NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals Midway Review

After two games in each series, or three in the case of Pittsburgh and New York, we take a look at what we’ve learned since the beginning of each series, and how we see it finishing.

Penguins vs. Rangers
The Penguins were facing many questions after their series against the Blue Jackets. The defense (Letang in particular) performed poorly, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was a head case, and Captain Sidney Crosby had not been able found the net in 10+ games. The Rangers faced fewer questions after their series against the Flyers. Henrik Lundqvist was in elite form, and the defense was strong. The offense was average, but it should have been fine against Pittsburgh after seeing the Pens struggles on the back-end in the Columbus series.

Entering the series I believed the Rangers would capitalize on the Penguins poor goaltending, and defense, to win the series in seven games.

Three games in, the Penguins hold a 2-1 series lead, and things don’t look good for New York. Marc-Andre Fleury has been elite, with two consecutive shutouts, and the defense has been stout in front of him. Crosby got going again when he found the back of the net in game three, for the first time in more than ten playoff games. It appears the Penguins have answered the questions entering the series, and confidence is riding high. Meanwhile, the Rangers are still searching for answers, particularly on offense. They are getting no production from their top two players, who were brought in specifically for these moments. Martin St. Louis has zero points and a -1 in the series, and Rick Nash has just one goal in his 22 career playoff games with the Rangers, and has zero points in this series. Both have been disappointing. They will need to pick up their production if the Rangers want to have any chance of winning this series. Lundqvist has remained strong, but that doesn’t matter if his guys can’t put any points on the board. I just don’t see the Rangers figuring it out offensively in time to win the series, but rattling Fleury is the only way to win this series.

Old Prediction: Rangers in seven.

New Prediction: Penguins in seven.

Bruins vs. Canadiens

Both the Bruins and Canadiens entered this series riding four game winning streaks. The Canadiens with a four game sweep of the Lightning, and the Bruins with a 4-1 series win over the Red Wings. The Bruins absolutely dominated the Wings from start to finish, while the Canadiens games were a little closer against a Lightning team that was without its Vezina Finalist in net. Both had plenty of momentum and confidence. With all of that equal, it was my opinion entering the series that the Bruins held the advantage offensively, defensively, and in net. For that reason I thought they’d take down the Habs in six games.

It has been an interesting series through two games. The series is tied 1-1, and if not for a huge third period comeback by Boston, the Canadiens would be going home up 2-0. Despite this, the Bruins have looked like the better team on the ice, and the stats back it up. The Canadiens are being outhit, outshot, are losing in faceoff percentage, losing in possession rate, and have not controlled the pace of play. It is not a stretch to say they have been dominated at times. They have Carey Price to thank for being in this series, as he has made a number of unbelievable saves in both games to keep the Bruins in check. Ultimately though, I don’t believe Price can keep up the circus act for a full series. After watching the first two games, I still feel the same way I did prior to the series – the Bruins still look like the better team across the board.

Old Prediction: Bruins in six.

New Prediction: Bruins in six.