Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Coach's third round playoff predictions

Well I was 2-2 in the second round and 8-4 overall in 2011. The second round was clearly not as exciting as round one.

In the East there were two sweeps where both the first and second seeds couldn't put up much of a fight in their series. Every team hits a wall in the playoffs where the toll of the regular season, tough physical playoff games, and overtime sucks the life out of your lineup. Combine inconsistent goaltending and you have your self an early summer break.

Every team has some elite players but successful teams have deeper lineups with role players who can also produce offense when the key match ups neutralize your top scoring line. That was clearly evident in the West where the series were much tighter.

Eastern Conference (3) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

It took some time to get rolling but the line of David Krejci - Nathan Horton - Milan Lucic finally began to get rolling in round two. However, the Bruin offense has sputtered at times which is no different than the regular season. The powerplay has been scoring at a dismal rate of 5.4% which is an improvement over the 0% after round one. This team is clearly being carried by Tim Thomas who could do it again in round three. On the other end of the rink is another oldtimer Dwayne Roloson who is carrying a goals against average and save percentage slightly better than Thomas. But at 41 will he run out of gas? No goalie this age has ever started in games this late in the playoffs. But Tampa Bay isn't relying on just goaltending. They gave 3 premier forwards in Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steve Stamkos. They have excellent secondary scorers in Sean Bergenheim (leads the team in goals scored), Steve Downie and Ryan Malone. The defense has been solidified with the trade for Eric Brewer. Finally Guy Boucher has done an incredible job in his first year as an NHL coach.

Prediction: Bolts in 7

Western Conference (1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (2) San Jose Sharks

No upsets in the West where round two had the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th seeds and here we are in the third round with the top two seeds. Both teams have struggled to get this far in the past so they have gotten that monkey off their back. The challenge is getting to the final where they both have a great shot at winning the Cup. Both teams have deep lineups, solid and at times spectacular goaltending, lots of grit, and excellent special teams. This should be one of the better match ups in the playoffs. When star players like the Sedins, Patrick Marleau or Dany Heatley don't score, you have players like Ryane Clowe or Ryan Kessler step up. These are truly team efforts. Both teams are loaded with veterans who have a lot to prove this season.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

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