Broadcasters 2011 Conference Semifinal Round Picks
A three-way tie at the top at 6-2 with Bill Davidge earning bragging and tie-breaker rights by predicting four series exactly correctly (TB, NSH, VAN, SJ), and George Matthews and Bob McElligott also going 6-2 but only predicting one series exactly. Jeff Rimer went 4-4, predicted the Boston Bruins to win in seven games and gets full marks for saying Nathan Horton would get the game winner. Check out what the broadcasters are saying about this round.
JEFF RIMER (4-4, one exactly)
Nashville/Vancouver - Predators in 7... After five straight defeats in first round series, the Nashville Predators are making believers out of hockey fans across the NHL. Vancouver barely survived their opening round series against Chicago. It's tough not to give an edge to Nashville in the goaltending department with Pekka Rinne. Part of the group on the Vancouver blueline is a question mark with Sami Salo out for Game 7 vs. Chicago and you wonder about his availability in this series. Nashville has a veteran tandem and they are as good as it gets in Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, and they will be called in big time in this series. The teams played four games in the regular season and the winner of all four scored three goals. This will be a low scoring series and that gives Nashville the edge in scoring, if they hold the Sedins in check.
Detroit/San Jose - Red Wings win in 6... This is going to be a great series, maybe the best one of this round and these two teams met last year in the playoffs. The Red Wings have been the best team in the playoffs so far and both teams know each other well with the coaches having worked together in Detroit. Zetterberg will be back in unifrom for the Red Wings after missing round one. How much better can Pavel Datsyuk play than he did in the opening round series vs. Phoenix? San Jose did not make many changes going back to last year, despite talking about them heading into the season. It's a situation for San Jose where Joe Thornton has to step up, be Big Joe, and be the leader the Sharks have looked to year after year in the postseason. Lidstrom and Rafalski will be key on the PP at the blueline and could make the difference.
Tampa Bay/Washington - Capitals in 7... Some people might be surprised to see the Tampa Bay Lightning in round two, but with Guy Boucher behind the bench and Dwayne Roloson in goal they may pull another upset. You win with goaltending, especially in the early rounds of the playoffs, and Roloson gives Tampa the edge in net. Washington has a great young D pair in Carlson and Alzner and as time goes on will be key players for the Capitals. Brewer was a nice pick up in a trade during the season and helped Tampa in round one, can he continue to play well in this series. Is there a better one-two punch in the playoffs than Semin and Ovechkin? I don't think so. The Lightning have firepower with St. Louis, Stamkos and Lecavalier.
Boston/Philadelphia - Bruins in 7... This is going to be a throw back to the old days, a seven game series with both teams going at it tooth and nail. The Flyers used three goalies in the opening round while Boston has Tim Thomas in net, no questions. Pronger needs to get more minutes, but the emergence of Braydon Coburn has helped fill the void left by Pronger during the first series. Kimmo Timonen has also done a fantastic job leading the Flyer defenseman. Kaberle has been a disappointment so far but Chara is still rock solid on the B's blueline. Claude Giroux is a very important player, especially with Jeff Carter out with an MCL sprain.
GEORGE MATTHEWS (6-2, one exactly)
Nashville/Vancouver - Canucks in 7... The pressure is off for both teams after opening round wins - Nashville the first in franchise history and Vancouver avoiding the Presidents' Trophy let down (so far) and defeating the Blackhawks, who knocked them out of the 2010 and 2009 playoffs. Vancouver is led by Alex Burrows 3-2-5 in the last two games and were able to win despite the Sedin twins average production. Nashville is a different type of team than Chicago, winning with goaltending, four balanced lines and team defense. Martin Erat, the team's leading scorer in the regular season, returns for the Predators in this series. Fisher had a great first series with 3-3-6 vs. Anaheim and Joel Ward and Jordin Tootoo had five points apiece. Still, Vancouver had trophy candidates on display with Kesler (Selke), Luongo (Vezina), D. Sedin (Hart) and will slightly outplay the Preds.
Detroit/San Jose - Red Wings win in 6... Last season the two teams met with San Jose winning in 5 games, but remember Detroit was coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances and a seven game series with Phoenix. Detroit is much more rested this year after beating those same Coyotes in only four games and outscoring them 18-9 for the series. SJ had a much tougher time with L.A., losing two of three at home in the process. The Sharks did get balanced scoring and were led by Clowe, Pavelski and Couture having solid opening rounds. Detroit has so much depth up front even with Zetterberg and Franzen out of game 4 vs. Phoenix, they scored six goals. Datsyuk had 2-4-6 and Filpula stepped up with 1-4-5 in Zetterberg's absence. Howard was outstanding with 2.50 GAA and .915 SV%, while Niemi was 3.99 GAA and .869 SV%.
Tampa Bay/Washington - Capitals in 5... The Capitals won the season series 4-1-1 and are a much more complete team than we saw in the playoffs last year. They have refined their team game, learning to play in low scoring, tight checking games. They showed some grit in coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period of game four at NYR to tie the game and then win it in overtime. Lots of firepower with Ovechkin and Co. and might have found a goaltender in Michael Neuvirth. Tampa Bay won three straight after trailing 3-1 in the series and got outstanding goaltending from 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson, who outdueled Marc-Andre Fleury. The Lightning have great special teams play and played the first round with a focus and purpose that you must play with in the playoffs. The question is can the 1-3-1 strategy of Tampa Bay work against Washington when it clearly did not in the regular season.
