27 April 2012

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Predictions

My goodness, that was one wild and crazy first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sixteen games went into overtime, a record. Three of those sixteen games required a second overtime. The higher seed held serve only once in the Eastern Conference and only twice in the Western Conference. Three seventh games were necessary. Could the action get any better than this? Here are my predictions for the conference semifinals.

TV Schedule

(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals
It seems like it is every year that the Rangers and the Caps meet in the playoffs, it's just that Washington was usually the higher seed and the Rangers being the underdog. Not so fast my friend but the Capitals could definitely upset the Rangers but they need to be clicking like they were against Boston. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin can all score but Washington really needs Braden Holtby to play out of his mind again. Don't see it happening but the solid defense of the Caps will stretch out this series since the Rangers are not that great on offense, which showed as they almost got upset by the Senators last round.
Rangers in seven

(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
My goodness, did the Flyers look impressive in that offensive firestorm against Pittsburgh or what? Their offense, led by their star right winger Claude Giroux, was absolutely tremendous and it carried them past their hated rivals. Plus they are well-rested unlike the Devils, who took Florida to seven and double overtime in the decisive game last night. If the Devils want any shot against Philadelphia, they will need to play more consistently as well as to plug the leaks on their penalty kill. Plus if Martin Brodeur is consistently in the zone, they got a shot. Don't think it will happen though as I think Philadelphia is the team to fear the most in the East. But the Devils will give the hated Flyers all they got.
Flyers in six

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings 
If you want defensive, low-scoring hockey, you will greatly enjoy this series. Neither of these clubs light it up offensively but both are tremendous defensively and feature rock-solid goaltending as the Blues feature a combination of Jaroslav Halak, who is coming back from injury, and Brian Elliott while the Kings feature who may be the best goaltender in the league (I still go with Lundqvist) in Jonathan Quick. I really think the Kings will pull off the upset again, Quick is just so damn good plus their special teams are on a roll right now and they will be a difference.
Kings in six

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators
There is no question that the biggest reason why the Coyotes were able to advance past the Chicago Blackhawks was because of their goaltender Mike Smith, who was tremendous all season long in Glendale and turned it up a notch, stopping almost everything that the Blackhawks threw at him and getting better as the series went on. I'm really feeling this Predators team, who looked really good in shutting down the Red Wings' offense in round 1 and were able to defeat them in five. Nashville kept shots from getting to the net and when they did, Pekka Rinne did not let them through. Overall the Predators are better than Phoenix but if Smith gets hot, Phoenix can advance. I think he will steal a few games and push this series to the max but I'm liking the Preds.
Nashville in seven

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