The 2009-2010 NHL Playoffs (Predictions)

The matchups are set, the schedule’s locked in, and the greatest time of the year is upon us-NHL playoffs season. Time to forget about Presidents’ trophies, Hart discussion, the Art Ross race, the Rocket Richard trophy. This time around, only one trophy matters. In this post I’ll be giving a run-down of the Eastern conference matchups, which are slated to start this Wednesday.

Washington (1) vs. Montreal (8)

First up are the home-town Caps, who will be tangling with the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. All things considered, the Canadiens may be a little bit better than the 8-seed indicates, as they’ve been wrought with injuries to important players for most of the season. The Caps and Habs split the series, going into OT in 3 out of 4 games. This Habs team is suffering from an affliction known as “Even Strength AIDS”, as they have the worst 5-on-5 goals ratio out of teams in the playoffs, good for 22nd in the league.

Their power play, however, is another story. The Habs score at a 21% clip with the man-advantage, which checks in at 2nd in the league. The key to this series is special teams. Halak could stand on his head and steal a game or two, but that can be said about any goaltender in the playoffs. The Caps staying out of the box/killing off penalties when they don’t will make the difference between this series going four games or six. That being said, the Caps will be too much too handle 5 on 5, the Habs defense is very slow, and their corps of forwards are very small, so they likely won’t be able to keep up with a large, physical Caps team for a 7-game series.

Verdict: Caps in 5

New Jersey (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)

After pulling out a shootout win against the Rangers on the final day of the season, the Flyers are in the playoffs as the 7th seed, and draw Jersey in the first round. The Flyers have a lot of talent on their team up front, and a solid bunch of defensemen as well. Jeff Carter is back from a foot injury, which should give them a boost, and their special teams play is very good (PP is 3rd, PK is 11th). That being said, their goaltender is Brian Boucher. I repeat, Brian Boucher. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but special teams will play an important role in this series. I have a hard time believing that Boucher will be able to hold it together for a 7-game series.

The Devils have a very solid overall team, and with the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk, should be able to generate some offense despite their late-season power play troubles. Philly took the season series over New Jersey, losing only 1 game out of 6, which should give Devils fans some pause, but how that will impact their play in the postseason remains to be seen. Honestly, this is a wildcard series. The Flyers were among the Stanley Cup favorites coming into the season, but injuries to their #1 and #2 goaltenders kind of put them on the backburner, and forced them to fight for their playoff lives. I could see them advancing in a 7-game series, but I don’t think that’s the most likely outcome.

Verdict: Devils in 6

Buffalo (3) vs. Boston (6)

If you’re looking for exciting, fire-wagon hockey, then you should probably look somewhere other than this series. In one corner you have the lock Vezina Trophy Winner (Ryan Miller), against a Boston team with the worst, I repeat, the worst goals per game in the NHL. Add in that the B’s #1 center (Marc Savard) is out for the duration, and you can only expect that average to go down. They also have 3 of their top-6 Dmen currently out, though they can still play a solid defensive system, that isn’t as reliant on personnel to stifle opposing offenses. Goaltender Tuuka Rask has been excellent all season, but their problem isn’t keeping pucks out of their net (2nd in goals against/game), it’s putting them in their opponent’s. It’s simple, either their terrible offense is going to have to start scoring some goals, or Rask is going to have to stand on his head for the entire series. I wouldn’t bet on either.

Verdict: Buffalo in 5

Pittsburgh (4) vs. Ottawa (5)

This is an interesting series, because it features the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 4 spot (same as the past 2 years that saw them reach the finals and lose only to win it the following year), playing the team they’ve faced 3 times in the past 4 years. Most of the pundits are predicting the Penguins to roll through the Sens in 4 or 5 games, but I’m not so sure they should be so confident about that. Ottawa’s a big, physical team, that has historically shut down Crosby with a duo of Phillips-Volchenkov. They have two offensive stars in Daniel Alfredsson (who’s also excellent defensively) and Jason Spezza (Kovalev’s out with an ACL injury), as well as some grit up front. The key to beating the Penguins is forcing their peripheral players to have to bear some of the load. Shutting down one of the two-headed monster (Crosby and Malkin), while limiting the other is enough to beat them. No other team is as reliant on 1 or 2 players as the Penguins are with Crosby and Malkin. Expect Phillips and Volchenkov to face Crosby every shift, with Malkin drawing a combination of Carkner, Sutton, and Karlsson. Solid play for Sens goaltender Brian Elliott is essential.

