Breaking down the NHL Playoffs, and coming to grips with the Wings’ reality
|April 12, 2012||Posted by TheCostanzo under Detroit Red Wings, NHL|
ESPN has a playoff power meter (behind its paywall) that judges teams on the the pieces they have in place compared to what past Stanley Cup champions had.
The fact the Red Wings are No. 1 on this list does not make it absurd. The fact that the Red Wings are so far from the pack, and one point away from a perfect score, probably does.
With Darren Helm suddenly a possibility for Game 1 of the first round, I like the Wings a lot more than I did a few days ago. Heck, I even have this wild theory that if they get by Nashville, they’re likely to win the West (I’ll explain that later).
But according to that list, the Wings are the favorite, which is ridiculous. The way they’ve played as of late (which I’m assuming this formula isn’t taking into account) does not inspire confidence, regardless of the fact they came back and beat the Blues in St. Louis. I have news for y’all, the Blues aren’t that good. The defense is an absolute mess, making critical errors at horrible times, and in the playoffs that will kill you. Sure, Jakub Kindl is probably going to be replaced by Brendan Smith, and that provides more upside, but it doesn’t take away the fact that mistakes are going to be made. Kyle Quincey is going to get ice time, so that’s bad. I’ll admit I was a fan of that trade deadline acquisition, but Quincey has been disappointing since arriving.
But it’s the matchup with Nashville that scares me more than anything. The Predators are the type of team we’ve always worried about as Red Wings fans — physical, disciplined defensively and backed by a great goaltender capable of stealing a series by himself. The one thing I never worried about with the Predators was their offense, as they have nobody that scares you coming up the ice with the puck on his stick. Well, had. With Alexander Radulov, the Predators have their scary offensive weapon. Or at least a guy who makes them collectively scary enough to, well, scare you.
My pessimistic (realistic?) prediction for this series is the Predators winning in six or seven games, and frankly I could see them winning it all.
But there’s a part of me that wants to pick the Red Wings because I know if they get through this, they could be well on their way to something special. Why’s that, after I just banged on them? Because of what’s left. Chicago should beat Phoenix, meaning one of two things will happen to the Wings: They’ll either play against St. Louis in the second round, or have home-ice advantage against the Blackhawks (if the Sharks beat the Blues, they’ll play the Canucks). Either of those matchups are OK with me, and for the first time in a long time, the Wings are spared traveling out west until the conference finals. Once they get there, I’m not all that worried about the Canucks. I don’t have any statistical evidence to make me feel good about this, and I realize the Canucks were a game away from winning the Cup a year ago so they’ve somewhat shed their identity as playoff choke artists, but I will never fear the Canucks as a Red Wings fan. Yes, I realize I’m being irrational.
Unfortunately, knowing the road ahead would be easier to navigate is not a very good reason to pick a team to win a series, and I see a first-round exit for the Wings.
As for the rest of the West … Vancouver should defeat the Kings, but it will probably take six games and a couple of goalie shuffles. … The Blues and Sharks will be the most entertaining non-Wings series outside of the state of Pennsylvania, and I think it goes seven. There, I think the Blues take it, as they are pretty damn good at home. … I already told you I think the Blackhawks beat the Coyotes, mainly because I doubt Mike Smith can keep this up.
That leaves us with some pretty intriguing second-round matchups as the Canucks meet their nemesis the Blackhawks, and the Blues and Predators will clash. I like the Canucks in seven against the Blackhawks in another ridiculously fun series. I think the Predators make fairly easy work of the Blues, winning in five or six games.
The Canucks and Predators split their season series, with the Canucks getting one of their two wins in a shootout. I just think with Radulov in the lineup, the Predators have the added firepower necessary to get them over the top.
On to the East … The Rangers have their hands full against an Ottawa team that gave them fits during the regular season. I see Henrik Lundqvist being the difference, however. And yes, I realize it’s not a good thing for the 1 seed to need its goaltender to be the difference in the first round. … Washington is toast, and I think Bruins sweep them. … Congratulations, Florida, on making the playoffs for the first time post-lockout. Enjoy your five-game stay. The Devils coast. … In what should be the most entertaining series of the first round, the Pens will knock off the Flyers in seven games. Unfortunately for the Penguins, they’ll barely have anything left for the next round.
The Rangers and Devils playing in a playoff series will be the only time two teams from New York/New Jersey ever meet and don’t lead Sportscenter every day. The Devils will push the Rangers to seven games, but the Rangers will survive. The Bruins will take advantage of the beat-up Penguins, and the physical toll will only build through this series. It will take seven games, because the Penguins are the better team, but the Bruins will simply survive.
OK, this one might lead Sportscenter. OK, it won’t but I’m thinking it might make the first half hour. Boston and New York, folks, get ready for it. Prepare for the compare/contrast between rugged underdog Timmy Thomas and upstate pretty boy Lundqvist. There’s something special about the Rangers this year, and it’s not just that I watched them on 24/7 this year (OK, maybe it is).
So the finals, Rangers vs. Predators. We could see seven 1-0 games, and they’d be fast-paced, physical 1-0 games that I would actually enjoy watching. When it comes down to it, I really like what this Predators team has going for it, and I think they go from winning a playoff series for the first time a year ago to winning it all this year.