Thursday, April 30, 2015

Match-Ups in the Second Round

The first match-up that was decided for the second round was the Anaheim Ducks, who swept the Winnipeg Jets, taking on the Calgary Flames, who dispatched of the Vancouver Canucks in six games.

Out of the Western Conference match-ups in the second round, this one is the closest in the hockey pool for picks, as the Ducks have a slight edge, 78-61, over the Flames, as they were the two favourites from their opening round match-up.

Between the two teams, Sean Monahan of the Flames is the favourite player, having been picked 13 times out of the 36 teams in the pool.  On the other side, it was goalie Frederik Andersen and defenseman Cam Fowler, who were each picked 12 times, leading the Ducks.  Having a goaltender pick up top, suggests that more teams were thinking the Ducks will push through to the Cup Finals and he would be a good source of points.

Speaking of scoring, after the first round audit, we see Corey Perry and Andersen on top of the heap, as they both came out of round one with 8 points, while on the Calgary side, Jiri Hudler has 7 points, including a winner already.

This has some real potential to be a grinding series, but how much will depth play a part of this one?

This series will start tonight, in Anaheim, an 8pm MT start at the Honda Center and it looks like Sportsnet will be taking care of this one at the national level.

For the Central Division title, we'll see the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild in a series that has some potential for grinding the rough edges to a smooth surface.  The Blackhawks snuck past the Nashville Predators in the opening round, going six games, while the Wild didn't exactly have an easy test either, beating the St. Louis Blues in six games as well.

The Wild were severe underdogs against the Blues in the opening round and they'll be underdogs yet again against the Blackhawks, as the pool selections are 92-26 for Chicago.  This didn't deter Minnesota in the opening round then and it likely won't now either.

The Blackhawks have the most popular player in the pool this year, Patrick Kane, as his 26 selections ties the entire pool for Wild picks.  It was explained once before, but it should be said again... Kane wasn't expected to play again until late in this round, according to the initial prognosis.  On the Wild side, Mikko Koivu has six selections and Marco Scandella has five selections, the two not even make up half of what Kane represents.

The leader in scoring between the two teams, Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk, who won 4 games and added a shutout for 10 points, taken once in the pool, while Chicago leans on defenseman Duncan Keith, who has 9 points, including 2 GWGs, and he has been taken nine times in the pool.

The Wild are riding a hot goalie, while the Blackhawks number one hasn't seen nearly as much puck, so do the Blackhawks have enough in their roster to overcome such a hot goalie?  It's the trick of the playoffs, right?

This series will start on Friday night in Chicago, a 7:30pm MT start at the United Center, and Sportsnet will take care of Game 1, CBC will have Games 2 & 3, and then it will be Sportsnet the rest of the way.

The New York Rangers got through one of the league's top flight superstars in Sidney Crosby in round one, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games and their reward for that?  Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, who slipped past the New York Islanders in seven games.  It's no picnic for the Capitals either, who saw a great performance from Jaroslav Halak and then get to shoot on Henrik Lundqvist next.

As you could probably assume, the Rangers are the favourite in this series, as they were the favourite to get through the Eastern Conference, while the Capitals were almost deadlocked with their first round opponent in selections, an 88-57 edge to New York.

Lundqvist is the most popular player in the East, taken 18 times between 36 teams, while Derek Stepan was another popular player in the pool, taken 16 times.  For the Capitals, both Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen drew equal interest, taken 10 times each this year.

Lundqvist and Backstrom appear once again in this preview, as they lead their teams in scoring as well, which means those who took these guys are getting good bang for their buck.  The Rangers keeper leads all players in this series with 8 points, while the Washington pivot has 7 points, including a winner.

The Rangers have been off for a few extra days more than the Capitals, but they are running into injury concerns with the loss of Mats Zuccarello in Game 5, which will impact the team speed of the blueshirts.

Games 1, 3 & 4 are all scheduled to on CBC, while Game 2 is locked in on Sportsnet and everything after that is still to be determined.  What we do know is that this series starts tonight, a 5:30pm MT faceoff.

The Canadiens had to wait until Wednesday night to see who they played, after knocking off the Ottawa Senators in six games on the weekend, which was a grinding series.  The Tampa Bay Lightning just came off their first round match-up against the Detroit Red Wings and should be still warm and ready to go, when they face off against the Canadiens in Montreal on Friday night.

Capping off the Eastern Conference, the two favourites from the Atlantic Division move on to face each other, but Tampa Bay holds the advantage in the selection decisions, 86-78, which comes as somewhat of a surprise.  The Lightning were not a very good road team in the regular season, but did still manage to win one in Detroit in the opening round, so it will be very interesting to see how they fare in the second round.

The most popular player in this series is Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, who was taken 18 times, ending up as one of the most popular players on the sheet, period.  The Habs only had two players taken more than 10 times, as goalie Carey Price also had 12 picks in the pool as well.  For the Lightning, the picks were very spread out, as their leaders in picks were Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula, each picking up 12 nods.

As for scoring leaders into this series, we look at the goalies, Ben Bishop and Price, leading the way, 11 and 10 points each.  This is fitting, since it will likely be the goaltending that ends up being the reason why one of these two teams moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Tyler Johnson is the best ranked skater in the pool, finishing the Red Wings with 9 points, while Montreal didn't really have much of a scorer to speak of.

To no one's surprise, I'm sure, CBC will look after this series, starting on Friday night, from the Bell Centre.  These two teams will clash and it should be a very high-paced series from start to finish.

PhotobucketAnd let's not forget why we're all here... the prize money!  There are 36 teams in the pool this year and that means there is $360 in the kitty for prizing and given the odd nature of the final tally, we'll have three prizes... $300 for 1st place, $50 for 2nd place and 3rd place will earn their money back... a free entry into this year's pool, as such.

There you have it... good luck to those still in the race and well, thanks for entering to those who are not.

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