By Tomi Rantanen
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Semifinals
he NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have progressed to the semifinal phase, with four teams continuing their journey towards the Stanley Cup final against the best team of Western Conference. No big upsets were witnessed in the first round, albeit our prediction was that Florida would’ve been able to beat New York Islanders. The Islanders eventually turned the series in their favor by three overtime wins, so it was as close as ever. Other three teams progressed as predicted, so we are on the right track.
Here are the Accuscore predictions for the Eastern Conference Semi Finals:
Washington Capitals (1.) – Pittsburgh Penguins (3.)
Penguins will progress with 60.45% probability. The most likely result of the series is 4-2 (19.5%)
On the contrary to the pre-playoffs predictions, now the Accuscore supercomputer favors the high-scoring Penguins over the oddsmakers favorites Capitals, who had surprising problems getting the puck past Flyers red hot goalkeeper Michael Neuvirth. At home Washington is likely to match up well with the Penguins, but it’s predicted that Sidney Crosby and co. manage to sneak a win on the road early on the series to snatch the home advantage and hold it into the sixth game in Pittsburgh.
Simulations suggest a high-scoring and high-octane series with a lot of individual battles, headlined with the reheated Crosby v Ovechkin rivalry. Secondary scoring might prove the key in the series, and Penguins have been able to get support from their bottom six a little bit better than Capitals. So far that is, but we’re looking for the likes of Evgeni Kuznetsov and Justin Williams to pick up the pace as the stakes get higher. It will be a close matchup all in all, and even if the numbers suggest Penguins to proceed to the Conference Finals it would hardly be a surprise if it is Barry Trotz’s Capitals celebrating this time around.
Tampa Bay Lightning (6.) – New York Islanders (WC 1.)
Lightning will progress with 60.0% probability. The most likely result of the series is 4-3 (17.8%)
Last year’s finalists Tampa Bay had no problem ousting Detroit Red Wings in the first round, even with couple of nagging injuries to key players. They’ve shown incredible poise in do-or-die situations, for example scoring the series deciding 1-0 goal in game five less than two minutes left in the regulation. In superstar Steven Stamkos’ absence Nikita Kucherov along with defensive leader Victor Hedman have taken the leader’s responsibilities and have had an excellent post-season so far. Goaltender Ben Bishop kept Lightning alive during hard times against Red Wings and Tampa will lean on him to do the same when the likes of John Tavares break loose.
The Islanders also proved resilient in their series against Florida Panthers and went on to win three games on overtime to oust the Florida team, despite being overwhelmed on ice at times. According to simulations though, they stand little chance against the more experienced and hard-boiled team from Florida, as Tampa Bay is likely to prevail in the end. It’s predicted that the Islanders are able to force a game seven but eventually run out of gas and it will be another deep playoff run for the Lightning.