2011 NHL Playoffs: Updated Odds to Win the Stanley Cup
Now that the first round is over it is time to review the rankings of the teams left in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The playoffs are normally full of upsets, however that was not the case this year. While both No. 5 seeds were able to win, those are hardly considered upsets. The top three seeds in each division made it to the second round. That is only the second time in ten years that this has happened.
No. 8 Philadelphia
The Flyers earn this spot because they have no idea who will be their goalie for any one game, let alone the series.
In the first round series against Buffalo they played three different goalies, yet somehow won in seven games. It was the first time since 1988 that a team has played that many goalies and still won.
This is the second year in a row that they have juggled goalies. Last year they were able to make it to the Finals, however, that magic will not happen again.
Their power play was a bad 14.5 percent in the first round, and that causes concern as they continue in these playoffs.
Now this is a team with plenty of talent. Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Jeff Carter can score at any time. Players such as Ville Leino have really stepped it up in the playoffs. If Chris Pronger can return from injury, then their defense will see a big lift.
The main issue against them is their huge question in net.
No. 7 Boston
One would think that with the seventh and eighth teams playing each other this round that at least one would be ranked higher than this. Logically, one of them is guaranteed to be one step closer to the championship.
However, between the weaknesses on these teams combined with the strength of the rest, they land in the bottom spots.
As bad as Philadelphia’s power play was, Boston’s was even worse. They went a shocking 0 for 21 in their first round series win over Montreal.
They did show fight in the series as they lost their first two games at home, yet still came back to win the series.
That is important, as they watched Philly blow past them last year after they had a 3-0 lead against them. They became only the third team to lose a series after taking a 3-0 lead. That will play heavily on their minds this year as they will want revenge.
Despite Philly having more offensive talent, Boston gets the nod over them in the rankings for two reasons. The first is the revenge factor mentioned earlier, the second reason is Tim Thomas.
With Philly not knowing who will be in goal, the difference is even more obvious. Thomas led the league this year with a 2.00 goals against average and a .938 save percentage.
It will be hard to match his regular season stats, but anything close should be good enough to get Boston through this round.
No. 6 Nashville
Nashville is the new kid on the block, as they have never been to the second round in their team’s history. They will have a tough second round matchup against Vancouver.
Nashville is very good on defense as they have Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber patrolling the blue line and Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne guarding the net.
For most of the season Nashville had trouble scoring goals and had to rely heavily on their defense and goaltending to keep them in games. The last month of the season saw an uptick in offensive output that they were able to continue through their first round series.
Oddly enough, their defense and goalie play performed well below their season standards in the first round. Despite that, they were still able to beat Anaheim in six games.
Their recent surge in goals will need to continue if they are going to have any hope against Vancouver. Also Rinne and their defense will need to return to their regular season form, and fast.
No. 5 Tampa Bay
The top five teams are all pretty strong, and it would not be a surprise to see any of them win the Cup.
Dwayne Roloson played amazing in their first round series win over Pittsburg. At 41, his 1.77 goals against average is second among full time goalies in the first round.
Since being traded to Tampa midway through the season, he was been very up and down. In his first 13 games with the team he had an impressive four shutouts. Over those same 13 games he also let in four or more goals five times, including a seven-goal game.
While he has played great so far, one has to wonder when the other side of Roloson will appear.
Offensively, the Lightning have some of the best scorers in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Stamkos finished the season second in goals and St. Louis second in points.
Despite this, the team can be very up and down. In the first round they got shut out in one game, then turned around to score five in the next game. They followed that up with back to back two-goal games, then exploded with eight goals in a game where they faced elimination.
Between the up and down goalie play and hit or miss offense, there are just too many variables to rank this team any higher.
No. 4 San Jose
San Jose is trying to overcome a franchise history full of playoff failures. They have won six division titles and one President's Trophy and yet have never been to a Stanley Cup Final.
In their history, they have pulled off two of the biggest playoff upsets, winning as a No. 8 seed over President Trophy winners. As the favorite though they have struggled.
They have a deep team, with consistent scoring from three lines. They have great balance, as they are sixth in goals scored and eighth in goals allowed. Seven players scored at least 20 goals, led by Patrick Marleau’s 37 goals.
They do have last year’s Stanley Cup winning goalie in Antti Niemi. Having a battle tested goalie is priceless, however Niemi has struggled so far in these playoffs.
