Tuesday, May 8, 2007

NHL Playoffs - Round 3 Previews and Predictions

So Round 2 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs didn't go quite as I had envisioned it. I wrote a recap of each second round series below and a preview and predictions of the two third round series is below that. Oh, and the Buffalo Sabres win the Cup over the Anaheim Ducks in 7 games.

Eastern Conference Recaps :

Buffalo Sabres (1) vs New York Rangers (6): Despite a strong performance by the Rangers and a strangely lackluster performance by Buffalo this series ended up as expected. Buffalo wins in 6 games and Henrik Lundqvist gave the Rangers a chance to compete. Daniel Briere 1 goal, 5 assists. Chris Drury 3 goals, 2 assists, Tomas Vanek 3 goals. Vanek seemed to disappear a bit in the last 4 games of this series but Briere and Drury picked up the slack. Brian Campbell potted 1 goal and 2 assists and was a little disappointing offensively in round 2. I got this prediction dead right, Sabres in 6.

New Jersey Devils (2) vs Ottawa Senators (4) :

The Ottawa Senators didn't really surprise me much in round 2. Martin Brodeur certainly did though. Brodeur allowed an uncharacteristic 15 goals in 5 games for a lofty 3.00 goals against average and New Jersey was simply unable to contain the top scoring line of Daniel Alfredsson (3 goals, 2 assists) , Dany Heatley (3 goals, 7 assists) and Jason Spezza (3 goals, 5 assists). Ray Emery soundly outplayed Brodeur with 1 shutout and a 2.2 GAA, he even matched Marty's assist in game 4. I got this prediction half right, it took 6 games but Ottawa was the winner, not New Jersey.

Western Conference Recaps :

Detroit Red Wings (1) vs San Jose Sharks (5) :

The Western conference is determined to screw with my predictions. San Jose came out hot in Game 1 and pummeled the Wings but stumbled badly in game two by blowing a 2 goal to head home even in the series. Detroit showed their veteran presence by sticking close to San Jose and simply wanting it more than the Sharks. San Jose blew three early game leads and lost three straight games to go out with a whimper. Henrik Zetterberg scored 2 goals, 3 assists while Pavel Datsyuk continued to prove he is a playoff performer with 2 goals, 4 assists and Niklas Lidstrom continued his strong play with 1 goal and 2 assists. The return of Tomas Holmstrom to the Wings lineup helped them get out of round 2. Unfortunately they lost Mathieu Schneider for the remainder of the year with a broken wrist. I predicted San Jose in 7 games, Detroit took it in 6.

Anaheim Ducks (2) vs Vancouver Canucks (3) :

I told you that Vancouver would have difficulty scoring in round 2, but they surprised even me with just how poor their offence was. They managed only 8 goals in 5 games against the Ducks and went home without a whimper. The Ottawa Senators top line scored more goals than the entire Canucks team in round 2. Anaheim completely dominated this series and they look to be the healthiest and freshest team in the Western Conference this year. Andy McDonald (3 goals, 2 assists), Teemu Selanne (2 goals, 2 assists) and Chris Pronger (1 goal, 4 assists) led the Ducks in scoring and Scott Niedermayer was a little disappointing with only 1 goal and 2 assists in round 2.


Eastern Conference:

Buffalo Sabres (1) vs Ottawa Senators (4) :

This is the toughest matchup for the Sabres in this years playoffs and probably the one with the highest entertainment value. This season saw a fair amount of bad blood between these two teams, most of it from Chris Drury's head. This should be a highly entertaining offensive series and I expect to see Ryan Miller and Ray Emery steal a game or two with some stellar performances between the pipes. Both teams have depth, speed and skill but I give Buffalo a slight edge in the depth department. Not many teams have their leading goal scorer on the third line. The Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza line will certainly make their presence felt but Tomas Vanek and the third line of the Sabres will make the difference here as they win this series in 7 games.

Western Conference :

Detroit Red Wings (1) vs Anaheim Ducks (2) :

The Red Wings surprised me by getting past the Sharks in round 2 and this throws the rest of my western conference predictions way off. I don't think that Detroit, despite it's veteran presence and stellar defense core, will make it past Anaheim to the Stanley Cup Final. Without Mathieu Schneider the Wings no longer have as much defensive depth as the Ducks. Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin provide defensive stability with a strong offensive upside that will carry the Ducks over the Wings in 6 games.

Stanley Cup Finals Prediction :

I originally predicted that the Buffalo Sabres would win the Stanley Cup in 6 games over the Nashville Predators. Obviously half of that prediction is no longer relevant. I stand by my prediction that the Sabres would win the cup but I now see them taking it in 7 games against the Anaheim Ducks. Tomas Vanek is still the MVP (in my eyes) but Chris Drury or Ryan Miller will actually win the award.

Round 2 Predictions:
NHL Playoffs - Round 2 Players to Watch
NHL Playoffs - Round 2 Previews and Predictions

Round 1 Predictions:
Round 1 Playoff Predictions and Hot Players
Complete Playoff Predictions

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