Last year I reached out to a bunch of Sharks Writers/Bloggers to do a playoff round-table making predictions round by round. I thought about doing that again but with all the smart people that contribute under the Pucknology umbrella including the Pucknology.net writing group, Teal Tinted Glasses, and Pucknology After Dark I decided to keep it in-house.
Here are this year’s participants:
Ian Reid (@IReidPucknology) – Pucknology Management Team (3/8)
Erik Kuhre (@Puckguy14) – Pucknology Managing Editor (4/8)
Wendell McGowan (@ComicNotGeek) – Teal Tinted Glasses (5/8)
Aidan Carlsen (@Sharkaiders) – Pucknology.net Writer (5/8)
Chris (@Chrisjws) – Pucknology After Dark (5/8)
AJ Strong (@aj_strong) – Pucknology After Dark / Pucknology.net Writer (4/8)
Thomas Owen – Pucknology.net Writer (3/8)
We will not try our luck at round two going from east to West.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders
Ian Reid: Lightning in six games
Why: When I took Detroit over Tampa Bay in the first round I was concerned about being too thin on defence but also the potential of Tyler Johnson being out of the lineup for a significant amount of time. Fortunately, for the Lightning, he was ready to go opening night and as expected was a huge difference maker in the series. While he didn’t finish the series clinching game I’m not going to take the Islanders solely on that injury. The Islanders are a great story and won’t go down without a fight but I’m giving the edge to the team that has been there before since I’m not sure the better team won the Islanders vs. Panthers series.
Erik Kuhre: Lightning in Six
Why: If Stamkos was playing in this series, it would be a faster series. Islanders will get a couple but in a matchup between Ben Bishop vs. Thomas Greiss, I can’t see the Isles shock Tampa.
Wendell McGowan: Lightning in six
Why: It surprised me that I am picking Tampa again but the issues with their injuries do not seem to be slowing them down like I thought it would.
Aidan Carlsen: Lightning in six
Why: The Lightning were much better last round than I expected them to be and showed that even without Stamkos and Stralman, they’re still a force to be reckoned with. While Greiss was real solid in net for the Islanders, the Lightning is a much better playoff team than the Panthers. Tampa will head to its second straight Conference Final after 6 games and we won’t have to see the disgusting interior of the Barclays Center on our TV’s for the rest of the playoffs.
Chris: Islanders in six
Why: The series no one cares about. Except the brass, they just wish they could both lose and have the Penguins and Capitals play more games. I don’t really care either. Greiss found himself in the first round and played well to hold off Florida, there’s a lot to like about the Islanders right now.
AJ Strong: Lightning in six
Why: I think the Islanders shot their wad getting by the Panthers while the Lightning comes in rested with Bishop looking very good. I think the Islanders will get one game, perhaps stealing another, but the Griess magic runs out this round.
Thomas Owen: Lightning in six
Why: Thomas Greiss found his confidence again as the Florida series went on and you could see deer-in-the-headlights look on all of the Panthers players. Can it carry over to the Tampa series? Absolutely. The Isles are finding more scoring contributors than I thought without Anders Lee, but I wouldn’t call it “balanced.” What happens if John Tavares gets shut down (even though he’s a beast)? Tampa is proving why they’ve been here before and Jonathan Drouin has looked determined to redeem himself. They also have some guy named Ben Bishop.
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Ian Reid: Penguins in six
Why: Pittsburgh was my pick to represent the east in the Stanley Cup Final before the playoffs started and I have seen nothing to deter me from that prediction thus far. The Penguins are on a roll getting contributions from all the guys you want contributions from and Malkin should be even closer to 100% than he was against the Rangers due to the extra time off. While I don’t like their chances should they have to go back to Jeff Zatkoff, Matt Murray is giving them excellent goaltending so far in the absence of Marc-Andre Fleury. If I’m the penguins even if Fleury is ready I don’t put him in until Murray has given them a reason to take away the net. The Capitals, on the other hand, had far too much trouble putting away the Philidelphia Flyers for me to have any faith in their ability to get over the second-round hump.