The key for the Penguins is goaltending. Fleury’s been decidedly mediocre all season long, and I wouldn’t be as confident as Pens fans seem to be that him/their team will just “turn it on” for the playoffs. The difference between this year and last year is that last year they were the hottest team in the NHL going into the playoffs. This year, if you remove their 9-1 start, they’re close to a .500 team. The defense hasn’t been tight, the PP is in the bottom half of the NHL, and Marc Andre Fleury has been a sieve at the most inopportune times. Add in that the Penguins couldn’t beat any of the top teams in the East with any sort of consistency and you have a formula for a first-round upset. It seems like most people are picking the Penguins based on their cup run last year. Let me spell it out for you: they are not a very good team.

Verdict: Ottawa in 7

I may do the Western Conference later today, not sure yet.

-Nasty Nate


21 responses to “The 2009-2010 NHL Playoffs (Predictions)

  1. I think you are a little biased… The Pens aren’t the Pens they were last year… or the year before. You’re right they aren’t the hottest team in the NHL going into the playoffs, Fluery is not on top of his game, but Crosby and Malkin and playing the best they ever have. Crosby scored more goals than the “best scorer in the NHL.” He might have played 9 more games, but his SOG percentage is so much better than Ovechkin that it overrides that fact by far. He shoots less and scores more than Ovechkin. Other than that you’re right about the rest of the team. They need to pick it up for the playoffs, but at the same time I think that the Sens will be a good warm up for the next round (hopefully the Caps.) I guess we will just have to hang back and see it all play out. I know that you are mad/ jealous that the Pens have had success in the playoffs over the past couple years and the Caps are kinda mediocre, but please at least respect them a little bit. Thanks.

  2. The SOG argument is a terrible one, and is way more indicative of him running on the way positive side of variance as opposed to being a better shooter than Ovechkin (I mean come on man). And no, it doesn’t “override” anything. Ovechkin missed the equivalent of 12+ games, so don’t give me the “Ovechkin shoots more” garbage.

    As you can see from tonight, this is not a “warm-up series” for you guys. Ottawa has a very good chance to beat you guys, it’s why I picked them in 7. They did a great job shutting down Crosby, aside from the PP where he picked up a couple of non-factor 2ndary assists (1 off a faceoff win, another off a completely missed shot), though his 3rd assist was pretty. Marc-Andre Fleury was terrible, like he has been all season. The only thing keeping Pittsburgh in the game was (surprisingly) the power play. They got dominated 5 on 5.

    You know why I think the Sens will win? Because I’ve watched Pittsburgh, and they haven’t looked very impressive in ANY facet of their game aside from the PK. Unlike the vast majority of Pittsburgh fans, I don’t (erroneously) just believe they can “flick the playoff switch” when it comes time. The biggest argument I’ve seen from Pit fans why they’re gonna advance is “because they won the Cup last year”. That’s terrible, and has no predictive value. The Penguins were hot as the sun going into the playoffs the past 2 seasons, they’ve been very mediocre this year.

    In closing- believe they’re going to roll through Ottawa because of some platitude like “they won last year they know how to win!” or “they know how to turn it on!” if you want, but it’s not a very smart outlook. Have a great day.

  3. Add in that Pittsburgh’s been terrible against every top team, aside from Buffalo for the entire season, and it’s ridiculous to base the fact that you think they’re going to win on something that happened last year.

