It’s the 2013 Playoffs! Man, the season just flew by! Oh, yeah – only 48 games. But does that matter?
Not one bit past weeding out the 14 teams who are hitting the links early.
So how does OGA do this? On 30 April, we provided the Western Conference’s predictive analysis for Round 1. Here we give you the calls for the two Eastern Conference series that launch tonight. Call it the Eastern Bookends if you will as we take on No. 1 Pittsburgh versus No. 9 New York Islanders and No. 4 Boston versus No. 5 Toronto. We will wind up Round 1 predictions Thursday night with the East’s middle two seedings.
And don’t forget – statistically speaking – it’s the chase for “3.” The first team to it wins the vast majority of the time.
No. 1 Pittsburgh Versus No. 8 the New York Islanders
I pick Pittsburgh over New York in 4 games. Here is the Pittsburgh versus New York Chart:
As you can see, the Penguins overmatch the Islanders all 10 categories, a larger margin than anything in the West by a full 20%. Of note going into the Playoffs:
- Pittsburgh is better at all 15 of our statistical categories that the Islanders. (Who to watch: Fleury, Kunitz, Crosby (when he returns), Dupuis and Orpik for Pittsburgh. While his numbers do not make him the top RW, also keep an eye on Iginla for the Pens.)
- In order, the closest the Islanders come to matching Pittsburgh position-wise are Centermen, LW/D, RW and Goalie.
- Tavares’ numbers are better than Crosby’s due to his absence for injury. But they are also better than any other Penguins’ Center, making Johnny T the best one on the ice tonight. After Tavares, all other Centers pretty much equal out until Crosby returns.
- At LW, the Isles’ Matt Martin is on top, and Matt Moulson is even better than James Neal due to games lost for injury by Neal. After that, the depth players at LW are better than whatever the Islanders can ice. It is the third pairing on D for the Penguins which stands taller than the Isles’.
- The Pens top three RW’s have stats packs that outshine the same players from Long Island.
- And the greatest overall gap comes in between the pipes. It is important to note here that the Islanders’ Nabokov – as good as he was for them down the stretch – is only equivalent to the Penguins’ Vokoun statistically. (Who to watch, however, for the Islanders: Tavares, Streit and Nabokov.)
- Pittsburgh was .800 down the Last 10 game stretch and only relinquished one loss in five games to the Islanders in the regular season with a +8 goal differential.
- In short, the only ways New York pulls out a victory is by Penguins’ error combined with Nabokov standing on his head.
No. 4 Boston Versus No. 5 Toronto
Despite the dominance you read below, I say Toronto takes down Boston in 6 games. Here is the Bruins versus Maple Leafs Chart:
Probably quite surprisingly, Toronto’s statistical measurements are better than Boston’s in nine of 10 categories. My notes here:
- Toronto’s stats lead at every player position. (Who to watch: Reimer, Fraser, Kulemin, Komarov/Kadri and Kessel for the Leafs.)
- Boston has been a bit discombobulated going down the regular season stretch. Yes, there were injuries. And yes, there were some trades. But I heard some sportscasters say they think Boston can just turn on the jets beginning tonight and take out the Leafs.
- IF Rask is the kind of goalie – the better-than-Reimer goalie – he is, then Boston can turn this around. IF more than Chara intimidates the Leafs, then Boston can win. IF Lucic, Bergeron, Marchand, Sequin and Jagr can collectively dominate, then Boston can outplay Toronto. And IF Toronto gets consumed by their rabid press, then Boston can propel forward.
- But IF Toronto takes Game 1, the questions about the Bruins negative, season ending momentum will grow within and consume them.
- Yes, Boston won the series 3 – 1. But the Bruins played .400 Hockey to close the regular season and have to overcome that ngative tendancy (is lessmentum a word?)
So How Does The Rest Play Out?
We will talk the remainder of the East and how these predictions will affect the overall, potential Round 2 matchups. For tonight, enjoy three more Game 1 contests – may they be as exciting as last night’s triple-header.
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