Sep 30, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (8) looks on before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
One round done, and the only thing we can say for sure is that Brian Elliott has the Conn Smythe wrapped up. (Ed. note: too soon.) Some pretty interesting second round series, though:
NASHVILLE OVER ST. LOUIS IN 5 Standings aside, I think the Blues are actually facing a better team this round (and remember that Josi and Subban missed 26 games between them.) Neither Allen nor Rinne will be able to sustain their first round performance but the latter has a stronger body of work. The Preds have the elite defensive pair, quality goaltending, and a strong top 6 up front — they’d be my bet to represent the West in the finals right now.
ANAHEIM OVER EDMONTON IN 7 This series is an abomination in the face of the Lord; trying to figure out who I will cheer for will be like trying to determine whether I’d prefer Neil Gorsuch or Sam Alito to be the median vote on the Supreme Court. Analytically, Anaheim’s sweep is a little misleading in that they won 3 one-goal games against a team whose #1 goalie put up an .880 save% (for casual fans, .900 is below replacement-level.) This doesn’t mean they didn’t “deserve” it, of course — goaltending counts! — but they’re unlikely to do it again. The San Jose/Edmonton series was weird in that it featured alternating lopsided games rather than the closely-contested-games-decided-by-a-goal we’ve seen in most of the other series. In a coin flip series I’ll pick the Ducks for the same reason I picked them in round 1 — the Oilers are even more of a stars-and-scrubs team than Calgary, and this leaves them vulnerable to matchups on the road: the back end of Edmonton’s defense is very exploitable and McDavid and Draisaitl will have to contend with Kesler and Silfverberg (the latter of whom really drives the line now, I think — he’s a monster.) I expect it to be close either way, though.
WASHINGTON OVER PITTSBURGH IN 6. Should be a great series, obviously. Caps fans shouldn’t be unduly nervous about the tough first round — it pains me to say it but the Leafs are a really good team, the best of the three interesting Canadian teams emerging from a rebuild. In a very even series, I side with Washington because 1)they’re healthier, 2)I like their goaltending more, and 3)I don’t believe in curses.
NEW YORK OVER OTTAWA IN 6. New York’s round one went well for me — I was happy to see them win for Subban-related reasons, and Montreal (who I thought would win) won their two games when I happened to be in Las Vegas (relevant to these previews, Steely Dan were great — Walter lead vocal on “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More!” LARRY CARLTON GUEST APPEARANCE!) So I was able to win two NHL parlays while still getting my rooting interest in the end. I will again be rooting for my undergraduate heroes Boucher and Raymond, but I think the Rangers are the stronger team here. One caveat is that I thought Lundqvist was in decline — not unreasonable, given that he’s
34 35 and had the worst regular season of his career — but he looked as good as ever in the first round. If that continues the Rangers will win fairly easily, but I’m not 100% convinced yet. Make sure to pay attention to Karlsson who even playing hurt is an absolute marvel — I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a defenseman, including Bourque or Lidstrom, who can make high-degree-of-difficulty first passes look so easy.
And now, for a second opinion, Michael Berube (who also passes on this interesting analysis of the problems the Rangers have at home):
Rangers v. Ottawa. I read somewhere that whoever wins the Pens-Caps series has a clear path to the Stanley Cup finals. I’m thinking that one or both of these teams now has that remark on the locker room bulletin board– and I think it might matter more to the Rangers, who have finally managed to learn how to win at home in the postseason. Lundqvist looks great, the offense isn’t relying on just one or two lines, and the Zibanejad-Brassard matchup looks great. (I liked Brassard and was sorry to see him go, but for the next two weeks he is a bum.) Ottawa caught a break with a blown penalty call in OT in game 3 of the Bruins series, otherwise they might be home now. RANGERS IN SIX.
Penguins v. Capitals. I honestly don’t think anything can stop the Penguins now. The 1978 Canadiens, 1960 Canadies,1972 Bruins and 1985 Oilers could form a conglomerate fantasy team and I would still pick Pittsburgh. I called Columbus in 6 in round one because the Pens don’t have Kris Letang in the lineup, and now it’s like Kris who? That decimation of the Blue Jackets was decimating. And who knew Fleury had a Cup run left in him? Here’s to not dumping a former hero at the trade deadline. But I am just hoping that this really finally truly is the year an Ovechkin-led Capitals team makes the most of its talent, so I will pretend that home ice advantage means something here. CAPITALS IN SEVEN.
In the west: Nashville, wow. Edmonton, welcome back to the big time after a generation away. (C’mon, everyone knows 2006 was a fluke.) But goddamn, your home jerseys make my eyes bleed. Blues in 7, Ducks in 6.