After a Perfect Round Two, More Fearless Playoff Predictions
Coming off a perfect four for four in round two based on the seven-player profile, here’s a brief analysis of those rounds and how the profile impacted the outcome. I will also analyze the final four and make predictions there as well.
Carolina Hurricanes (M1) vs New Jersey Devils (M2)
The Hurricanes literally imposed their physical will on the Devils in round two. Also, Akira Schmid was not able to carry his momentum from round one, getting pulled twice. Vitek Vanecek was also pulled in one of his two starts. The Canes were in their kitchens.
In the end, experience, structure and strength trumped the youthful speed and enthusiasm of the Devils. The Devils lacked a true power forward to counteract the Canes attack and, it would seem that Jesperi Kotkaniemi, though not Brady Tkachuk, is a legit top 9 center with upside.
Make no mistake about it though, the Devils are going to be heard from going forward.
Prediction: Canes in 6/Result: Canes in 5
Toronto Maple Leafs (A2) vs Florida Panthers (W2)
I know this is going to sound like a Captain Obvious type of statement, but the teams who deliver in overtime are usually the series winners. It is possible to win four games in a series without winning in overtime. However, in round one, the Leafs won three games in overtime and the Bolts won none.
In round two, the Panthers won twice in overtime and the Leafs won none. In the playoffs, it’s about playing on your toes and trying to win games rather than trying to not lose. Teams who win a series where overtime games are involved are usually the ones who won the overtime games.
Matthew Tkachuk didn’t score in the series, but he was on the scoresheet in three games, and he played a role in disrupting the Leafs and keeping them to the perimeter. Auston Matthews had no goals and it wasn’t for a lack of effort. However, at the end of the day, who are you taking on your team at the power forward position? Matthew Tkachuk or William Nylander?
Prediction: Panthers in 6/Result: Panthers in 5
Vegas Golden Knights (P1) vs Edmonton Oilers (P2)
Despite a decent supporting cast, the Oilers are only as good as McDavid and Draisaitl allow them to be. With all the money on the cap tied up in those two, they had to neglect the one position that seems to hold them back year over year and that’s in goal.
Stuart Skinner didn’t play badly. He just wasn’t good enough. He isn’t even the highest paid goalie on the team.
Vegas has depth, reasonable health, minus Broissoit, and an experienced coach. Their profile wasn’t complete either with an unstable crease. However, their profile players were better with Stone at the power forward position scoring from the dirty areas. He was better than Evander Kane.
Someone within the Oilers organization is going to need to have the discussion with Connor McDavid that Scotty Bowman had with Steve Yzerman. Does he want his legacy to be about records and chasing Gretzky or winning Stanley Cups? It’s not McDavid’s or Draisaitl’s fault that the Oilers didn’t win. They just don’t play a style that is conducive to playoff success.
Prediction: Golden Knights in 7/Result: Golden Knights in 6
Dallas Stars (C2) vs Seattle Kraken (W2)
I would be lying if I said that this result didn’t please me. I would also be lying if I said I thought Dallas would have had so much difficulty. The Kraken were worthy adversaries.
It was feast or famine with Jake Oettinger in the crease. When he was on, he was lights out. When he was off, especially in quick succession, he couldn’t close the floodgates.
Jason Roberston wasn’t the factor in the series that he was in round one and Philip Grubauer gave the Kraken every chance to win.
In the end, Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz along with Jamie Benn had a greater impact than Matty Beniers and Yanni Gourde.
Prediction: Stars in 5 Result: Stars in 7
ROUND 3 PREDICTIONS
Carolina Hurricanes (M1) vs Florida Panthers (W2)
This one is going to be a blood bath.
Matthew Tkachuk will need to be at his disruptive best and Sasha Barkov is going to need to impose himself offensively more than he has in the first two rounds for the Panthers to keep their run going.
It’s hard to ignore the Staal brothers all playing in this series. Eric is coming back to his old stomping grounds. All will play pivotal roles in this series. Jordan, in particular, has been drawing rave reviews for his performance for the Canes in the post season.
In the end, I think the Canes have more depth and the ability to deal with Florida physically. They seem to have settled on Freddie Andersen in goal. Unless Bobrovsky tips the scales in the Panthers favour, I believe the Canes are just too much.
Prediction: Canes in 6
Vegas Golden Knights (P1) vs Dallas Stars (C2)
It’s hard not to cheer for a guy like Joe Pavelski. He is about as clutch a player as there is in the post season. He and Mark Stone are the glue that holds their respective teams together.
That said, from my eyes, the only way this goes in favour of Dallas is if Oettinger steals the series. He is capable of being that good. However, round two showed that games can get away from him too.
Hintz is having a Conn Smythe type of playoff and so is Pavelski. Eichel and Stone are both leading a very spread-out attack for the Knights.
In the end, Vegas has made it look fairly routine thus far and since I regarded the Oilers as the third-best team in the west heading into the playoffs behind Colorado and Vegas based on their profile, I am going to stick with Vegas winning this in routine fashion.
It hurts to say that as I don’t like seeing an expansion team in its sixth season on the cusp of making its second appearance in the finals. I don’t care if they paid $500 million USD for their franchise or not. My heart is with the Stars and my head is with the Golden Knights.
Prediction Vegas in 5
Clearly, if you watched the Leafs/Panthers series, you saw that skill is a key part of winning, but more so in the regular season than in the playoffs. When I watched that series, I had flashbacks to when the Leafs were dispatching the Senators in four straight series.
Back then, straight up on skill, the Senators were better. However, players like Gary Roberts, Owen Nolan, Darcy Tucker, Shayne Corson and Tie Domi ended up being the difference makers along with the likes of Sundin and Kaberle. It wasn’t until the likes of Chris Neil, Anton Volchenkov and Andrej Meszaros added additional grit to the likes of Chris Phillips and Mike Fisher that the Senators made that Cup run in ’07. One can only imagine what keeping Chara would have yielded.
That may bring back painful memories. However, those are the same pains that the Leafs have suffered in this rebuild. The game is faster and predicated on skill more than back then. There is still a premium to be paid on a power forward with grit if they have skill. Look at the difference that Matthew Tkachuk has made for the Panthers in the regular season and now in the playoffs compared to what Jonathan Huberdeau did in Calgary.
This should warm the hearts of Sens Nation with Brady Tkachuk leading the way. The puzzle isn’t fully built. However, the one piece that the Senators have that the Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to address is at power forward. Time will tell if Matty Knies becomes that player.
For now, there is reason for optimism when the Senators get to the playoffs that they are being built for playoff success when they get there.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey