WNBA Semi-finals Predictions 2017

By S. Samek

Play off dust is starting to settle after the chase for spots.

Actually, they have played two rounds and the semifinals sit before us.

Battle number one is between the off-season winner’s Washington and the favorites from Minnesota. Washington got to this point with victories over Dallas and fourth seeded New York. Minnesota dominated this season earning the number one seed and a double bye into the semi-finals.

In the season series, the Lynx took all three meetings. Most recently the two played on September third, an 86-72 Lynx victory.
Taking a look at the matchup that features a lot of star power. Minnesota will go with Mya Moore, Sylvia Fowles and Lindsey Whalen. The Mystics counter with Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver and Emma Messman.

Delle Donne scores at will averaging 19.7 points per game. Moore does too with 17.3 points per game. Though she does seem to elevate her game against Washington averaging 21.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. All of Moore’s other stats also improve vs. the Mystics as well.

Delle Donne missed a good bit of time this season with an injury, but has come to life in the playoffs, averaging 21.5 points and 10.5 boards.
Toliver adds three point shooting ability, including nine as part of a 32-point night against NY. Plus, she was a part of last season title winning LA Sparks, who beat the Lynx.
Fowles should be able to offer a 1-2 punch with Moore in scoring. She scores at a 18.9 points per game pace and controls the glass with 10.4 rebounds. Minnesota should be tough to stop offensively if both of them click.

I think the Lynx are favorites for a reason. They win games and titles like it’s their job. This experience should help against a Washington team that has never played for a title and has a 6-18 playoff record coming into this season.

Prediction is Lynx in thr.

Second Semi-final

The second semi-final is the two seeded LA Sparks and the Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury beat Seattle and Then upset Conneticut to advance to this round as the five seed. The defending champions come in at the number two position and earned a double-bye.
The season series was swept by LA. Though Phoenix kept in close in the first game of the series, losing by just a basket.

Though the last time these two met in the playoffs in 2014 it was the Mercury who survived.

LA is looking to Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike to led the way. Parker averaged 16.9 points per game and Ogwumike 18.8.

Phoenix will look to Britney Griner to led the way. Griner is the playoff scoring leader, averaging 24.5 points per game. This is over her 21.9 points per game regular season average, also tops in the league.

Diana Taurasi will complement Griner. Taurasi averaged 17.9 points per game during the regular season. She is also the WNBA all-time leader in three pointers made.

Phoenix can score a lot, but will it be enough to beat LA.
LA should lean on the experience of last year’s win. They are a formidable  team, having beaten a possible dynasty in Minnesota last season. They aren’t going to bow out early if they can help it. Phoenix may keep it close, but ultimately should falter. Sparks 3-1 is my prediction.

 

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WNBA Playoff Chase 2017

Teams fighting for positions in close race as season expires.

By S. Samek

It’s the heat of the WNBA season. Eight teams enter the playoffs and spots are still up for grabs. Not many though as five of eight teams have punched a ticket to the Tournament.

The 2016 champions LA Sparks sit in the two seed with a mark of 21-8 so far. Ahead of them is their nemesis from the championship series last year the Minnesota Lynx at 22-6.

The Conneticut Sun have the bronze medal seed after a 19-10 record to date. Following them at number four is the League’s hottest team with five wins in a row, The New York Liberty.
In fifth it’s the off-season sighing winners the Washington Mystics. Though both the Liberty and Mystics sport identical 17-12 records.

Phoenix, Seattle and Dallas would round out the eight if the season where over. Chicago and Atlanta are chasing spots, but it doesn’t look good for either team. Atlanta has to be the coldest team in the league, having lost nine in a row.

San Antonio and Indiana have been eliminated from playoff contention. Both teams have won fewer than ten games. Atlanta has ten wins, but with the landslide at which they are headed I see their elimination coming swiftly.
The Sky have a bit of a challenge to get in as well. With a tough final five game slate. The Sky has to play all teams ahead of them in the standings, including Minnesota. They sit three games out of a playoff spot so, they may have to win out with help to get in.
The last three in at the moment should have a leg up on getting in. Seattle and Dallas sit just a game behind Phoenix. Though they each have a three-game lead up on Chicago. Lucky for these teams with the new playoff system in place, it won’t be a don’t finish eighth and get smashed by one last season’s finalists in the first-round situation. Though they still have to win four series to win it all as a five through eight seed.
Look for any head to head matchups down the stretch to settle seeding. The most intriguing of which would be the 1-2 rematch between LA and Minnesota. On August 27,2017. With LA a game behind the Lynx, who have a game an extra game left to play, this is a can’t miss matchup.
Be sure to check out the rest of the season’s sure to be clutch action. See you in the playoffs.

 

Stanley Cup Final 2017

By S. Samek

Here we go. From 16 teams, down to two in the NHL playoffs. It’s the surprise Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Penguins looking to go back to back in winning Stanley Cups, while the Predators look for their first.

Nashville stunned Chicago in round one, before beating St. Louis and Anaheim. Pittsburgh run to the cup went through Columbus, Washington and Ottawa.

This could be the most interring series yet. During the season, the Pens and Preds have split their two games. The home team took the victory in each game. Nashville outscored Pittsburgh seven five in those two meetings.

 

Though offense may be hard to come by in this series. Nashville is the top team in goals against average in the playoffs with a 1.81 mark. Having only surrendered 29 goals.

 

 Big reason for this is goaltender Pekka Rinne. Rinne has the top playoff marks for save percentage with .941 and wins with 12. Combine that with a 1.70 GAA and you have a brick wall.

The goalie tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray should also make it difficult for Nashville to score. Fleury has a 2.56 gaa and a .924 save percentage while picking up nine wins. Both Fleury and Rinne have posted two shutouts during the playoffs.

Though Rinne will be tested. The Penguins lead in goals per game with 3.05. This is highlighted by Jake Geuntzal’s nine playoff tallies. Evgeni Malkin is the playoffs leading scorer by points with 24.  Back him up with ESPN ranked number one player in this series Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel and there is no shortage of threats to light the lamp.

Nashville will look to Filip Forsberg to score with his team best eight goals and 15 points during the playoffs.

Though it may be close in goaltending it isn’t close in experience. The Penguins boast 156 games of Stanley Cup Experience, with 19 goals scored and 24 winners of the Stanley Cup. The Predators have no Stanley Cup winners, 2 goals scored and a mere five games played in the cup. Note that doesn’t include the injured Chris Letang for Pittsburgh.

 

This is the third time the Penguins have played in back to bac finals. The first in 1991 and 1992 in which they won both. Then in 2008 and 2009 they split two finals with Detroit, but won the second of the two.  On top of that the Penguins have been the dominant team in the playoffs the past 10 years ranking first or second in Stanley Cup finals appreances, wins and playoff wins.  Throw in the home ice advantage of gold standard mark 481 consecutive sell outs and Nashville is in for a brutal fight.

Nashville will take at least one game, maybe two. You don’t sweep a Chicago team, built very much like Pittsburgh in terms of star power, and not feel confident. I wouldn’t say it was luck as Nashville followed it up by beating St. Louis and Anaheim too, both times presumably as the underdog.

This could be a cause where if Pittsburgh underestimates them and comes out flat it could be in for a surprise. Much like the series against Ottawa that should on paper have been domination. Pittsburgh’s star power and experience has the ability to win this in quick fashion. They just need to play like it.

Bold prediction is Pens in 5. Realistic is Pens in 6. Though I would venture to say a game seven would be incredibly interesting and would be anyone’s to take.  This series is the rubber match from the regular season with so much more on the line. Looking for both teams to come out hungry and have this be an intense final. One that should end with Crosby hoisting his third cup and adding to his legacy.

Not even this viral video with catchy tune will stop Pittsburgh.

 

 

Pens Playoffs Round Two 2017

By S. Samek

After dispatching Columbus in five games the Pittsburgh Penguins eagerly awaited the conclusion of The Washington Capitals and Toronto. Toronto made its first time in the playoffs in a while a short one, being overmatched by the President’s trophy winner in six games.

Cue the Déjà vu. Penguins and Capitals for the past two season meeting in round two of the NHL playoffs. Pittsburgh walking away with the series victory last season in addition to winning eight of nine playoff meetings between the two.