Boston/Philadelphia - Flyers in 7... This is a series with old history and recent history, as the Bruins look for payback after blowing a 3-0 lead in last year's Eastern Conference Final and a 3-0 lead in game 7 of that series. Boston won the season series 3-0-1 and became the first team in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs to win a series and go 0-for on the the power play (0-for-21). Philly became the first team since 1988 to win a series while using three goaltenders to do so. Both teams have balanced scoring with eight forwards having tallied in round one. Nathan Horton led the way for Boston with three goals, including two game-winners. Giroux and Briere lead the Flyers attack and are getting support from players like James van Riemsdyk. Boston's best line has been Kelly-Peverley-Ryder, which has given them three scoring lines and Chara is eating minutes on the backend with 28 min./game. Kaberle must give Boston more than two assists this series. Pronger played in two games and Philly won both and how much, if he does at all, Jeff Carter plays could be a huge factor.
BILL DAVIDGE (6-2, four exactly)
Nashville/Vancouver - Cancuks in 6... This is going to be a dandy of a series with Luongo coming off of a solid game 7 performance in round one. The Canucks have the depth and goaltending to get by Nashville. They play a physical style and expect the Sedins and Kesler to elevate their games a notch. The Preds are getting timely scoring from Fisher and Shea Weber has been a beast on the blueline. But, Vancouver is No. 1 for a reason and will get through what should be a fun series to watch.
Detroit/San Jose - Red Wings in 6... San Jose dominated the last three games of the regular season between these two teams, outscoring Detroit 12-6. But, Detroit has Pavel Datsyuk playing at the top of his game and the X factor is Henrik Zetterberg coming off of injury as well as being rested. With Zetterberg back in the lineup and Franzen, Lidstrom and others, Detroit is ready to go all the way. Joe Thornton had a good series and you can't underestimate San Jose with Boyle and Heatley. However, the depth and puck management skills will be there for the Red Wings.
Tampa Bay/Washington - Capitals in 6... Hats off to Bruce Boudreau for what he's been able to do with the Caps defensively. Dwayne Roloson is the story on the other side for Tampa Bay. The firepower of the Lightning is there, but the ability on D for Washington can shutdown Tampa and that's how you win in the playoffs. Ovechkin, Semin and timely scoring from Jason Chimera along with Backstrom stepping up his game will push the Caps over the top of a Tampa Bay team riding high from the excitement of their first round victory.
Boston/Philadelphia - Flyers in 7... The Flyers, in a repeat of last year, will win in seven games against Boston. This year, Boucher is healthy and playing well after a game 7 win over Buffalo in round one. The X factor here is Pronger coming back and playing at full speed. The PP for Philly is creating offense for them and Boston's is non-existant. Horton had a great opening series, but needs more help from Krejci and Lucic, who did not do enough in round one.
BOB McELLIGOTT (6-2, one exactly)
Nashville/Vancouver - Canucks in 6... It looks funny to see the Nashville Predators name in the conference semifinals, but there they are after defeating Anaheim in Round 1. Vancouver made believers out of their fans by surviving a seven game series, after leading 3-0 in the series vs. Chicago, who came back to tie the series 3-3 before Alex Burrows gets the Game 7 game winner in overtime. Pekka Rinne had a wonderful regular season and has to play well for Nashville to win this series. Roberto Luongo had to win that Game 7 at home with all the pressure squarley on his shoulders and he was stellar in that game and now heads into this series with some momentum. Ryan Kesler comes to life, the Canucks defense is good enough and they make it to the Western Conference Final.
Detroit/San Jose- Red Wings win in 7... These two teams have played each other so much in the postseason, including the second round a season ago. Detroit wipped out Phoenix in the first round and they brought their best, as they do every year this time of the year. Boy do they know how to bring it in the postseason. Ryan Clowe had a little bit of a coming out party for the Sharks in round one playing a great series vs. L.A. He's got to get to the front of the net, use his size and score some ugly goals.
Tampa Bay/Washington - Lightning in 7... The Tampa Bay Lightning had trouble early in their series versus Pittsburgh (down 3-1), but Martin St. Louis kept them in the series and then once Steven Stamkos and Vinny Lecavalier - along with Roloson - once they got clicking that's when they took off. Michael Neuvirth was great for Washington in the first round, but that was against the NY Rangers, who struggled to score and aren't a high powered offensive team. Mike Green's health could be an issue and Washington will need his offense and defense from the backend. Ovechkin has to come up big again, as he did in round one, and be the leader of this team.
Boston/Philadelphia - Flyers in 7... Two teams that were beaten up in the first round of the playoffs as both played seven game series. They have very little time off, but both will be ready for this great rivalry in round two. None of the Philly goalies have proven they can stay in the net and you could see all three used again this round. It's been a great rebound year for Tim Thomas and it must be nice for head coach Claude Julien to know he has nothing to worry about in goal during this postseason. Pronger was used as a PP specialist in games 6 and 7 of the first round and I don't beleive Peter Laviolette can afford to do that for seven games in this series. He has to be healthy enough to play five-on-five and that will be a huge key in this series. Boston needs their top line to score this series or they cannot win. This will be a whatever it takes series.