The Detroit Red Wings destroyed the Phoenix Coyotes last night and will now face the San Jose Sharks in the second round. You can look back at my first round predictions but I am currently 5 for 7 including my accurate prediction of the Bruins over the Sabres. Not a spectacular record but not too bad considering the were two upsets in the first round and I was right on one of the two I predicted.
So far, teams with an advantage of 0.25 in points per game after March 1st are 2-1 and the last one will depend on the Washington Capitals tonight. Over the last four years they are now 16-3. For the second round, the Detroit Red Wings have an 0.42 advantage over the San Jose Sharks while the Vancouver Canucks have an 0.10 edge over the Chicago Blackhawks.
In my first round predictions article, I also mentioned that at least 15 of the 16 conference finalists in the past four years had a number of things in common. Based on those factors I determined that the four teams who had a chance to make it to the conference finals were: Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. The Vancouver Canucks were not in that group because they did not have 41 points on the road but they still had 40 so I don’t think we can put much weight on this.
The other statistic that is important to look at is goaltenting. Everyone knows it takes a hot goaltender to make it far into the playoffs so in the first round I looked at team’s save percentage since March 1st. The Red Wings, Blackhawks, Canucks and Sharks all had weaker goaltending after March 1st than in the rest of the season. Roberto Luongo was by far the weakest of the group in the first round in terms of save percentage and is the only goaltender who can be considered to be on a cold streak.
Last week, I also wrote an article about the length of the first round series and found that teams who played a 7-game series in the first round were 9-20 against teams who played 5 or 6 games series. This would normally give the edge to the San Jose Sharks over the Detroit Red Wings but considering that game seven wasn’t very close and that the Coyotes are a much better team than the Avalanche, I don’t think it matters much.
One statistic that I didn’t mention in my first round analysis is the head to head record in the regular season. The teams with the better head to head record are 4-0 this year so far so I thought I’d look back at last year to see if it’s something worth considering. In the first round last year, teams with a better head to head record went 5-1 but only 2-2 in the following rounds. In the 2008 Playoffs, it was 5-3 in the first round and only 2-3 in the following rounds. In other words it probably doesn’t mean a whole lot after the first round so I won’t consider it.
With all of that said, the Detroit Red Wings should have no problem against the San Jose Sharks while the Canucks and Blackhawks series should be very tight. The Red Wings have been much better in the past two months, despite having to play a game seven in the first round. As for the other series, the statistics probably give a small edge to the Blackhawks but my heart is with the Canucks and I would be surprised if Luongo didn’t play a great series. Either way I think it will go to seven games.
Here are my predictions:
Detroit Red Wings in 5 games
Vancouver Canucks in 7 games
Check back tomorrow to see my second round predictions for the Eastern Conference.