Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Second Round Predictions

(1) Boston vs Carolina (6)

To the surprise of few, the Bruins had little trouble with Montreal in the first round. I'm not sure if this validates the Bruins as a elite team, though. The evidence suggests that the Habs were an average-ish squad that was devastated with injuries, and were therefore not a quality opponent.

The Canes were impressive against the Devils. Not only did they emerge from the series victorious, but they managed to upset one of top teams in the conference without getting noticeably outplayed. While I didn't catch as much of the Canes-Devils series as I would have liked to, the numbers indicate that the shots and scoring chances were fairly even. This bodes well for Carolina, I think, given that the Devils were one of the strongest teams -- if not the strongest team-- in the conference in terms of outshooting and territorial play. Therefore, on account of their first round performance, I think it's fair to say that the Canes are a legitimately good team.

What will likely play to Boston's advantage in this series is the fatigue element -- whereas the Canes have played seven games so far, the Bruins have only played four. They also had a much better goal differential than Carolina over the course of the regular season, and dominated the season series against the Canes (at least outcome wise).

However, I find it hard not to go with Carolina here. Territorially speaking, Carolina was much more dominant than Boston during the regular season, as evidenced by their clear advantage in Corsi. Some might point out that the Bruins surely played more with the lead than the Canes, therefore artificially rendering their EV numbers less impressive. While this is a valid point, Carolina's advantage in Corsi remains true even if one only looks at even strength play when the score is tied. I'm also impressed by Carolina's ability to consistently draw more powerplays than the opposition (Boston was merely average in this regard during the regular season).

While I'm not overly confident about this pick, I've yet to go with an underdog and it would be awfully lame if I were to go with the safe pick in every series. And frankly, the further that the Bruins go, the worse it reflects upon yours truly -- therefore, there's an element of self-interest here too.

Canes in 6

(2) Washington vs Pittsburgh (4)

The Pens had more difficulty with the Flyers than I anticipated. While I personally thought that the balance of play and scoring chances were fairly even, one could make an argument that the Flyers were the better team in that series.

The Capitals-Rangers series was an interesting one. One of the TSN announcers -- Gord Miller, I think -- remarked that, in each of the games, the winning team tended to be the team that got outplayed. I think that this is only partly true. While the winning team was outshot in four of the seven games, I think that at least some of that was due to the trailing team playing desperate hockey and throwing everything on net. In any event, I think that the Capitals demonstrated that they were the better of the two clubs over the course of the series and were thus worthy of advancement.

From my perspective, this series is essentially a coin toss. At first glance, Washington's superior goal differential, better underlying numbers, and home ice advantage makes them the more attractive pick. However, Pittsburgh's underlying numbers and goal differential since the coaching change/return of Gonchar/roster acquisitions are, if pro-rated, on par with that of Washington (or perhaps better). Over the course of a seven game series, home ice advantage is almost negligible (1-3%), but, seeing as how I can't otherwise choose between these two teams, it tilts me in favor of Washington.

Capitals in 7.

(2) Detroit vs Anaheim (8)

Detroit didn't have much difficulty in disposing of the Jackets, although the underlying numbers suggest that the play was more even than the results would imply.

Beating the Sharks in a seven game series is no small feat and Anaheim deserves credit in that respect. However, getting decidedly outshot and outchanced, while giving up a ton of powerplays to the opposition, is never a recipe for long term success. Therefore, without any hesitation, my pick is Detroit.

Wings in Five.

(3) Vancouver vs Chicago (4)

An interesting matchup. Both teams were good at EV throughout the course of the regular season. However, while the Hawks did it through accruing a massive shot differential and dominant territorial play, the Canucks were more reliant on the percentages. Although their impressive EV save percentage is likely sustainable (see: Luongo, Roberto), I'm skeptical as to whether the same is true of their equally impressive shooting percentage. Additionally, while both teams had a positive overall goal differential, Chicago's was better. Therefore, I'll take the Blackhawks.

Hawks in 6.


R O said...

Thank you very much for highlighting the Canucks' shot % luck and relative mediocrity at EV possession. I have been trumpeting that little disparity between Vancouver and the good playoff teams for a good while now, but apparently none of it matters because Chicago is "young and inexperienced".

Sunny Mehta said...


boy, is it me, or does it feel strangely satisfying to see the bruins go down?

JLikens said...

It does, if only because I wanted my pick to be the right one.

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