  4. I didn’t say that they were going to win the playoffs. But yes i do believe that they will get past Ottawa. They are a very good team defensively, but they lack scorers, or even backing for scorers. They did out play the Pens tonight, I will give them that. I really don’t mean to make excuses, but a couple of bounces and a few calls differently and it would have been a different game, but they really did get outplayed. We will see as the series goes on, the Senators are a very inexperienced team, and it might catch up to them as the series rolls on. Anyways, I think that the SOG percentage is very indicative of how well that player shoots. Even though Ovechkin played 12 less games (his stats say 10, but I will go with your word,) he has 70 more shots on goal than Crosby…. and Crosby still scored more… (I’m not sure what exactly that is indicative of… but those are the facts.) Ovechkin does have a much better plus/minus this season, but I think that is mostly part of the success of his team. Lastly, the Pens haven’t played the best against the top teams (New Jersey and the Caps.) In fact, those two teams account for ten of their 28(35 including OT) losses…(2 of those losses against the Caps in OT/SO.) So despite us “doing bad against all the top teams,” we still had a pretty good winning percentage taking those 10 losses away. So if the Devils and Caps are the only top teams, then yes we didn’t do anything against the top teams. But I’m sure you weren’t implying that. Again, we will see what happens if we meet up later in the playoffs. Regardless, it would be a great series. I bid the Caps good luck in their game tomorrow.

  5. Meh, shooting % really doesn’t mean that much compared to, say, basketball. Hockey rewards getting shots onto net, even “low-percentage” ones. Add in how Ovechkin’s a threat to score the moment he gains the blue line, so he’s naturally going to be firing more, and that explains his lower SH% If you were going by shooting percentage then you’d have to believe that players like Mike Knuble and Thomas Vanek are better shooters than AO. Or that Jordan Staal was a better shooter as a rookie. That’s clearly not the case, however.

    Btw, the “12 games” missed thing is based on him being shown the door in the first period in 3 different games (Buffalo, Chicago, Carolina). He’s officially missed 10, but that TOI missed from the early exits counts too.

  6. I understand what you are saying about shooting % obviously not meaning as much in hockey as it does in basketball, but in my opinion, and in probably a lot of other people’s opinions the more you shoot should be relative to the more goals you have. Crosby is also a huge threat whenever he takes it across the blue line. They are both great scorers. So let’s agree that teams facing either the Caps or the Pens are worrying about either Ovechkin or Crosby respectfully.

  7. I will not agree to any such agreement of agreeing.

  8. As a Caps fan, I was happy to see the Pens lose last night. There are certain things which would make you worried if you are an Ottawa fan: you got a lucky goal and fleury played as bad as can be and you still only won by 1 goal.
    if you are a pitt fan, you have to be worried that your defense looked porous and you got very little punch from most of your team 5-on-5. i thought this would be a close series.
    last night proves it. i think ottawa will pull it out.

  9. Lets go Skipjacks!

  10. My last comment on the subject- the ability to get shots on goal is absolutely a skill. The reason Ovechkin gets that many shots on goal is because he can generate time and space on his own in the offensive zone. He’s the best in the world at that. It’s why he always leads the league in SOGs.

    To add to bowle’s comment- Ottawa fans are probably nervous about Elliot. Three out of those 5 goals were definitely stoppable. I understand it was his 1st playoff start against the defending cup champs, in their building, but he needs to make the routine stops if they’re going to have a shot. If I was Pittsburgh I’d be concerned about how woeful the team was 5 on 5. They’re not going to get 5+ PP opportunities every game (well on second thought…), and cash in on 2 of them.

    Refs may start calling the Pens tighter, because they generally don’t like it when players flop around the ice and look for/get calls (I’m looking at you Max Talbot). He bought two calls that were so egregious that Don Cherry himself called him out for it on Coach’s Corner last night.

