2017 NHL Playoffs: Conference Finals Predictions

USP NHL: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS-WASHINGTON CAPITALS S HKN USA PA

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Conference Final Preview

Last round prediction recap

Okay, so last round weren’t my best predictions ever. I went 1-3 overall, but the only series I was completely surprised and wrong on was the Senators/Rangers series. I truly didn’t believe the Senators had the ability to win the series. And then the other two series I was wrong in were Game 7’s, where anything can happen. Also, I deserve it for being dumb enough to think that Capitals would change.

Eastern Conference

Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

How the Senators got here:

The Senators dispatched the Bruins in the first round, winning three one-goal games and the other a two-goal win with an empty netter. They then dispatched the Rangers winning three one-goal games again.

Three keys to win:

  • Keep getting balanced scoring: Besides Karlsson leading the way, the Senators have had leaned on multiple players for scoring. That balance will be important this series against a depleted Penguins’ blue line.
  • Shoot to Fleury’s glove hand: When the Capitals had success against the Penguins’ goalie, they pounded Fleury’s glove side.
  • Limit Crosby’s touches: Crosby will be the best player on the ice and he will be everywhere. Limiting Crosby’s production could go a long way against team that is banged up.

Important Number:

  1. The amount of points defenseman Erik Karlsson has. That is good for the team lead. He is also averaging 28:57 for time on ice a game. He is doing all of this with two hairline fractures in his foot.

How the Penguins got here:

The Penguins ran through the Blue Jackets and then survived a near disastrous collapse against the Capitals, eliminating the President’s Trophy winners in game 7 after establishing a 3-1 series lead.

Three keys to win:

  • Get scoring from Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel: With Crosby potentially not at 100%, Malkin and Kessel will have to continue to produce for the Pegnuins offensively
  • Control the neutral zone/ beat the Senators’ trap: The Senators run a pesky 1-3-1 trap, which gave the Rangers and Bruins trouble. Much of their success comes from this so if the Penguins can solve this they’ll be in great shape
  • Use their speed: The Penguins are a very fast team, something the Senators haven’t faced yet. It will especially come in handy trying to beat that pesky trap.

Important Number:

+8. Defenseman Olli Maatta’s plus-minus in the postseason so far. Maatta has logged heavier minutes for the Penguins since Kris Letang has been out. He will need to continue be big for a blue line that is hurting.

Who will win:

I said it last round when I picked the Capitals and Penguins series saying that the winner would go to the Stanley Cup final. The Penguins are banged up but that hasn’t stopped them yet and they’ll continue to roll past the Senators.

Number of games:

5

Western Conference

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

How the Predators got here:

The Predators eliminated two heavy Stanley Cup favorites in the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues with ease. They have gotten here through strong defense and goaltending.

Three keys to win:

  • Continue to win with defense: The Predators boast the best top four for defensemen in the NHL. Them combined with Pekke Rinne is one tough team to beat.
  • Get scoring from Arvidsson: When the Predators stunned the Blackhawks in four games,
  • Viktor Arvidsson had four points, but only had one point last series in six games. He will have to pick up his game to help the Predators’ scoring.
  • Continue to limit shots: the Predators keep opponents to an average of 28.8 shots per game. This is a great number and it is a deadly combo with Rinne in between the pipes.

Important Number:

1.37. That is Pekka Rinne’s  GAA in the playoffs so far. He has an 8-2 record this postseason and has been all but unbeatable. This time of year goaltending wins games.

How the Ducks got here:

The Ducks dispatched two young Canadian teams in the Calgary Flames and exercised some game 7 demons eliminating the future of the league in the Edmonton Oilers.

Three keys to win:

  • Get decent play for Gibson: Gibson has struggled at times in the playoffs. No one expects him to outduel Rinne but he has to make it close
  • Be successful on special teams: The Ducks have the second-worst PK unit in the post-season and third-worst power play. Against Edmonton, the Ducks went just 2-for-21 on the man advantage. They’re going to need power play goals in order to beat the Predators defense.
  • Lean on the veterans on the team: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are the only two players left from the 2007 Stanley Cup team. They’ve been playing lights out and will have to be a leg the Ducks stand on in a series with relative inexperienced players.

Important Number:

.903. That is Gibson’s save percentage this postseason. This is the lowest of any goalie still in the Stanley Cup playoffs. If the Ducks are going to win this series, Gibson is going to have to be much better than that with goals being hard to come by against the Predators.

Who will win:

The Ducks are a balanced team who can be explosive offensively at any moment. But their goaltending is too questionable and goalies wins championships. No one has a better defense than the Predators which I why I’m picking the Predators.

Number of games:

6

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