Erik Kuhre: Capitals in seven
Why: It’s so tough. Washington finally has a team that can do damage. With Fleury out, Pittsburgh’s goaltending has risen up to the challenge. Special teams will be key here. And it’s the Capitals that return for their 3rd conference final trip in team history. Overtime will decide the 7th game.
Wendell McGowan: Penguins in six
Why: This one is painful for me to say. I don’t wanna talk about it. Next!
Aidan Carlsen: Penguins in seven
Why: This is a tough one. The Penguins are hot right now. They just beat the Rangers in 5 games and look scary. Meanwhile, Washington jumped out to a 3-0 lead last series. But, we saw Philly almost force a game 7 and the last few games were close. A little too close. I think that the Caps are a little rusty after not actually playing for something for so long and if they show up with even any of that against the Penguins, they’ll lose. I think they’ll turn it up in the second round, but the Pens already have their foot on the gas.
Chris: Penguins in six
Why: What’s that noise? Oh, just NBC execs hyperventilating. I almost expect Bettman to make a call to the zebras to see if they can ensure this goes 7. The Penguins are rolling right now and I like their depth, putting out four lines they absolutely rolled the Rangers. The Capitals started strong against the Flyers but blinked when things got nasty. Like Dallas, they survive the first series round they should have dominated.
AJ Strong: Penguins in six
Why: The Penguins are a deeper team with the exception of the goalie position. The Capitals are San Jose East when it comes to playoffs so until I see them do anything, I have to go with the opponent… especially when that opponent includes NBC’s, er, uh, NHL’s golden boy. If you plan on watching this series, bring a towel to clean up McGuire’s drool that will be oozing from your speakers.
Thomas Owen: Capitals in seven
Why: This is really tough to call and that’s a good thing. The Capitals are the most well-rounded team in the East. The Penguins have been on fire for a while — they’ve won 18 of their last 21 games, including twice against the Caps in that span. That’s even with Jeff Zatkoff playing for a bit, a goalie that I have never believed is NHL-caliber. I’m taking the Caps because I want to see the Pens beat a legitimate force, first. Either way, this series is probably going to be the REAL Eastern Conference Finals.
Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues
Ian Reid: Blues in four
Why: In my opinion the Dallas Stars were flat out exposed by the Minnesota Wild for the team that they are, a big glass cannon. The Blues with Tarasenko can keep up with the Stars on offence however, I don’t have much faith in the Dallas blue line or the goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi to keep enough pucks out of their own net to win the series. Even though the Blues defence is somewhat suspect at times I have more than enough faith in Brian Elliot to be able to shut down the high-powered Dallas offence. If the Blues played the way they did against Blackhawks and the Stars did against the Wild I don’t see how the Stars have even the most remote chance of prevailing in this series.
Erik Kuhre: Blues is six
Why: Oh this is going to be a good one. Teams are equally matched. The big questions are: Does St. Louis have enough energy after a battle with Chicago? After almost collapsing, is Dallas confident in their defence and goaltending? The tandem in Texas will falter as the Blues return to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.
Wendell McGowan: Blues in five
Why: The Blues really proved something to me that last series with Chicago. I just hope they are not out of gas.
Aidan Carlsen: Blues in six
Why: The Blues have got to be feeling pretty damn good right now. They finally knocked their rival Chicago Blackhawks out of the playoffs and look scary. They’re big, physical and are all around solid. But, the Blues problem is finishing games. We saw that against the Blackhawks when they went up 2-0 in game 7 and in game 6 when they were winning 3-1, then lost 3-6. And unfortunately for the Blues, the Stars have a better offence than the Hawks and that’s without Seguin in. That’s where the positives end for Dallas though. Their defence and goaltending would have been the reason for losing if they went home in the first round, which was looking very possible near the end of the series. Hell, Dallas blew a four-goal lead in the third period. That’s not good. St. Louis will exploit the Stars defensive issues and win some very high scoring games.
