2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 3 Preview
As great as this playoff has been, the two conference final match-ups highlight the two biggest problems in the NHL right now. Playoff seeding and goalie interference.
The current seeding system is a joke, which is how the Ottawa Senators ended up this far. If you seeded by Conference, the Senators would have been the 6th seed. They played the 7th seed (Bruins) in the first round which is so grossly unfair for so may reasons. Then in the second round, they drew the 5th seeded Rangers. And even though the Rangers had a better record, the Senators got home ice anyway. If the regular season is not going to have any bearing on the playoffs, why even have one at all? Just randomly pick teams out of a hat to determine who makes the playoffs and what their seed is. It’s a total joke.
Goalie interference has determined so man games this playoffs, it’s also a joke. The Oilers were the latest victims. True they gave up a three goal lead in the last three minutes in Game 5 but the tying goal should not have counted. It was pretty obvious Ryan Kesler interfered with Cam Talbot on the tying goal. The goal should have been reversed and the Oilers would have won the series in six games. That’s a major differences from what we have now.
The NHL really needs to clean this stuff up.
M2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs A2 Ottawa Senators
Season Series: 2-1 Senators
Playoff Series History: 3-1 Penguins
What We Learned: The Penguins continue rolling under their new coach and the Senators continue being lucky.
Stars to Watch: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel are all in the top five in playoff scoring. Phil Kessel is right behind them. I wonder about how healthy Crosby is though. If he struggles, it might not be such an easy series for the Penguins. Erik Karlsson is still Mr. Everything for the Senators. He’s logging almost half a game too. So I imagine he’s going to be getting exhausted soon. Bobby Ryan and Derick Brassard round out the scoring threats for the Senators. But they both have negative +/-.
X-Factor: These two teams don’t like each other. Although the teams are mostly different since they last faced off in 2013, you can bet their will still be some animosity. How that plays into the series might be a determining factor. I still think you need to go after Crosby to provoke the team and throw him off his game.
Goalie Problem: Marc-Andre Fleury has played well, so well in fact, it’s hard to imagine he ever lost his starting job. Nothing has phased him so far and you can tell he’s enjoying being back there. Craig Anderson has mostly been mixed bag for the Senators. But he’s made the key stops when necessary and that’s really what’s most important.
Fun Fact: The Penguins have not lost a playoff series under their new coach and they won the Stanley Cup the last two times they beat the Capitals in the second round.
Prediction: Although the Senators have had a pretty nice run so far, it’s mostly due to being lucky by way of seeding and in game luck. At some point the luck will run out. Now is when that happens. The Penguins are so deep that taking away one or two players, or having them struggle, doesn’t really mean much. Their defense has been surprisingly good too. The Penguins in six.
P1 Anaheim Ducks vs. W2 Nashville Predators
Season Series: 2-1 Ducks
Playoff Series History: 2-0 Predators
What We Learned: The Ducks can finally win a Game 7 at home and the Predators have the least amount of losses so far.
Stars to Watch: Ryan Getzlaf has still been playing at a high level but he was largely absent the last two games. Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell round out the scoring. The Predators still get about half of their offensive from the blueline. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi lead them from there. Up front, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen lead the way. Somewhat surprisingly, Viktor Arvidsson has struggled. If he can find his game, it would be a big boon to the Predators.
X-Factor: The Predators breakaways were pretty bad against Blues and I still wonder about the Ducks young defensive core. Whoever takes advantages of their breakaways better, will swing the series in their favor.
Goalie Problem: Pekka Rinne has been on fire, with the lowest SV% and GAA in the playoffs so far. On the other hand, John Gibson has been a mixed back in this playoffs and pretty much in every playoff he has played in. That might be a problem since Rinne is really consistent.
Fun Fact: The Ducks have an atrocious 69% penalty kill in the playoffs.
Prediction: This was almost a first round match-up. And regardless of the round it happens in, it’s hard for me to pick the Ducks. They lost the last two times they faced the Predators in the playoffs and they were terrible in their last three playoff games. On top of that, Gibson hasn’t looked all that great and Rinne has. The Predators are pretty much rolling and they are hungry. Predators in six or seven.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.