Penguins in 5
Once again, the Pittsburgh Penguins have gone head-to-head with the Washington Capitals and emerged the winner, taking down the President’s Trophy Champion in seven games. The defending Stanley Cup Champions were clutch when it mattered most as Marc-Andre Fleury blanked the Capitals in the finale on the road. The Senators meanwhile escaped the New York Rangers in six games, despite being outplayed most of the series. The Senators had two late game comebacks at home, which were in overtime after pulling the goalie to tie the game.
Like Fleury, Craig Anderson has been strong just when the Senators needed him most, winning five of six overtime games in the playoffs. Anderson has been slightly better than Fleury in the postseason with a 2.49 Goals Against Average and a .914 save percentage compared to 2.55 and .927 from the Penguins netminder.
The Penguins have the big advantage on offense, with Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel all averaging better than a point per game in the playoffs. Malkin has led the way with five goals and 13 assists, while Guentzel has been the leading scorer with nine, many coming in crunch time. The Sens meanwhile are led by Erik Karlsson who despite playing with a broken foot has two goals and 11 assists.
Ottawa won two of three regular season meetings against the Penguins, but it is clear that Pittsburgh is the better team. After finishing with the second most points in the regular season, the Penguins have raised their game again in the playoffs and look like the best team in the NHL once again as they will get a chance at a second straight sip from the Stanley Cup by beating the Senators in five games.
Predators in 6
The Anaheim Ducks are coming off a tough seven-game series against the Edmonton Oilers, and have a short turnaround before beginning the Western Conference Finals against the Nashville Predators. The Predators meanwhile, come in fully rested having won their series against the St. Louis Blues in six games, ending on Sunday.
The Predators have been getting terrific defense and goaltending from Pekka Rinne. Through nine games in the postseason, Pekka Rinne has been nearly flawless with a Goals Against Average of 1.37 and a .951 save percentage. If the Ducks have had one area of concern in the playoffs, it has been their goaltending as John Gibson has been shaky at times, no more than his performance in Game 6 against the Edmonton Oilers.
Anaheim has more weapons on offense with Ryan Getzlaf leading the way with eight goals and seven assists, while Jakob Silfverberg also averaging a point a game with seven goals and four assists. Rickard Rakell also is playing at a high level with six goals and four assists. The Predators offense meanwhile is led by Ryan Ellis and Ryan Johansen who each have a team high nine points.
In the regular season the Ducks won two of three matchups with the Predators, with the home team winning all three games. The first two games early in the season were blowouts, with the Ducks winning in a shootout in March. The Predators defense has been smothering this entire playoff run, in a four-game sweep that limited the Chicago Blackhawks to three goals in the first round. I expect to see the Predators defense continue to lead the way as they defeat the Ducks in a six-game battle.