Round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is over. Good news, the Phoenix Coyotes advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since moving to the Desert. Brett Harmon, Mike Sackley return to make their picks for the second round matchup. Both Brett and Mike went 6-2 in the first round while Rich was a pedestrian 4-4. Here's how the guys think the Conference Semifinals will play out over the next couple of weeks.
Photo: Getty Images
Harmon: Both of these teams were involved in game sevens in the first round. The Rangers had to deal with an Ottawa Senators team that just wouldn’t go away, while the Caps dealt with the Boston Bruins.
There will be no rest for the weary in this series that should go deep. Both teams are going to be relying on scoring by committee. However if big guns Alex Ovechkin and Marian Gaborik show up in the second round we may see some fireworks. Facing the potential offensive weapons both of these teams are going live and die by goaltending, and I’ll take the proven Henrik Lundquist over Braden Holtby.
The Rangers have the edge in coaching in this series as well. John Tortorella is a very good big game coach and seemingly always makes the right decision. Meanwhile Dale Hunter in his first year has shown himself to be outcoached on several occasions this year.
The Pick: Rangers in 6
Gray: The Rangers will certainly be motivated to extract some revenge on the Captails after being sent home by Washington in two of the past three seasons. The twist in this series is usually the top-seed in the conference in not trying to get over the hump of a lower seed. Most of the time is vise versa. The Captails and Rangers both won a hard fought series in the first round against Ottawa and Boston because of their goaltending. However, New York clearly has the edge with Vezina candidate Henrick Lundqvist. I have a hard time believeing Braden Holtby will be able to stand on his head again and carry the Caps to the next round.
The Pick: Rangers in 6
Photo: The Star-Ledger
Harmon: The Flyers are well rested after eliminating the Penguins in six games. However that was a physical series that may have taken a toll on the Flyers. And Unfourtnally for Philly they have to face another Atlantic Division rival in the second round. The Devils got taken to the brink by the Flordia Panthers something that not many saw coming.
Last round the Flyers overwhelmed with the power of their power play in the first round. Something they are going to have a hard time doing in this round, the Devils were the best penalty killing team in the league this season, the Flyers will need to find their goals on even strength this round. But the Devils have seasoned netminder Martin Brodeur between the pipes, the Flyers will need to work a bit harder to get pucks by him unlike Marc-Andre Flurey. The Devils on the other hand will need to be more careful when, and if, they get a lead in this series. Philly has proven to be very resilient never letting anything more than a seven goal lead get them down.
The Pick: Flyers in 7
Sackley: The Devils needed double overtime in Game 7 to dispose of the pesky Florida Panthers, whereas the Flyers have been resting for nearly a week. I give the edge in net to the Devils, even though Marty Brodeur is not what he used to be. He's still better than Ilya Bryzgalov. But the Flyers have too much firepower for the Devils to stop. Even though Bryzgalov has been subpar at best, Claude Giroux and that ridiculously good Flyers power play will hack away and be too much for the Devils.
The Pick: Flyers in 6
Gray: Simply put, the New Jersey Devils do not have the offensive fire power to keep up with the Philadelphia Flyers. Yes, I know poor goaltending and sloppy defense from the Pittsburgh Penguins contributed to the scoring barrage the Flyers put on, but you cannot overlook the play of Claude Giroux. Martin Brodeur will do his best to keep the Devils in this series and Ilya Bryzgalov will more likely let in a few goals he shouldn't, but Philadelphia will be able to overcome that.
The Pick: Flyers in 6
Photo: LA Times
Harmon: The Kings pulled off the biggest upset in the first round knocking off the Presidents Trophy winners the Vancouver Canucks behind the stellar goaltending of Johnthan Quick. The Blues meanwhile took care of the San Jose Sharks in easy fashion.
The Kings might not need to rely on the services on Quick as much in this series as the Blues are not nearly the same offensive power that the Canucks were. But the Kings still face the problem of scoring goals, the Kings will need Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Mike Richards to produce more than they did in the first round, goals will not be easy to come by as Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot won’t crumble like Roberto Luongo. For the Blues on the other hand it’s all about solving the puzzle, the Sudoku, the Rubik’s Cube that is Johnthan Quick. If the Blues can put up enough goals I’m not sure the kings have the firepower to come back.
The Pick: Kings in 6
Sackley: I might be in the minority here, but L.A.'s Jonathan Quick should win the Vezina trophy. I know that playoffs do not count, but he was the best goaltender during the regular season, and he shined in the playoffs, shutting down the President's Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks in five games. St. Louis does not have the offense of Vancouver, but they have a strong goaltender in Brian Elliott and arguably the best defense in the league. In my mind. L.A. has more potential on offense, but I have seen what the Blues can do to a strong offense. I think Quick can steal a game or two, but the Blues depth and defense will win them the series.
The Pick: Blues in 5
Gray: Well, I was way off on both Los Angeles and St. Louis, so my opinion on this series probably isn't as good as Brett and Mike's. I do think the Kings match up well with the Blues. LA does lose it's edge in net. While Jonathan Quick is much better, Brian Elliott is still more servicable than Roberto Luongo. Both teams need contributions from the bigger stars, which I think LA has more of. Therefore, I have to Kings advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
The Pick: Kings in 7
Harmon: The Coyotes got to their first ever second round appearance by the way of overtime victories aginist the Chicago Blackhawks. The Predators meanwhile took advantage of the age and injuries to the Detroit Red Wings.
One has to wonder in this series between goaltenders, Coyotes Mike Smith and Predators Pekka Rinne, if more than two goals will be scored in one game. These two teams are very much mirrors of each other, the main difference being that the Predators are just a more skilled version of the Coyotes. However this series can go either way, but if Nashville can put the kind of pressure on Mike Smith like Chicago did, Smith will eventually let in some goals.
The Pick: Predators in 6
Sackley: This will be a battle of the goaltenders. Mike Smith has been the best goaltender during the playoffs so far, stopping a strong Blackhawks attack. But equally as good has been Nashville's Pekka Rinne, disposing of the Detroit Red Wings in 5 games. Both teams play tight defense and take advantage of the other team's mistakes. Nashville has more depth and stronger defenseman in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. The Coyotes must get the Wizard Ray Whitney to magically turn his game on in this series. I think as long as Whitney, Vrbata and Hanzal stay healthy, that can happen. But the Coyotes cannot continue to get outshot 15-20 shots a game and win the Stanley Cup. I picked the Predators at the start of the playoffs to reach the Stanley Cup final (against the Penguins, that didn't go so well). It would be great to see the Coyotes move on, but the Preds have been here before and have the tools and talent to make the Cup final.
The Pick: Predators in 7
Gray: Both teams are in unfamilar territory. The Coyotes have never played in the Conference Semifinals while the Predators are making just their second appearance in franchise history. Unfortunately I don't think Phoenix matches up well with Nashville. Yes, the two teams play similar styles of hockey, but the Predators have more weapons (Shea Weber, Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn to name a few). Now I know what you are saying, the Coyotes just beat the Blackhawks. And you are right, Chicago certainly has more firepower than Nashville, but the Coyotes edge in the last series, goaltending, is gone. Pekka Rinne is just as good as Mike Smith, meaning there will be fewer chances for Phoenix to score. Plus, that Chicago series took a lot out of the Coyotes and Nashville easily dispatched Detroit in just five games. Smith will win a few games for the Coyotes, but it will not be enough.
The Pick: Predators in 6