The first round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs is finally over, with, as usual, some surprises and some predictable results. Fully Reconditioned will take a look back at our first round predictions in the West and East, seeing which made the grade, and then move forward with more Fully Reconditioned predictions for the second round, which will begin tonight, only a night after the final games of the first.
Grading the First Round – The Western Conference
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks
Prediction: Vancouver in 5
Actual Result: Vancouver in 7
The Fully Reconditioned prediction for this matchup had the Canucks easily handling the defending champs, and through three games, that seemed like it would be the case, with Vancouver leading Chicago three games to none. From there, though, everything fell apart, with Chicago winning the next three games, bouncing Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and calling into question whether Lu and his team were indeed still the chokesters everyone worried they might be. They pulled out the series in overtime in game seven, but only after giving up their lead on a shorthanded goal with about two minutes in regulation. This series went to the bitter end, so though the end result is correct, the prediction was definitely off.
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: San Jose in 6
Actual Result: San Jose in 6
This series proved a harder fight for the Sharks than predicted, with three of their wins coming in overtime, but this one turned out pretty much as predicted.
(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes
Prediction: Detroit in 6
Actual Result: Detroit in 4
The original prediction for this matchup stated that if Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov could get hot, the Coyotes could put up a fight. He did not, and neither did his team, while the Wings, even without Henrik Zetterberg, looked like the perennial contender they always are.
(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators
Prediction: Anaheim in 4
Actual Result: Nashville in 6
Whoops! A little bit of West Coast bias (seeing the Ducks a lot more this year than the Preds) led to a profound underestimation of the effectiveness of Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne and top defense pairing Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. The Predators worked harder and played smarter than the Ducks, and won in hard-fought playoff fashion.
Western Conference Average Grade: C
Grading the First Round – The Eastern Conference
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers
Prediction: Caps in 5
Actual Result: Caps in 5
Despite Henrik Lundqvist playing well, the Capitals’ depth was too much for the far less-talented Rangers. The Caps look like a real playoff team this year.
(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres
Prediction: Flyers in 5
Actual Result: Flyers in 7
Buffalo put up more of a fight than predicted here, and Philadelphia’s goaltending woes seemed like they might sink the Flyers completely at a number of points throughout the series. They got out of the first round, but the early prediction of them repping the East in the finals no longer seems feasible.
(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens
Prediction: Canadiens in 7
Actual Result: Boston in 7
Boston came close to choking this one off, but ended up winning in the final game in overtime. Though the team was predicted wrong, the number of games was right, and the fact that this was possibly the most over-hyped series between two underwhelming teams. Original Six history is overrated when you’re mediocre and in the middle of the pack in the weaker of the two conferences.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
Prediction: Lightning in 5
Actual Result: Lightning in 7
The Pens fought harder than predicted without superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but in the end could not hold off the Lightning. Dwayne Roloson, the forty-one-year-old goaltender of the Lightning, turned out to be the star of the series, holding onto a shutout in the final, hard-fought game. Right team, wrong amount of games, but close.
Eastern Conference Average Grade: B
Overall Average Grade: C+
Round 2 Predictions – Western Conference
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (5) Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators played tough in the first round, winning with defense, goaltending, and timely scoring. The Vancouver Canucks all but choked away a three games to none lead, only to finally slay the bane of their existence, the Chicago Blackhawks, in overtime in the series’ deciding game. Though they were seeded lower, the Blackhawks were the bigger test for the Canucks. With that monkey off of their backs, they should play well this round and finally make it to the conference finals this year.
Prediction: Canucks in 6
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings are winners and the San Jose Sharks are not. It’s a long-running cliche, but it’s true. Both teams looked strong in the first round, but no one looked stronger than the Wings, the only team to close out the series in a clean sweep. They’ve had time to rest their injured. Unless last year’s Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi stands on his head (to use another cliche), the Wings take this one without breaking too much of a sweat.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6
Round 2 Predictions – Eastern Conference
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
Can old man of the goal crease Dwayne Roloson continue his consistent play for the Lightning? That may be the deciding factor in this battle between two teams both loaded with offensive firepower. The Caps should take this series, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis have won a cup before, and Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom have not. Still, the Lightning’s defensive star in the first round was Eric Brewer, and anyone who watched the Blues at all in the past few years knows that won’t last.
Prediction: Caps in 6
(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3) Boston Bruins
This series will be very hard to call, if only because both teams are disappointing so far. It took both division champ teams seven games to escape from their first-round series’. Boston doesn’t have much in the way of scoring, and it’s impossible to put any faith in the revolving carousel of goaltenders in Philly. When in doubt in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, go with the team with the better goalie (unless the other team is Detroit).
Prediction: Bruins in 7
The Fully Reconditioned predictions for the first round weren’t that strong, but early on in the playoffs surprises almost always happen. This round, it should be different. Will it be? Tune in for more playoff hockey to see.