The Seven Player profile approach to picking playoff winners went two up and two down in round two of the playoffs. Let’s see how we got there and see what we can extrapolate.
EASTERN CONFERENCE - SUMMARY
Florida Pathers (1) vs Tampa Bay (3)
Prediction: Panthers in 5
Result: Bolts in a sweep
If this series showed anything it’s that having a seven-player profile in place is one thing. Having the coach that knows how to use it another thing completely. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine that Joel Quenneville wouldn’t have had an impact on that series. By his own admission, Andrew Brunette had no answers and couldn’t get his power play on track. You got the sense watching the Panthers that they lost belief in the plan during game three when they imploded. The fifth best power play in the regular season scored one goal in two rounds. No doubt that Vasilevskiy found another gear. That said, Bobrovsky wasn’t to blame on this one.
We will see if Florida rebounds from this sweep the way the Bolts rebounded from their sweep against Columbus.
Carolina Hurricanes (2) vs New York Rangers (5)
Prediction: Canes in 5
Result: Rangers in 7
Going into the playoffs, I liked Carolina’s profile, with the exception of depth as center. This seemed to catch up to them every time they went on the road. The opposing coach was able to get Zibanejad’s line away from Staal’s and teams that can’t win on the road, eventually don’t advance. I don’t care if you have home ice advantage. You can’t expect to go on a serious playoff run without being able to steal a game on the road. Depth at center allows you to do that. The other advantage the Rangers had was in goal and this got exposed. Anti Raanta had a solid playoff at home. However, he couldn’t steal a game for his team on the road. At home, Staal was able to shut down the top line for Boston and, for most of the series against the Rangers. Raanta looked different on the road and in a game 7, profiles tend to go out the window in favour of the best goalie.
Colorado Avalanche (1) vs St. Louis Blues (4)
Prediction: Avalanche in 5
Result:Avalanche in 6
Aside from a hiccup in game five, this series pretty much played out the way I expected. The Blues were solid down the middle but they didn’t have the speed and without Krug running their power play and Binnington going down mid-series, it became inevitable. A fully loaded Blues lineup would have still had their work cut out for them. The Avalanche model is built for success.
Calgary Flames (2) vs Edmonton Oilers (5)
Prediction: Oilers in 7
Result: Oilers in 5
At the start of the playoffs, I noted that the Flames lacked depth at center. Like the Canes, they paid for that. The Oilers firepower more than compensated for Mike Smith propensity for leaky goals and though I firmly believe that Blake Coleman’s goal should have counted, I believe equally firmly that the better team won. Depth at center is critical to avoiding matchups on the road and the Oilers can run McDavid and Draisaitl at will. McDavid, in particular, is otherworldly right now. I still have trepidations about Mike Smith. I don’t believe he outplayed Jacob Markstrom. Calgary didn’t have a two-pronged attack like the Oilers and if they had anything even close, it would have been a different series.
ROUND 3 PREDICTIONS
Tampa Bay Lightning (3) vs New York Rangers (5)
1. #1 all star center Steven Stamkos Mika Zibanejad
2. #2 all star center Brayden Point (inj.) Ryan Strome
3. Top power forward Alexander Killorn Chris Kreider
4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/ Corey Perry Ryan Reaves
5. All star offensive d-man Victor Hedman Adam Fox
6. Top shutdown d-man Mikhail Sergachev Jacob Trouba
7. All star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy Igor Shesterkin
I noted in the first round that the Rangers were weak in depth at center. That would have likely cost them against the Penguins in round one were it not for some critical injuries. The Bolts lost Brayden Point for all of round two and never missed a beat. I thought they were ripe for the picking going up against the Panthers with a whole at center and their depth showed. Point may or may not return in this series, but clearly Tampa is up to the task. Ross Colton has elevated in Point’s absence and is more than a match for Ryan Strome. The two best goaltenders left in the playoffs are going to go head-to-head and, in this case, unlike the Penguins and Canes, Vasilevskiy won’t miss an opportunity to finish the series.
Prediction: Bolts in 5
Colorado Avalance (1) vs Edmonton Oilers (5)
1. #1 all star center Nathan Mackinnon Connor McDavid
2. #2 all star center Nazem Kadri Leon Draisaitl
3. Top power forward Gabriel Landeskog Evander Kane
4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/ JT Compher Zach Hyman
5. All star offensive d-man Cale Makar Darnell Nurse
6. Top shutdown d-man Devon Toews Cody Ceci
7. All star goalie Darcy Kuemper Mike Smith
The Oilers and their 40-year-old goaltender going on a run is a nice story which conjures up memories of Dwayne Roloson’s magical run in 2006. However, it is worth noting that Roloson was 36 at the time and he didn’t have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers go as they go. Evander Kane has given them more than they could have hoped for. In the end, the Oilers would have struggled to beat the Blues. The offence of 97 and 29 will be offset by the pace of Nathan Mackinnon and Makar from the backend. The Avalanche have the depth on defence to make life difficult for the top duo and their weakness in goal will be exploited by the lethal power play. The Avs look ready to take it to the next level. The Oilers profited from favourable playoff draws in the first two rounds. Nowhere to hide now.
Prediction: Avs in 5
Round two showed that the seven-player profile is still a key to playoff success. However, if you were assigning priority within the profile, clearly goaltending can help you overcome any deficiencies in the early rounds. So to, can a great coach. Of the remaining coaches, you have to like Jon Cooper’s experience and knowing how to use his weapons effectively.
Two of the three best profiles in the playoffs are still alive and neither of the other two have beaten an opponent like them. Barring injury, an Avalanche/Lightning final seems inevitable.
For now, I still maintain that spending to the cap without a seven-player profile is a flawed strategy. You may win a round or two. In the end, your odds of drinking from the Holy Grail are severely diminished.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey