Conference Final Preview
by Matt Ederer(NHL)
Posted on May 10, 2007, 5:18 PM
In the two years that I've been doing this, many have tried to match my amazing hockey prognostication prowess. And nobody has come close. Not Bob Davis, Not Mike Sawaryn, not the weird number thing Bob used in the first round that confused everybody. I was the undefeated, undisputed playoff prediction champion last season. This year, I'm currently riding a 10-2 record, with my only two mistakes coming at the middle-aged hands of the Detroit Red Wings. Basically, what I'm saying is you can't afford to not read this column, because, used correctly, what you're reading right now can make you a lot of money in vegas. Or at least with your buddies.
Heatley/Alfredsson/Spezza vs Briere/Connoly/Kotalik
Ottawa just has way more talent on top. And if the New Jersey Devils, who boast some of the best shut down forwards in hockey couldn't stop them last round, Buffalo wont. Though Daniel Briere is always dangerous, this isn't even close.
Schaefer/Fisher/Comrie vs Hecht/Drury/Zubrus
As much of a mismatch as the first line was in Ottawa's favour, the second line is in Buffalo's. Zubrus has been dubbed best trade deadline addition this season by some, and Chris Drury is undeniably the best playoff performer in the NHL, and he'll likely be up there with the likes of Sakic and Richard when it's all over
Saprykin/McAmmond/Schubert vs Vanek/Roy/Afinogenov
Not even close. Vanek/Roy/Afinogenov in a stroll, even though they were cold until the end of the Rangers series.
Schaefer/Kelly/Neil vs Pominville/Gaustad/Mair
It's weird that I'm saying this so much about two supposedly evenly matched teams, but this isn't even close either. Schaefer/Kelly/Neil romp their way to a defensive victory here. The only thing about this battle is that I believe Jason Pominville is the best player of the six, and could be dangerous. Still, he will not be getting the playing time he needs to be an offensive prescence, and if he's to be playing with Gaustad and Mair, he will be used in a primarily defensive role, which is not his specialty
Ottawa had four defensemen who had a plus/minus rating of over 30. That might be the most unheralded insane stat in all of hockey, maybe even professional sports. They score better, and the shut-down tandem of Volchenkov and Phillips may be the NHL's best. Buffalo has got Brian Campbell, who is an NHL all-star, and not too much else after that. Ottawa wins this.
So far, Ottawa has the 2nd ranked Powerplay to Buffalo's 8th, and the 8th ranked penalty kill to Buffalo's 12th. On the strength of simple statistics, Ottawa takes this as well.
It's close. Emery has got the superior goals against, but Ryan Miller has got the superior save percentage. Having said that, Emery played the better teams (a fact that really is inarguable), and he's got two shutouts to Miller's zero. Plus, Emery had a superior regular season. I'm giving this to Ottawa as well.
But if my personal scouting reports don't convince you, I've got some hard evidence too. For example, since the 21st game of the regular season, the Ottawa Senators have amassed more points than the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres started the season on absolute fire, losing three times in their first twenty games. Coversely, the Senators won only eight times in their first twenty. And since then, in the last 62 games of the season, the Sens amassed 40 wins and 88 points. The Sabres had 38 wins and 82 points. Admittedly, it's a slight edge, but it's an edge. Ottawa also won the season series, five games to three.
Call it an upset if you like (though I wouldn't), but I just think that Ottawa is the better team top to bottom, they've played better for the majority of the season, and they will be the better team in the series
Pick: Senators, 6
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: Anaheim Ducks (110 pts, #2 seed) @ Detroit Red Wings (113 pts, #1 seed)
I'll admit to underestimating the Red Wings. I didn't think they'd beat the San JoseSharks. I didn't even think they'd beat the Calgary Flames. And guess what? I don't think they'll beat the Anaheim Ducks. This time, I'm sure of it. This is why:
-- They've got injuries to key members of their defence (Mathieu Schnieder, Nicklas Kronwall), another defencemen, Brett Ledba, is recovering from a concussion, which is always an iffy injury. Meanwhile, Anaheim has two perennial Norris and Conn Smythe trophy candidates in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. They also have the most underrated D-man in the NHL, Francois Beauchemin.
--They've got a goaltender who can be easily taken off of his game (and even though I mistakenly thought that Calgary would attempt to get to Hasek, I know Anaheim will). Meanwhile, Anaheim has JS Giguere, who has likely been the most consistent goalie in the playoffs, even though he came in late.
-- Detroit has some playoff underachievers, such as Todd Bertuzzi, who has been consistently battling Jose Theodore for the title of worst big name player since the lockout. Meanwhile, everybody is stepping up for Anaheim in different ways; even 4th liner Brad May has a some key goals.
--They've got Chris Chelios as a go-to stopper, and this is no slight to Chelios, who is so fanatical about his conditioning that he's got a stationary bike in his sauna, but the man is 45 years old, and he's going to have to shut down a big, strong, youthful Ducks team, with names like Andy McDonald, Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Getzlaf, and Dustin Penner.
Alright, so basically, it's the same argument as the last few rounds. The Red Wings are too old, not physical enough, and they're against a better team. I thought Calgary would out-hit them, but they couldn't get the physical game going. I thought the Sharks would out skill them, but they couldn't get any game going. However, the Ducks have been playing the same type of hockey that the Wings have in the playoffs -- that is, defence first, agitate the opposition, score timely goals. The only difference is that they've done it better, against arguably, better competition. So I think the Ducks will out-wing Detroit, and the motor city will again fail to see the final.
This time, I KNOW it. Seriously.
Pick: Ducks, 6
There you have it. An Ottawa/Anaheim final. Take it to the bank.