Your 2008 NHL Semifinals Preview

Call me crazy, but it really amuses me that the seeding is exactly the same in both conferences. That is, the 1, 2, 5, and 6 seeds advanced in both cases.

More amusing, though, is that over the last seven years, the playoffs exits of the Ottawa Senators look like this:

00-01: Lost in 1/4 Finals
01-02: Lost in 1/2 Finals
02-03: Lost in Finals
03-04: Lost in 1/4 Finals
05-06: Lost in 1/2 Finals
06-07: Lost in Finals
07-08: Lost in 1/4 Finals

That’s absolutely amazing. It thrills me to a pattern-based degree such that next year, even if Ottawa doesn’t make the playoffs, I will pick them to lose in the semis. Just on principle. Oh, no one cares about this stupid stuff except me? Alright. There are hottie matchups after the jump among, you know, some more numbers.

Eastern Conference

(6)Philadelphia Flyers vs. (1) Montreal Canadiens

The Flyers will win if…

…they stay out of the penalty box. The Canadiens had the best PP% in the league this year, and, even though the power play wasn’t so hot against Boston, are still are very dangerous special team. The Flyers allowed the second-most PP goals in the first round (8). Biron is a solid, but not great, goaltender who is middle-of-the-pack so far in the playoffs. The Habs have much more trouble scoring at even strength (overall, their GFA (goals for average) in the first round was 2.64, the lowest of any team that advanced).

…they keep scoring. Danny Briere leads the playoffs in scoring right now, and the Flyers are fourth in GFA. They did, however, have the worst GAA of any advancing team (2.65), and need to compensate by continuing to be good on offense (or, you know, cracking down on defense, something of which they are capable).

The Canadiens will win if…

…their power play heats up. This seems kind of menial (obviously, this would be extremely important for any team), but the Canadiens are a different team without their power play (yes, they beat Boston without it; this is because Boston was not a very good team). They didn’t play well in Boston, and if the offense does that again, they’ll be in trouble. Players like Kovalev– who lead his team in points– need to step it up.

…Carey Price stays hot. The Canadiens fared so well in part because of their wonderful goal differential this season (of playoff-bound teams, only Detroit and Pittsburgh were better; this is good company). Their rookie goaltender had some ups and downs during the Boston series, but his numbers this season have been pretty damn consistent, albeit in a small sample size. The young guy needs to hang in there.

Season series: Philly lost all four games by a combined score of 15-6. This does not bode well.

Goalie Matchups:

Martin Biron: (playoffs) 2.67 GAA, .908 SV% (season) 2.59, .918
Carey Price: (playoffs) 2.09, .925 (season) 2.56, .920

The edge here? Montreal.

Prospectus: I say Habs in 6.

The hotties:

Aw! This is Mike Komisarek, the Habs’ 26-year-old defensemen from Islip, NY, who in his rookie season had 17 points and 101 PIM. With each word he just gets better and better.

This is Joffrey Lupul. His last name is a palindrome. ‘Nuff said.

(5) New York Rangers vs. (2) Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers will win if…

…Henrik plays like a King. Lundqvist must outplay Fleury for the Rangers to advance. When he’s on he’s on, and he badly outplayed Brodeur, but without Avery harassing the opposing goaltender, it might be harder this series. Pound for pound Lundqvist is a better goaltender than Fleury, but Pittsburgh is a wonderful offensive team and Henke will have to be on top of his game.

…the play carefully and don’t draw stupid penalties. One of the big questions no one will talk about going into this game is how God-awful the refs will be. Hell, all it’s going to take is Sean Avery sneezing near Sidney Crosby for an interference call. It sucks, but that’s the NHL: whether or not the refs like you sadly affects the calls. The Rangers have to play extra-smart so as not to draw attention to stupid things. Avery still needs to play his game– the Rangers are a different team without him– but he has to be smart about it. The Pens will make them pay on the power play.

The Penguins will win if…

…they keep doing what they’re doing. Ottawa was not a good team, but the show the Pens put on was no joke. They’re the team to beat in the East.

…they ignore the Avery affect. Face it: he sucks, but he works. If teams can make him a non-factor, though, the Rangers are an easier team to beat.

…Fleury outplays Lundqvist. The Rangers have been a strong offensive team for a few months now, and Fleury needs to be solid. The Rangers are a solid defensive team, and much of this series will rest on the goaltenders.

Season series: The Rangers, who earned 8 points over the teams’ 7 games, and Pittsburgh, who got 7 points, are more or less evenly matched in the season series.

Goalie Matchups:

Henrik Lundqvist: (playoffs) 2.36, .917 (season) 2.23, .912
Marc-Andre Fleury: (playoffs) 1.26, .955 (season) 2.33, .921

The playoff numbers are lopsided because of the difference in caliber of the first-round teams, but for the season they’re pretty evenly matched. Either one could step up, but Lundqvist is the better goalie overall.

Prospectus: Penguins in 7.

And some boys…

My Lordy, was it hard to find a looker on the Penguins. (No, I think Crosby is ugly.) This is Jordan Staal, the youngest of the current Staal Brothers in the NHL (also the best looking, IMO). Roster pictures FTW. Though, he does have a decent mug shot floating around Google. /irrelevant

And this is Dan Girardi, my current favorite Ranger (actually, that might be Ryan Callahan, but he’s not very photogenic. Wonderful in person, crappy in roster pics.) Girardi has been wonderfully solid on the Rangers’ blueline all year. I do love him. (See also: Lundqvist, Henrik.)

