It’s the time of the year where the 7thplayer.com staff takes out the Nostradamus hat and predicts the winners of the Stanley Cup playoffs. After a very productive first round last year (we had went 7 for 8), we try and reproduce the same results in the 2012 edition. We also target one player on each team that should get major attention come this Spring for fantasy owners:
(1) New York Rangers vs (8) Ottawa Senators
Series winner: New York Rangers
My Nostradamus hat says: NYR in 6
Why? The Rangers have grabbed the first seed in the Eastern Conference and have held on to the position even with a last minute surge from the Penguins late in the season. The Rangers play a hard-nosed type of game, lead by their captain Ryan Callahan. They are deeper in the forward group with the addition of Brad Richards and have a game-breaking scorer in Marian Gaborik. The Sens have two elite forwards in the Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson and a ton of sandpaper with the likes of Chris Neil, Zack Smith and Nick Foligno but lack the overall offensive depth the Rangers have. Gaborik and Richards are completed by decent producers like Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and nothing to be envious in the toughness department with guys like Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp.
On defense, the Rangers lack the elite blueliner Ottawa has in Erik Karlsson. 78-point d-men don’t grow on trees obviously but the depth of two-way blueliners on the Rangers’ side will play as an advantage as the series goes along. Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal have the capability of playing in all facets of the game and have a shown a willingness in playing the nitty gritty game that have made the Rangers so successful this year. In between the pipes, the Rangers obviously have the advantage with a potential Hart and Vezina nominee in Henrik Lundqvist. Craig Anderson has shown flashes of brilliance but has lacked the consistency to be put on par with a Lundqvist, who has been lights out this season.
Key fantasy player for New York: Marian Gaborik
Why? Although Gaborik has not been a great success in the NHL playoffs in his last 3 appearances, you cannot pass on the 41-goal scorer. Historically, Gaborik has had a productive playoff outing (9 years ago) in the Wild uniform when he registered 17 points (9G, 8A) in 18 games.
Key fantasy player for Ottawa: Jason Spezza
Why? Spezza has finished 4th in NHL scoring this season. No doubt a tremendous campaign for the Toronto native with 84 points in 80 games. Spezza also has a good track record in NHL playoffs, with his 46 points in 46 career NHL playoff games.
(2) Boston Bruins vs (7) Washington Capitals
Series winner: Boston Bruins
My Nostradamus hat says: BOS in 7
Why? Well the Boston Bruins season has been a weird one. Starting off slow, riding a ridiculous hot streak, stumbling mid-way and finishing strong; Bruins fans must be asking themselves which Bruins team will show up in the first round. Well, Caps fans would understand. The Capitals have had a similar season and it is only fitting that both teams face-off in the first round. In terms of firepower, there is no denying the offensive prowess of the Capitals group. Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin and Marcus Johansson are more than capable to put goals in the net and that is also without taking into account the offense produced from the back-end with guys like Mike Green and Dennis Wideman. Especially since everyone is healthy. But the Bruins are the more structured group. They are a tough team to play against and allow very few goals (202 goals against on the season). And judging by their roster and number of goals scored (269), they have enough bodies to put the puck in the net. The Buins have a balanced offense with six 20-goal scorers and seven 40-point producers.
Although the Caps defense is deeper than year’s past, they wish they can have the towering presence of a Zdeno Chara on their blueline. In nets, the Bruins have the edge with two-time Vezina winner Tim Thomas. Braden Holtby is a real question mark in goal for Washington, although he’s had decent regular season stats, he has very limited pro playoff experience. In short, the Bruins being Stanley Cup defending champions, they have the experience needed to dispose of the enigmatic Capitals in a hard-fought series.
Key fantasy player for Boston: Patrice Bergeron
Why? Bergeron has had his best regular season in terms of points since 2006-2007 with 64 points in 81 games. Add to that the fact that he’s always has success against Washington throughout his career (27 points in 26 career games).