He was pulled twice during the first round, including Game 5 where he didn’t even play nine minutes. By the time Game 6 came, the starting job was open. Niemi got the nod and came through and helped secure the series-clinching win for the team.
They should have rolled easily over the overmatched LA Kings in the first round, however it took six games. Three of their wins happened in overtime.
Did they play down to the Kings? Were they looking ahead to a second round rematch with Detroit, or is the playoff pressure going to be too much for the Sharks yet again?
These questions break the near-tie among the top four teams and lands them here.
No. 3 Detroit
The Detroit Red Wings have experience that no other team can match, and they also are deeper than any team. What holds them back from ranking higher is goal play and defense.
Jimmy Howard played decent during the season, but not as good as last year. His first round series this year against Phoenix was better than his performance last season against them.
While the Wings do not expect Howard to shut out every team or stand on his head as other teams do, they do need to be a solid, consistent presence in net. At times he has been everything the Wings need, and at others he has not.
When faced with free agency this year the Wings only signed him for two years instead of the longer deal that most people expected. Are they not 100 percent sold on him yet?
This was only the second time in 10 years that the Wings were not in the top 10 on defense. Oddly enough, the other year that they did not make it was 2008, when they won the Cup.
Overall though, one does not want to rely on a weak defense. Especially when teams like San Jose and Vancouver will be in their way.
They were the second-highest scoring team this year. What makes that even more impressive is the amount of injuries that they overcame to score that many goals. Of their top six scorers, only one played more than 76 games.
The team is led by Selke finalist Pavel Datsyuk, Norris finalist Nicklas Lidstrom and all around super hero Henrik Zetterberg. Depth comes from players like Darren Helm, Thomas Holmstrom and Dan Cleary, each of whom provides a valuable boost to the team.
If their defense can rise to the occasion, then Detroit could easily be hoisting the Cup in a few weeks.
No. 2 Vancouver
The Canucks had one of the most impressive seasons in NHL history. They led the league in goals for, against and power play and were second in penalty kill. That type of all around dominance had them as the clear favorites to finally win it all this year when the playoffs started.
Their first round series against Chicago showed some holes in the Canucks game. After jumping out to a 3-0 series lead, they fell apart for the next three games. They were shut out in Game 5, which came on the heels of giving up seven goals in Game 4.
Despite the struggle in the first round, this team is too potent to discount their season. The Sedin brothers have taken turns leading the league in scoring the past two seasons and they give opposing defenses nightmares. Match them with Ryan Kessler and it almost seems unfair to all be on one team.
On defense they are one of the deepest teams with Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo leading the way.
In net, they have Roberto Luongo, who played great during the season. His playoff performances in Game 4 and Game 5 led him to being benched for the start of Game 6. Despite playing and winning Game 7, one has to wonder how long the struggles of the first round will stay with him.
No. 1 Washington
Washington went through a transformation this year. Once one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL, they changed gears this year, going with a defensive approach.
Alex Ovechkin bought into this new system and became a very good two-way player. Many wondered if once the playoffs started he would revert to his old way.
In the first round series against the Rangers, he continued his strong two-way play. His metamorphosis is reminiscent of what Steve Yzerman did in the mid 1990’s.
Once a high scoring player himself, he too was convinced to play a two-way game and quickly became one of the top defensive forwards. That change helped start the run of Red Wing Stanley Cup championships.
Ovechkin is following in Yzerman’s footsteps and so far, he’s been doing a great job. He can still be the scoring force that he has always been, but now he doesn’t ignore his defensive responsibilities.
Often considered in the discussion as to who is the best player in the NHL, Ovechkin has lamented that you can’t be considered if you haven’t won a championship. With his nemesis, Sydney Crosby, winning the championship two years ago, Ovechkin has gone all out to finally win his first.
The Caps have a very young defensive duo in John Carlson and Karl Alzner, ages 21 and 22 respectively. Despite their youth, these two have greatly stepped up this year and helped the team become the fourth ranked defense.
Michal Neuvirth is in net, and if the first round is any indication he will be there a long time. Granted, the Rangers are nowhere near what he will face in Round 2, but his dominant performance will give him great confidence as this team continues playing.
With all the young players playing in such big roles, one has to wonder if they have enough experience, not only to play but to handle to pressure that comes with each passing series.