Western Conference

(6) Colorado Avalanche vs. (1) Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings will win if…

…their defense stays strong. Colorado has the ability to construct multiple scoring lines, so each defense pairing will have to play smart and be solid. Chris Osgood also needs to continue to be solid in the place of the aging Dominik Hasek. Osgood’s numbers in the first round were crazy. Detroit is a scoring team, though, so I’m not asking for a miracle: just solid, smart play.

…they grab an early lead. Detroit absolutely owned Colorado during the season, and is generally a much better team. It shouldn’t take much to knock the Avs back on their heels a bit and get in their heads. Detroit has to come hard.

The Avalanche will win if…

…they stay hot. The Avs have been playing high above what anyone thought they were capable of, and have a lot of morale on their side. As long as they keep in stride with Detroit, they should have a chance. Of course, the question is whether the aging vets who lead them through the first round can maintain their momentum.

…Theodore is for real. He’s had a wonderful bounce-back season, but his numbers in 07-08 are quite a ways off from the past few years. If he implodes it shouldn’t surprise anyone, but if he keeps it up his team really has a chance.

Season series: Detroit absolutely massacred Colorado, sweeping their four matchups by a combined score of 11-2.

Goalie Matchups:

Jose Theodore: (playoffs) 2.37, .926 (season) 2.44, .910
Chris Osgood: (playoffs) 1.12, .947 (season) 2.09, .914

Such a deviation from the norm means Osgood probably won’t keep up his stellar play. He better stay as hot as he is, though, because if he falls off Hasek could be right back in.

Prospectus: Detroit in 5.

And some hotties…

Marek Svatos is a Colorado RW who had a solid 26 goals and was +13 this season. Good for you, Marek. Unfortunately, all I can ever associate that name with is “Malik.”

Rookie Jonathan Ericsson only appeared in 8 games for Detroit this season, but hopefully we’ll see more of him. Oh, that was bitter and strained.

(5) Dallas Stars vs. (2) San Jose Sharks

The Stars will win if…

…their young defense holds up.One of the big questions going into the playoffs was the durability of the Stars’ young blueline, who held up well against Calgary in the first round. The Stars had the best GFA in the West in the first round, and having another solid series defensively would make them a serious threat to San Jose.

…their PP manages to stay good. Of the remaining teams, Dallas had the best PP% in the first round with 26.3% and 10 PPGs. The Sharks had the best penalty kill in the league this season, and to break the higher seed, the Stars will have to overcome that. The Sharks had the third-best GAA in the league this year, and the key to winning could easily be beating them on special teams.

The Sharks will win if…

…their PK finds its groove again. The Flames had the best PP% in the first round against the Sharks despite the Sharks’ regular season PK being amazing, and getting back in the swing would seriously deter Dallas. If they continue to let in PP goals, they’re either going to have to play extremely smart or will be in big trouble.

…they finish the job. Two years ago, the Rangers had a problem with what my household called “the Dreaded Two-Goal Lead.” Every time they took a two-goal lead, the team would be satisfied and sit back. More often than not, this would result in a loss. San Jose had a similar problem in the first round. The Stars, having ousted the defending champs, are probably feeling pretty confident in themselves, and any ground given to them won’t be easily taken back.

Season series: Dallas was got 10 points (4-2-2) out of the 8-game series, while San Jose got 8 (4-4-0).

Goalie matchups:

Marty Turco: (playoffs) 2.01, .912 (season) 2.31, .909
Evgeni Nabokov: (playoffs) 2.45, .895 (season) 2.14, .910

On the season they’re virtually even, but Turco of the Stars was clearly superior in the first round. If Nabokov is unable to shake it off, this could be a big advantage: Dallas.

Prospectus: Stars in 7.

And some men…

Dallas’ Krys Barch is actually pretty cute. I just thought his face here was hilarious.

This is the Sharks’ Christian Ehrhoff, a defender who had a respectable 22 points this season.

And… it’s over! Yay! I’m miserably ill right now, so you have no idea what a relief that is. x.x Whoot. Though, it does pain me to pick the Rangers to lose. Rarely have I so desired to be completely wrong.

10 thoughts on “Your 2008 NHL Semifinals Preview

  1. There are so many things to say about this post.

    First of all I have managed to make an excuse for everyone of those Senators losses. Second Joffry Lupul is the best you could come up with for Philly? Third come on Marc-Andre Fleury and that smile. All of my other comments are just personal opinion about who you could have picked to represent these teams instead of the guys you did pick.

    Very nice analysis though.

  2. A lot of the guys weren’t my first choice (finding good pics was more of a challenge than I thought it would be), but I was also going by roster pics, which tend to notoriously suck. I’m sure some of the guys I passed over are actually better than their roster pics. x)

    I’m glad you liked the analysis, though. That’s the important part… right? Maybe.

  3. for some strange reason i want the staal brothers to get in a (not necessarily hockey related) fight on the ice tonight.
    except i don’t really, because my campus doesn’t get hockey on tv and i’d hate to miss it.

    thanks for insights! i’ve started to get really into hockey this season and i definitely need help learning

  4. While Jordan may be the best looking Staal, he is not the youngest. That honor would fall to Jared who plays for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL.

  5. @ Cheryl

    I actually knew that (and had a discussion about it with Dame of Extra Time yesterday). I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote it. Probably that he was the youngest in the NHL? What an odd mental lapse.

  6. There are too many Staal brothers now. I don’t know why they don’t just add an initial or something in front their names on their jerseys so we can keep track of who’s who and stuff. Although Jared and Jordan – eh…did their parent have no insight?! Can’t blame a person for losing track, really.

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