Warrior Sports Guru Michael Natelli (’14) plays pick ’em around the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Wow. Could we have asked for a better first round of playoff hockey? Never, it seems, has there been more fantastic goals and heart-stopping saves in a single round in playoff history. The guys on Versus Network have sure had fun calling these match-ups so far.
Now we enter the second round, which is filled with plenty of interesting storylines.
Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
First, we have our hometown Caps taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Capitals will bet all their chips with youngsters Michael Neuvirth and Simeon Varlamov, both at the start of their respective careers. The Bolts will be riding Dwayne Roloson in goal, the 41-year-old who plays as if he is still at the peak of his career.
Guru’s Pick: Lightning
The Lightning’s front line on offense consists of Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis; one of the most dynamic trios in the NHL. The Capitals have always struggled on defense, so Tampa’s front three versus the Capitals defense is a matchup that leans far towards Tampa’s side. The Capitals have played very sloppy hockey thus far and despite the decent effort they put in last night, their chances of fending off Tampa on the road back-to-back is highly unlikely. Tampa wins this matchup in 5 games.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins
The next matchup is the Philadelphia Flyers taking on the Boston Bruins in a rematch of last year’s Conference Finals. Boston looks to avenge themselves against the defending champions, and you have to like their chances this time.
Guru’s Pick: Bruins
Last year, the Flyers had Michael Leighton step up to save them, and they were able to ride him all the way to the Cup. This year they wish they were so lucky. They have had a huge question mark about who their starting goalie is, going back to Round 1 against Buffalo, which will continue to be a problem throughout their (probably brief) playoff run. The Bruins on the other hand have former Vezina Trophy Winner Tim Thomas in their net; no question marks there. If nothing else, this gives the Bruins a large advantage.
What’s disappointing for the Flyers is that there is more than just the goalie problem. The Bruins also have a solid defense led by the human wrecking-ball: Zdeno Chara. Chara is known for dishing out ground-shaking hits, such as the concussion-delivering blow he delivered to Maxim Paccioretty back in early March. The Bruins also have a solid offense, so the unstable goalie will be even more of a problem. Bruins will dominate this series and advance to the Eastern Finals with ease.
Nashville Predators vs. Vancouver Canucks
The Predators have never reached the playoffs before in their 12 seasons of existence. However, they have also never had Carrie Underwood as their Number 1 fan. Now, anyone who has ever played NHL 11 would tell you one word to describe this series: Luongo; the fantastic Canuck goaltender. However, there’s a different word that comes to mind when talking about this series, and that is the word turnovers.
Guru’s Pick: Canucks
Despite Rinne’s fantastic saves in Game 2 on Saturday night, Nashville’s offense and defense alike struggled throughout the 95 minutes of game, ignoring the two 30-second spans when they scored. That leaves 94 minutes of poorly played hockey and turnovers on seemingly every other possession, so that leaves a huge area for concern going into Game 3.
To make matters worse for Nashville, they are facing one of the regular season’s most feared foes: the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks are led by twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, and goaltender Roberto Luongo is as good as they come. The Predators will have a tough task ahead of them, and is unlikely that they prevail.
Detroit Red Wings vs. San Jose Sharks
The Red Wings were certainly the favorite going into this series, but now down 0-2, you got to like the Sharks’ chances.
Guru’s Pick: Sharks
There is going to be an X-Factor for the rest of this series, and that is this: Which Antti Niemi will we see? In the Round 1 series against the Los Angeles Kings, Niemi allowed 3 goals on the first 4 shots he faced. The Sharks ended up pulling him very early in the game, which is never a good sign. However, Niemi has only allowed 1 goal in each of the first two games against the Red Wings. If he continues doing that well, the Sharks will go far.
The offense has also gotten it done. It’s always nice to see your defenders getting on the scoreboard, and the Sharks saw two of them tonight in the 2-1 win in Game 2. The Sharks also have veterans like Dany Heatley playing very well, so if this production can continue, I like the Sharks winning in 6 games.
Check back in after Round 2 and the Guru will give predictions for the rest of the playoffs!