Key fantasy player for Washington: Alex Ovechkin
Why? Ovie has things to prove this post-season and with the way he’s played of late, he is the “go-to” guy in Washington. He’s picked it up since March with 12 goals and 4 assists in his last 19 games. You don’t bet against 50 points (25G, 25A) in 37 career playoff games.
(3) Florida Panthers vs (6) New Jersey Devils
Series winner: New Jersey Devils
My Nostradamus hat says: NJD in 6
Why? Having fell out of the playoff picture last year, the Devils retorted with a season that would capture them more than 20 points than the previous campaign. A great part of their success is the resurgence of Ilya Kovalchuk who posted 83 pts in 77 games. Add to that a healthy Parise and a producing Elias, the Devils have the superstars up front for a successful playoff run. The Panthers, on the other hand, have only three 20-goal scorers, with Tomas Fleischmann leading the group. A group that was put together in the off season by General Manager Dale Tallon via free agency and trades, it is clear contrast from the stable New Jersey lineup. They did, however, manage to win their division and capture their first playoff berth since the 1999-2000 season with a contributing defense and strong powerplay, ranked 7th in the league. If they want a chance of coming out of this series as winners though, they’ll have to stay out of the penalty box. Florida is ranked 25th on the PK; New jersey ranks 1st.
The two teams do have something in common though. Both their starting goaltenders have been categorized as “has-beens” before the season started. Theodore is 35 and Brodeur 39 but the difference is Martin Brodeur registered yet another 30+ win campaign while the other has lost his last 7 starts. Not exactly the best moment to get cold, especially since the Devils are coming off 6 straight wins; one of the hottest teams in the league right now.
Key fantasy player for Florida: Stephen Weiss
Why? Making his first playoff appearance, Stephen Weiss will look to maintain a level of consistency that he had throughout the season.
Key fantasy player for New Jersey: Ilya Kovalchuk
Why? Kovalchuk leads his team in goals with 37 and is currently on a streak of 5 goals in his last 5. We also got a glimpse of how is elite talent translates in the playoffs in the 2009-2010 series with 6 points in 5 games.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Series winner: Pittsburgh Penguins
My Nostradamus hat says: PIT in 6
Why? This series is a must watch for any hockey fan: the battle of Pennsylvania. After the last two regular season games and the verbal warfare between both organizations, you just know this series will be tightly disputed. The regular season series was tilted in favor of the Flyers, with 4 wins and 2 for the Pens. But there shouldn’t be much emphasis put on this stat considering the majority of the contest involved a Crosby-less Penguins team.
Both teams can bring offense to the plate, that’s a given. They rank 1-2 in terms of goals scored on the regular season. While both teams seems to be pretty even when it comes to blueline personnel, a healthy Kris Letang seems to give the Penguins a bit more punch from the back end. In between the pipes, the play of Marc-Andre Fleury has been solid all season and while Ilya Bryzgalov started off poorly, his recent play has been tremendous. The advantage would need to go to Fleury however, considering Bryzgalov’s lack of success in the NHL playoffs and Fleury’s numerous cup runs. This battle should be very hardly fought, with toughness and mind games in the center of it all, but a now healthy Penguins squad should be favorite to walk away with the win in a best of 7 series.
Key fantasy player for Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin
Why? There is no slowing Malkin down. In 33 post All Star games, Malkin registered 51 points (24 G, 27 A). Geno also maintained a great level of production against the Flyers as his 9 points in 6 games show.
Key fantasy player for Philadelphia: Claude Giroux
Why? Giroux is the Flyers’ catalyst on offense, registering his first ever 90-point season (93) in 77 regular season games. Giroux is no slouch against his Penn State rivals, 8 points in 5 games in 2011-2012.
Stay tuned for the West!
Don’t forget to vote on our poll!
Which team is likeliest to create an upset in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
- Washington Capitals (38%, 31 Votes)
- Los Angeles Kings (27%, 22 Votes)
- Ottawa Senators (18%, 15 Votes)
- San Jose Sharks (17%, 14 Votes)
Total Voters: 82