After round 1 of these 2012 playoffs most "experts" were left scratching their heads. Like myself, Pittsburgh and Vancouver were the consensus pick to meet in the Stanley Cup Final. At the time it appeared to be a smart and safe pick, I mean with Vancouver being the best team in the NHL all year and the Penguins getting the best player in the world back a few games before the playoffs, who could argue. Well I guess Claude Giroux and Jonathan Quick strongly disagreed as they were instrumental in the upsets.
My overall predicting ability for round 1 proved that I am no "Rocket Scientist" , as I picked only 3 teams correctly. Nashville got by Detroit much easier than I expected as I figured that series would go the distance and on the flip side I thought New Jersey would finish up in 5 with Florida. Got the teams right but not the games. The closest to a perfect prediction I produced was New York, it took them 7 when I thought 6.
So if you are a person who likes to place wagers on sports (good thing I am not), maybe ignoring the rest of this article or picking the opposite of what I am about to share will be a great idea. However, here it goes.
St. Louis Blues vs. LA Kings:
Schedule: Sat April 28, Mon April 30, Thurs May 3, Sun May 6, Tues May 8, Thurs May 10, Sat May 12.
Head to Head: St. Louis 1-2-1 L.A. 3-1-0
Top Scorers Round 1: St. Louis was led by Andy MacDonald (4-4-8) and Patrik Berglund (3-4-7)
Dustan Brown (4-1-5) led the Kings and J. Williams and A. Kopitar each had 4 points.
Goaltenders: St. Louis: Brian Elliott 3-0, 1.37 GAA and a .949 Save Percentage
L.A.: Jonathan Quick 4-1, 1.59 GAA and a .953 Save Percentage
Special Teams: St. Louis Power Play 33.3% (6/18) and Penalty Kill 88.2% (15/17)
L.A. Power Play 11.5% (3/26) and Penalty Kill 85.7% (18/21)
Notes: This should be a goaltenders duel, as both teams are very defensive minded. With Jaroslav Halak missing at least the first 2 games, Brian Elliott has the reigns for the Blues. Both teams have a stud on the blue line as Drew Doughty leads all Kings players in ice time at 26:32 and St. Louis counters with Alex Pietrangelo and his 26:15 of ice time.
Prediction: St. Louis Blues in 6
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators
Schedule: Fri April 27 (Phx won 4-3 in OT), Sun April 29, Wed May 2, Fri May 4, Mon May 7, Wed May 9, Fri May 11.
Head to Head: Phoenix 2-1-1 Nashville 2-2-0
Top Scorers (thru game 1): Phoenix: Rostislav Klesla (2-4-6) and Antoine Vermette (4-2-6)
Nashville: Alexander Radulaov (1-4-5), Legwand and Bourque have 4 points each.
Goaltenders: Phoenix: Mike Smith 5-2, 1.91 GAA and a .947 Save Percentage
Nashville: Pekka Rinne 4-2, 2.09 GAA and a .929 Save Percentage.
Special Teams: Phoenix Power Play 22.7% (5/22) and Penalty Kill 91.7% (22/24)
Nashville Power Play 11.1% (3/27) and Penalty Kill 80.8% (21/26)
Notes: This should be another goaltenders battle as Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne have been front and center in their teams success. Nashville has the bigger names, (Weber, Suter, Radulov) but Phoenix has been getting contributions from everyone all year, led by Ray Whitney, who happened to score the OT winner in game 1. Nashville's top power play from the regular season needs to get on track as the Coyotes penalty kill is tops in the playoffs.
Prediction: Nashville in 7
New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
Schedule: Sat April 28, Mon April 30, Wed May 2, Sat May 5, Mon May 7, Wed May 9, Sat May 12.
Head to Head: 2-2-0 Split
Top Scorers Round 1: New York: Brad Richards (2-3-5) 4 others with 4 points
Washington: Alex Ovechkin (2-3-5) B. Laich and N. Backstrom have 4 points each.
Goaltenders: New York: Henrik Lundqvist 4-3, 1.70 GAA and .945 Save Percentage
Washington: Braden Holtby 4-3, 2.00 GAA and a .940 Save Percentage
Special Teams: New York Power Play 15.6% (5/32) and Penalty Kill 84.6% (22/26)
Washington Power Play 15.8% (3/19) and Penalty Kill 91.3% (21/23)
Notes: Holtby put up Lundqvist like numbers in round 1and will need to continue to do so for the Caps to have a chance. New York has a stronger defense led by Girardi (28:03 TOI) and McDonagh (26:21 TOI). This will be a tight series as both teams went the distance in tightly contested series. Washington played 7 one goal games against last years champs.
Prediction: Rangers in 7
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils
Schedule: Sun April 29, Tues May 1, Thurs May 3, Sun May 6, Tues May 8, Thurs May 10, Sat May 12.
Head to Head: Philadelphia 3-2-1 and New Jersey 3-3-0
Top Scorers Round 1: Flyers: Claude Giroux (6-8-14) and Daniel Briere (5-3-8)
New Jersey: Travis Zajac (3-3-6) Kovalchuk and Clarkson each have 5 points.
Goaltenders: Flyers: Ilya Bryzgalov 4-2, 3.89 GAA and .871 Save Percentage
New Jersey: Martin Brodeur 4-2, 2.06 GAA and .922 Save Percentage
Special Teams: Flyers Power Play 52.2% (12/23) and Penalty Kill 69% (20/29)
New Jersey Power Play 20% (5/25) and Penalty Kill 66.7% (18/27)
Notes: Currently the Devils have the advantage in goal, if Bryzgalov can get his act together and not lose games for Philadelphia this will be an entertaining series. The winner could be decided by who stays out of the penalty box. The Flyers PP shredded Pittsburgh for 12 goals and the Devils clipped along at 20%. Both teams were lousy on the PK in round 1. Philly scored 30 goals in round 1 and Claude Giroux emerged as a great leader as he willed the Flyers the second round.
Prediction: Philadelphia in 6