Organized Sports NHL Playoff Predictions: Grading the Second Round, Predicting the Conference Finals

Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will. 

The Conference Finals begin tonight when the Los Angeles Kings take on the Phoenix Coyotes. If you had predicted that coming in, you are either a far better prognosticator than I, or a complete liar. Further likely incorrect picks after the jump.

You, if you claim to have correctly predicted the playoffs this year.

Grading the Second Round – The Western Conference

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Blues in 5
Actual Result: Kings in 4
It’s hard for me to give an honest assessment of this series, being a Blues fan who’d gotten his hopes up after the Note easily handled the Sharks in round one. The Blues were thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game, and never recovered from a dirty hit that cost star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo a game and most of his MCL, and was punished with only a two-minute minor penalty. The injury (and lack of suspension for goonball loser Dwight King) is a poor excuse—they were outhit, outscored, and outdefended by the Los Angeles Kings, whose Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown are battling out with one another for the Conn Smythe at this point. More like the St. Louis Lose, amirite?!?!?!?!
Grade: F

TJ Oshie

I’m not nearly as good as I should be, but hey, I’m cute, so fans like me!

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators
Prediction: Predators in 5
Actual Result: Coyotes in 5
Much as the Blues abandoned their tough defensive play and strong goaltending against the Kings, the Predators did the same against the Coyotes, with Pekka Rinne being outplayed by anonymous-named Mike Smith and the Predators’ defensive corps led by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter outplayed by an interchangeable series of Coyote cogs (Cogyotes?). The Coyotes are one series win away from being the least popular team to ever make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. But at least I got the number of games right, right? Right?
Grade: D

Western Conference Average Grade: D-

Grading the Second Round – The Eastern Conference

(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Actual Result: Rangers in 7
Many people will laud the Capitals for abandoning their high-flying style, limiting the ice time of Alex Ovechkin and other stars, because their defensive style got them to seven games in the second round against the number one seeded Rangers. I’m going to go the opposite way and say that hey, maybe if they’d let their offensive weapons be creative and play an uptempo game, they’d have been able to like, maybe, score? The Rangers deserve to move on because they’re playing the same game they have all year, getting timely scoring and great goaltending while playing some boring dead-puck era bullshit hockey.
Grade: A

Henrik Lundqvist

Can Hank finally prove he is as good at goaltending as he is at handsomeness?

(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Prediction: Flyers in 7
Actual Result: Devils in 5
Once again, I have no idea what I’m talking about. The poor goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov continued to let down the Flyers, and they didn’t have the scoring to prop him up, as they did when they spit hot Flyer at Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins in the first round. Beyond that, they lost their top forward for the deciding game to Brendan Shanahan’s random wheel of discipline for a dirty hit that was more dirty than some, and less dirty than others (such as the one that knocked Alex Pietrangelo out for a game in the Kings-Blues series, punished only with a two-minute minor). Losing Giroux the Damaja probably didn’t matter in the long run, because the Devils and Martin Brodeur—who became the first goalie to win playoff games as both a teenager and in his forties—outplayed the guys in orange anyway.
Grade: F

Eastern Conference Average Grade: C

Overall Average Grade: D+

Western Conference Finals Prediction

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have eliminated the number one seed Vancouver Canucks and the number two seed St. Louis Blues, so it stands to reason that they’ll soon beat the number three seed Phoenix Coyotes. Once again, this will be a matchup of hardworking defensive teams with hot goalies, but the Kings have the advantage of better skill players—particularly, in this playoffs, Dustin Brown—and a goalie whose playoff success does not feel like a fluke in Jonathan Quick. I haven’t really been right about any of these predictions, so it almost seems silly to keep making them, but I’ve gotten myself in this deep, so I might as well. The Finals are going to see tha Kangs.
Prediction: Kings in 5

Eastern Conference Finals Prediction

(1) New York Rangers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
In a playoff matchup between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils, this year the roles are reversed, with the Devils playing the looser, more offensive style and the Rangers playing lockdown, boring, unwatchable defensive hockey. For that reason, I’d prefer the Devils to win, but don’t think they will, and Henrik Lundqvist will finally make it to the finals, as he should have already for how much he’s been praised.
Prediction: Rangers in 7

There you have it: the finals will be LA vs. New York, gritty team against gritty team. Hockey? Yes.

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