2013 NHL Playoffs heat up in Second Round

sidney-crosbyOne great thing about hockey is that it breeds exciting first round matchups and major upsets. Such was the case in the 2013 NHL Playoffs, as five out of the eight lower seeds won their series.

It was especially a good time to be a lower seed in the Western Conference, where the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings upended the Anaheim Ducks, the six-seeded San Jose Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks, and the fifth-seeded L.A. Kings beat the St. Louis Blues.

The Eastern Conference saw its share of upsets too with the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators taking down the Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Islanders edging out the Washington Capitals.

Will the upsets continue as we forge ahead into the second round of the 2013 NHL Playoffs? So far it looks like the favorites are on top, though we’re only one game into each series. Every matchup is still anybody’s game, so let’s discuss who has a good shot of prevailing in the Conference Semifinals.

#1 Seed Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Seed Ottawa Senators (Pens lead 1-0) – The Penguins survived a closer than expected series against the New York Islanders. Seeing as how Ottawa can skate just as well as New York, this figures to be a pretty tough matchup too. The Senators feature the best scoring defender in Erik Karlsson and one of the league’s top goalies in Craig Anderson.

However, Pittsburgh boasts six of the top seven scorers in the playoffs and has a habit of overwhelming opposing goaltenders. If the Pens can continue getting production from multiple players outside of Sidney Crosby, they should be able to score on Anderson enough to win this matchup.

Prediction: Pittsburgh wins the series 4-2.

#4 Seed Boston Bruins vs. #6 Seed New York Rangers (Bruins lead 1-0) – It almost looked like Boston wouldn’t be in this position after nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Toronto rick-nashMaples Leafs. Even on their home ice, they were down 4-1 in Game 7 and appeared destined to collapse. However, the Bruins stormed back thanks to a pair of goals by Patrice Bergeron.

As for the Rangers, their offense was pretty sporadic, but goalie Henrik Lundqvist was there to bail New York out. He’ll have to be even better against Boston because the Bruins should have little trouble shutting down New York’s struggling offensive leaders in Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. Boston will need to win this series quick though to avoid the fatigue factor from their grueling Toronto series.

Prediction: Boston wins the series 4-2

#1 Seed Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Seed Detroit Red Wings (Hawks lead 1-0) – A few years ago, the seeding would’ve been reversed in this matchup as the Red Wings corey-crawfordwere dominant throughout the late 90’s and into the late 2000’s. However, times are far different today and Chicago was the regular season’s best club. But it’s also worth mentioning that Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk still have plenty left in the tank, as they proved in their upset of Anaheim.

This Original Six matchup could come down to who’s got the fresher legs, and Chicago definitely has the edge here. They dispatched Minnesota in just five games and goalie Corey Crawford looked magnificent. Detroit should give Crawford a little more trouble since they have guys who can score on every line. But the Blackhawks have even more depth and should cruise in this matchup, provided Patrick Kane can get going in this round.

Prediction: Chicago wins the series 4-1

#5 Seed Los Angeles Kings vs. #6 Seed San Jose Sharks (Kings lead 1-0) – There was no championship hangover for the Kings since they were able to beat St. Louis in six games. jonathan-quickSan Jose was even more impressive after they pulled out the brooms in a sweep of Vancouver. San Jose held the Sedin brothers scoreless in four games, while overwhelming Canucks’ goalie Cory Schneider on the other end.

As for Los Angeles, goalie Jonathan Quick struggled throughout most of the regular season, but has pulled things together in the playoffs. The key here will be if he can continue showing the same dominance that he showed in last year’s postseason. Look for frontliners Jeff Carter and Dwight King to have been games against San Jose in this series too.

Prediction: L.A. wins the series 4-2

NHL Power Rankings for February 19th, 2013

chicago-blackhawksWhen the lockout-shortened NHL season opened, many people were talking about the New York Rangers and defending champion LA Kings competing for the Stanley Cup. However, it’s been all about the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks in the early season. On the other hand, the Rangers and Kings have struggled and are currently fighting just to be among the playoff teams. These teams may not have lived up to expectations, but there are plenty of other clubs that are doing quite well so far and here’s a look at them.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (12-0-3) – The Blackhawks are not only playing better than any other NHL team this season – they’re on the brink of starting better than any team in history! Chicago will be going for an NHL record-tying 16th straight game with at least one point vs. the Vancouver Canucks. Their streak was in jeopardy last game against the Kings; however, a Patrick Sharp goal proved to be the game winner.

2. Anaheim Ducks (11-2-1) – Anaheim is a team full of road warriors since they’ve gone 7-1-1 on the road this season. Furthermore, they just capped off a lengthy 5-1-1 road trip, which ended with a victory over Nashville. Now…if only the Ducks weren’t in the same conference as the Blackhawks. Ironman winger Teemu Selanne (15 points) is once again having a fantastic season in his 20th year.

sidney-crosby3. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-5) – Pittsburgh’s year started pretty mediocre with a 2-2 record; however, they’ve been on a roll ever since and have won 8 out of their past 11 games. Sidney Crosby (24 points) is so good that he’s become unpopular among fans while LW Chris Kunitz (18 points) and C Evgeni Malkin (17 points) are providing plenty of offensive punch as well.

4. New Jersey Devils (9-3-4) – We’re not sure if it’s the Penguins or Devils who rule the East right now. However, we have to rank the Devils a spot lower than Pittsburgh after they lost 5-1 to the NY Islanders. But this by no means defines a team which made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Goalie Johan Hedberg is doing a great job minding the net with a 1.72 GAA.

5. Boston Bruins (9-2-2) – With Pittsburgh and New Jersey’s recent success, it’s easy to overlook the Bruins. But it’s also impossible to overlook the fact that they’ve gone 7-2-1 lately. If this team can get some more offensive firepower going, we could easily see the Bruins competing for the Eastern Conference title.

6. Montreal Canadiens (10-4-1) – Following four straight wins, the Canadiens have bolted up the league standings. They’ve also landed in our top 10 power rankings thanks to strong play from C Tomas Plekanec (12 points), D Andrei Markov (10 points) and LW Rene Bourque (10 points).

daniel-sedin7. Vancouver Canucks (8-3-3) – Vancouver has struggled to hold onto leads this season and is definitely lagging behind Anaheim and Chicago in the West. Just like Boston, the Canucks have gotten off to a subpar start offensively – Daniel Sedin leads the team with 13 points. However, Roberto Luongo has been one of the NHL’s top goalies thus far with a 1.63 GAA.

8. Carolina Hurricanes (8-4-1) – Carolina is definitely a formidable team this year after going 7-2-1 over their past 10 games. Eric Staal has been Mr. Clutch this season after scoring 17 points and netting four game-winning goals. It also helps that Dan Ellis is keeping just about everything out of the net with a 1.75 GAA and .943 SV%.

9. St. Louis Blues (9-5-1) – The Blues have been pretty up and down this year, but mostly up. They’ve won three road games in a row and are back on track to move up the Western Conference standings. LW Alexander Steen (15 points) is off to the best start of his career and has dished out 11 assists.

10. Nashville Predators (7-4-5) – Nashville may have dropped their last game, but they are 6-2-2 over the past 10 contests. This team doesn’t score a ton of points, but Colin Wilson (10 points) provides a nice boost, while Chris Mason has been unbelievable in the net with a 1.45 GAA and .952 SV%.