994 CQF||2002 CQF||2004 CQF||2008 CQF||2009 CQF||2011 CQF|
Season Series: The Habs went 2-1-1 in the season series and outscored Boston 8-7 in a tight season series. However, with the score close, there’s a different story: the Bruins had a 55.0% possession advantage but just a 95.5% PDO in 106.8 minutes.
Doogie Says: Ugh, this one is the hardest by far. I mean, on paper, by regular-season underlying numbers, it’s a joke, but there’s a couple of mitigating factors here. One is the fact that the Habs seem preternaturally talented at getting the Bruins to engage in all their worst habits, focusing on all the dumb things that aren’t the puck. The second is that the Habs actually played more like last year’s 53% possession team than this year’s 47% in round one. They had four strong lines, including the rare soft-minutes-offence fourth line, played a more aggressive forecheck, and PK was given All The Minutes and generally allowed to do his thing. To my mind, though, these things bring the teams much closer, but I still feel like the Habs just don’t quite have what it takes to get the B’s down in a seven-game series. The Bruins are just too good, the Habs’ positives are too fleeting, and one has to think that with real stakes on the line, they’re smart enough to walk away at some point. Indeed, even despite the Habs’ tendency to be in Boston’s heads, the season series didn’t reflect that to nearly the extent necessary for me to be comfortable picking the upset. I’d love to be wrong about this, but Bruins in seven.
Gerard Says: Habs in six. Because Game Theory. LOLs will be had, and violence will ensue.
Well, no dice, but flipping my Valar Morghulis coin says Boston. Game total is six. Doogie was pressuring me to make a decision here [Ed: All part of my dastardly plan to…make you pick all the same things as me.], and since the dice/coin toss worked so decently for me last year — it did, didn’t it? [Ed: Yes, it did. 11-4 is nothing to sneeze at.] — I tossed a coin, and picked a number. That resulted in Bruins in six. As much as I’d like to see the Canadiens advance, even with tonight’s OT showing, I just don’t know if they can make it.
Patrick Division Finals
(1) Pittsburgh vs. (2) NY Rangers
Playoff History: Thanks to quirks of history, it looks like the two teams really only met when the Pens were way better than the Rangers. The Blueshirts have never defeated their longtime divisional rivals in four attempts.
|1989 DSF||1992 DF||1996 CSF||2008 CSF|
Season Series: Both teams won one in regulation and went to the shootout twice, with the final scores favouring the Rangers 13-12. They played 111.7 minutes with the score close at five-on-five, and the Rangers held a decided possession advantage (55.6%) and an essentially even PDO (100.8%). Surprisingly, that did not come because of high shooting percentages but high save percentages.
Doogie Says: I think Tyler Dellow said it best, to the point where I’m just going to quote him: “If you’re picking the team with the gong show goalie and zero depth, you’re insane.” Sure, Pittsburgh looked better in the first round because they were healthy, which is an important mitigating factor, but Fleury is still Fleury, and against a non-wild-card team, I think their depth gets exposed way more than they did against Columbus. Also, the Rangers have Lundqvist and probably won’t take four billion penalties. Rangers in six.
Gerard Says: Penguins in six. Because Game Theory. [Ed: Sigh.] Lundqvist is old but still significantly better than Fleury. But the Rangers still have scoring issues, even with St. Louis. Will MSL in MSG be enough? I am evidently choosing no.
Matt Says: With Malkin deciding to play and ruining my series last round, I’m bitter, and am going to go with the Rangers in five. Only because I’m slightly less bitter about the Rangers advancing instead of the Flyers.