  11. as for tonight’s game, i expect it to be a tight affair, no 5-4 game like Ottawa and Pitt. the Habs are probably saying, “let’s not take any chances and play defense all night and wait for an odd-man break to jump on the caps are pinching in teh zone.”
    the caps are probably thinking, “there’s no way these guys can beaut us 5-on-5 so let’s not be overly aggressive, let’s not over-pursue in the offensive zone which leads to us creating scoring opportunities, but also leads to those stupid stick and interference penalties which we want to avoid. so let’s play Defense and wait for an odd-man break or two.”
    sounds like a 3-2 game at most tonight. let’s hope we’re on the winning side.

  12. tdbowles you were right on the 3-2 score, just unluckily you were on the losing side.. The Caps came out strong and played very well, but something happened as the game went on and they ended up not playing their game at all.. Ovechkin, like Crosby, was held to very few shots (0 shots on goal to be correct) and the rest of the Caps couldn’t pick up the pieces for him. That series will also be a good one. As for the Pens, their 5-5 was terrible, and they will need to improve on that if they want to win, but I think that they will. Their last game they survived solely on their powerplay, which was very rare for them. Fluery will also have to step up his game if they want a chance to win. The Pens didn’t impress me in their first game, and neither did the Capitals. Truthfully, I want both teams to go through just so I can see them matched up again. That will be a great series regardless of who wins. So good luck in your next game Caps, and hopefully we (the Pens) will be able to pull out at least one win before we hit the road.

  13. yes, i thought about it last night when i was at the game and we went to OT tied 2-2. the Caps didn’t deserve to win. no forecheck after the 1st period. not much crashing of the net. very tentative and sloppy in our defensive zone. the caps can turn it around, but if they lose on saturday, i don’t know if they have another miracle up their sleeve like last year.

  14. Respectable answer and i feel the same way about the Pens. They didn’t play that well and it showed. If the Pens don’t win game 2 then the series will probably be over. Good luck in your game 2.

  15. well the pens won game 2 & 3 and are looking pretty good now especially with all the injuries to Ottawa. tomorrow night is Ottawa’s last stand.
    as a Caps fan, i would love to see us do what the pens did last night which is dominate over an inferior team on the road and take control over the series. i fear it may not happen.
    we shall see.

  16. well you were right tdbowles it happened haha. you guys played really well and put the puck in the net. all the momentum has now shifted to you guys. The pretty much deciding game is tonight for the Pens, they could pretty much seal the deal if they get a big win. Same with the Caps for tomorrow night.

  17. yes, good game for the caps last night. the pens and caps have had similar postseasons to this point. if they both go up 3-1, it will most likely mark the end for the Canadians and Senators.
    i would expect Ottawa and Montreal to both play with everything they got. if both the pens and caps are tied or only down a goal at the end of the 1st period, it could mean trouble for the canadian teams.
    i know you are a pens’ fan and these guys do a great job here, but if you want some more hockey talk, come check out my blog at

  18. great win for the caps last night. you have to like the way we have taken Montreal’s best shot in two consecutive games and then come out the next period and destroyed them in the next period.
    i think Pittsburgh wins tonight, but the devils win and keep that series going.

  19. You couldn’t be more wrong Tdbowles ^^

    Go Sens Go

  20. Well, congratulations the CAPS lock, you were wrong in both of the series that have finished so far. Both the Pens and the Flyers won. Boston is currently leading their series 3-2 and we will see if the Caps can close it out against Montreal on Monday. I never saw if you made Western Conference predictions, but I’m sure that they were wrong too. Please make predictions on the next round, even if the Caps don’t make it that far=)

  21. “Sidney Crosby gets it done, Alex Ovechkin doesnt get it done. What does that mean to you?” “It means that until he does, you can’t think of the two in the same comparison. Sidney Crosby is a winner; he won a gold medal, he won a Stanley Cup, he has taken his team to the Stanley cup finals twice…. and until the results are there, one guy is the best player in the world right now, and it’s not Alexander Ovechkin.” – Barry Melrose, ESPN analysist

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