After starting off poorly in the first round — going 4 – 4 or exactly what a coin flip would give you — I did much better in the second round, going 3 – 1 and ending on a 7 – 5 record, which means that if I get even one more series right I’ll be guaranteed to be above .500.
Also note that this year I added a category that tracks how many times the team that had home ice advantage wins the series in this year. I was inspired to do this after noting that a number of them did seem to win their series or at least be winning it, and wondered if the much lauded “parity” was still everything it was made out to be. In the first round, teams with home ice advantage went 5 – 3, but only 2 – 2 this round, which means that they have a 7 – 5 record.
Thus, if I hadn’t even bothered to think about any of this at all, and had just chosen each team with home ice advantage, I’d’ve had the same record. Huh.
Anyway, these match-ups are what you want in the semi-finals in you’re a hockey fan, and thus what you don’t want if you’re trying to predict who will win: the series are really too close to call.
Pittsburgh vs Tampa Bay: So, here’s the dilemma here. Tampa Bay has been playing without one of if not its best player with the injury to Steven Stamkos, which leaves, in theory, a big hole to fill in their line-up. For Pittsburgh, even though Crosby and Malkin were underwhelming against Washington, they are in the line-up, have been playing, and could take over the series at any moment. Even if Stamkos comes back, he’s not likely to be in top form and so may not have the impact Tampa would like. On the other hand, Pittburgh has been playing Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury is just recently back on the bench and hasn’t played in quite a while, so their goaltending is suspect, while Tampa can rely on Ben Bishop.
What makes things really difficult to predict here is that both of these teams have had these issues throughout the entire playoffs, and have managed to overcome them and, in fact, to do so relatively handily. Tampa is getting great performances from their secondary players, while Matt Murray has outduelled stronger goaltenders to win series. So we have two teams with what look like glaring weaknesses that haven’t been weaknesses for them throughout the entire playoffs.
I’ve been betting against Matt Murray the entire playoffs so far. Have I learned my lesson? Well … no. The issue here is that if Tampa Bay can get into Murray’s head or pick up tendencies and exploit them, Pittsburgh is likely finished, while if Stamkos comes back that will likely only help Tampa Bay. So I’m going to go with the established goalie again this round.
Prediction: Tampa Bay
San Jose vs St. Louis: Here, we have two teams that have become known for underachieving in the playoffs, and that even this year have not looked like exceptionally solid teams, both flirting with upsets at times. One of them is going to have to actually win this series, and both of them are clearly capable of winning it all or handing it to the opposing team.
It’s a tough decision to make, but I think I’m going to go with St. Louis here.
Prediction: St. Louis
Pittsburgh vs Tampa Bay Incorrect
St. Louis vs San Jose Incorrect
Overall Record: 7 – 7
Home Ice Advantage Team Record: 8 – 6