Chris: Blues in five
Why: St. Louis is playing a strong game right now and withstood Chicago’s rally. The Stars are lucky they didn’t end up going to game 7 against a team that lost 7 straight games and should have been much more easily dismissed. Did Minnesota get their offence going, or was it the play in goal for Dallas? If you’re in Vegas, take the over on some of these score lines.
AJ Strong: Blues in six
Why: The Blues just vanquished their nemesis and what I think is a better team than the Seguin-less Stars. I’ve said it many times, but I still have no faith in the Niemi/Lehtonen duo going far. Pietrangelo will be the X factor as Elliot and company get through big D in a big way. It’s a shame that the Ruff/Hitchcock rematch won’t go the distance.
Thomas Owen: Blues in six
Why: Well the Blues proved me wrong. I’m finally a believer in their forward depth! Besides beating the Blackhawks, the Blues have that confidence boost to finally be out of the first round! As far as the Stars go, had I known that Zach Parise would have a potentially career-threatening injury, I’d have picked them in 5 (and still been sorta wrong) last round. Same story as before, though. The Stars have no Tyler Seguin (called it), inconsistent defence, and mediocre goaltending.
San Jose Sharks vs. Nashville Predators
Ian Reid: Sharks in six
Why: These teams are pretty evenly matched from the blue line back to the net but the San Jose Sharks should have the edge on offence and special teams here. While Pekka Rinne has some weird voodoo hex over the Sharks I just can’t see him keeping it up if the Sharks are able to roll their four-line attack against this team. The Sharks should be able to take the edge in faceoffs in this series which will only enhance their attack. The Sharks will have issues if they can’t overcome the Predators stingy penalty kill with the man advantage but I think in a five on five game their odds are very good of making yet another trip to the conference finals.
Erik Kuhre: Sharks in six
Why: San Jose is rested and fresh, Nashville has gone cross country five times in 13 days. The Preds have been resilient but have looked shaky at times. If San Jose can pretend these are the Kings and have the passion and determination to beat Nashville like Los Angeles, Team Teal should have this.
Wendell McGowan: Sharks in six
Why: I think the Sharks are a better team than the Predators. The only reason that they won’t sweep is that the Sharks tend to underplay to “lesser” competition and they may need to get a knot jerked in their tailpipe.
Aidan Carlsen: Sharks in seven
Why: The Sharks finally beat the Kings in the playoffs and were able to exercise their demons. This team showed last round that they’re for real this year and are hungry for a Cup. The Predators aren’t as defensively shut down as they used to be and the Sharks will be able to play off of that. Pekka Rinne will probably become god-like, as if the normal when he plays the Sharks, but SJ will bring too much heat and he won’t be able to stop them all.
Chris: Sharks in six
Why: The Predators take too many penalties, don’t kill them well, and have a deadly Sharks power play looming. The Sharks have potted nearly a quarter of their opportunities in the first round, in spite of going 0/5 in game three. Pekka Rinne could swing this series the other way as he’s always been excellent against the Sharks.
AJ Strong: Sharks in six
Why: San Jose seems locked in while getting a week long rest while Anaheim and Nashville will be a little worse for their wear. I don’t think Rinne is the guy he used to be while Perry is goalless and a minus 6.
Thomas Owen: Predators in seven
Why: This is another matchup that is tough to call. The Sharks are a better team than Nashville, but this year’s Predators have a bounce-back ability that past iterations have not. The real reason why I’m picking the Preds comes completely down to logistics. This matchup means that the Sharks lose their “road-ice advantage.” It’s not that they can’t win at home, just that we know the damage they can do on the road. Advancing past the Ducks gives the Preds a Game 7 win on their mantle. Just as I felt in the Ducks/Preds series, I’d take the Sharks in 6. However, if this does reach Game 7 like I think it will, I give that advantage to the Predators.