Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Teeing Up the East

Kicking off before the first round officially concludes, the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning will start round two on Wednesday night.

This series will pit the two underdogs on the selection sheet against each other, which means that even if this series goes off the charts for scoring, the pool won't fill up with points... except for those lucky few that opted for these two teams.

Between the two teams, Tampa Bay is the favourite, as they have out-selected Long Island by a 56-29 margin, but if the series between the Panthers and the Islanders is any indication, this should also be an excellent series to watch.

The most popular player in the Playoff Pool in this series... Tampa Bay defenseman Jason Garrison, taken 13 times.  You can tell that this isn't a popular set of teams, when the bottom end defensemen are the players of note, as they are just throw in picks, thanks to the format.  The most popular forward is Ondrej Palat, taken eight times, followed by Nikita Kucherov, taken six times.

In terms of injuries and notes, the Islanders are going to be without Anders Lee and his broken leg, for sure.  Even if Jaroslav Halak was to come back from his lower-body injury, I don't imagine that the team would be too quick to move away from Thomas Greiss, who has performed admirably in his absence, getting past the Panthers.  Ryan Strome, on the other hand, taken three times, finished the series as a healthy scratch and unless the Islanders are struggling early on in this series, I can't seem him figuring back in any time soon.

Kicking off on Thursday night will be the marquee series in the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Washington Capitals... Sidney Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin!

It's no secret that this is a series we've all been hoping to see in the playoffs, year after year, and now they're both healthy, both of their teams are firing on all cylinders and we should be in for one hell of a series.

According to the selection sheet picks, the Capitals are the favourites in this one, leading the pick numbers, 145-108, thanks in large part to their dominating regular season, where they steamrolled the rest of the league to an early President's Trophy, before anyone else in the East had clinched a playoff spot.

There should be no surprise that Braden Holtby was the most popular player on the sheet, as he made it onto 36 of 50 teams in the pool.  Marc-Andre Fleury, the other goalie on the sheet for this series, was taken four times, but his return from a concussion doesn't seem very likely at the moment, so the Penguins will continue to ride Matt Murray.

As the match-ups go, the Capitals were better in the first five boxes of forwards, but the Penguins were better in the last two.  As for defensemen, the four boxes were split for favourites, each taking a couple.

Player notes heading in... Pittsburgh defenseman Justin Schultz had one appearance in the opening round and was a healthy scratch through the remaining games against the Rangers and unless there is an injury, he likely won't figure into this series.  Schultz was taken 10 times in the pool, so that is a pretty big gap in some teams.

According to the sheet, we should expect a Washington/Tampa Bay Conference Finals... that would be pretty good, right?

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