During the season, Washington took the season series 2-0-2 during their 55-win campaign.  Though the Pens earned 50 wins of their own in route to the runner up spot in the Metropolitan division.

The Stars are display in this one. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ready to role for Pittsburgh against the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Jake Geuentzel stepped up against Columbus with five goals and is your playoff goal scoring leader. Malkin’s 11 points is tops in playoff points.

 

Though the possibly overlooked stars are the goaltenders. Marc-Andre Fleury is stepping up after the injury to Matt Murrary. Fleury contributed a 2.52 goals-against average and .933 save percentage against Columbus. Fleury’s has also led the Pens to an addition cup win and a finals appearance and is showing veteran leadership.

Washington has Brandon Holtby between the pipes. Holtby led the league in regular season wins with 42 and nine shutouts. He did this while contributing a .925 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average. All of these numbers put him in the top five statistically for regular season play.

 

Though the biggest question is can the Capitals break through and stop the trend of the Presidents trophy winner begin ousted. Can they fight back after last year’s series loss? Does the Penguin’s all-time series domination come into play. How much will the Penguin’s playoff experience and four cups matter against the Capitols?

I would say that experience should hold a small advantage, but not a big one. Anything can happen in the playoffs. Nashville told that to Chicago this season. Washington is a good team. You don’t put up the best regular season mark if you’re not a good team.  Give the Caps a small advantage there and for a 2-0 season series advantage.

This one is going seven games. Anything else should be a disappointment. Two talented teams that are playing in a faux Stanly Cup as the winner of this series is being a popular pick to win it all.

The only four times the Pittsburgh has hoisted the cup it went through Washington. Does this happen again. I think so Pens in seven games is my prediction.

 

Penguins playoffs 2017 Round One

Pens and Blue Jackets open up first round.

By S Samek.

82 Games led up to this. It’s the NHL playoffs. In the first round, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s a revenge matchup from 2014 when The Penguins dispatched Columbus in six games.

During the course of the year each team went 2-1-1 against each other. Though the Penguins used some better play in the last 21 games of the season to best Columbus after being tied at 86 points through 61 games. The Penguins produced a 12-6-3 record while Columbus went 11-8-2. Giving the Penguins the two seed and home ice in the first round. Worth noting is the Pens beat the Jackets 4-1 in Pittsburgh the last time these teams met on April 4th,2017.

Why the Pens lose. Defense and injuries. The loss of Kris Letang will hurt a lot.

 As will the rotating carousel of defenders the Penguins used this season.  This could put stress on the goaltenders and led to disaster.

Though the Goalies should be able to hold their own. Even if Matt Murray starts over Marc-Andre Fleury. Murray went 32-10-4 this season with a 2.41 goals against average and .923 save percentage, which was eighth best in the league.

 Fleury backed him up going 18-10-7 this season with a 3.02 gaa and .909 save percentage in 38 games with 34 starts.

Columbus also has a strong goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky went 41-17-5 with a 2.06 gaa and .931 save percentage, which was the league leader in save percentage and gaa.   Bobrovsky was also number two in the league win wins behind Braden Holtby and Cam Talbot.

Though NHL goal leader Sidney Crosby and his 44 tallies are shooting at him. As is Evgeni Malkin and his 33 goals and Phil Kessel and Connor Shery with 23 goals apiece. The Penguins offense is definitely enough to give any goalie nightmares even the best in the league.

I think experience will also play a role in this series. The Penguins are coming off a cup run. Columbus hasn’t made the playoffs sense 2014. The Pens have also made the playoffs 11 years in a row with two cup wins and another finals appearance. It’s just hard to beat the experience and winning tradition the Penguins have.

I think home ice for the Pens will help too. The last two times these teams played in Pittsburgh The Pens won. The trend for the season series is the home team winning, so if the trend stays its Pens 4-3. Both teams play well at home though with the Blue Jackets sporting a 28-12-1 mark at home, while Pittsburgh is 31-6-4. I would say that’s a home ice advantage for sure.

 

I would say that Columbus is on the upswing, and would win a playoff series if given a better match up. They finished third in a tough Metropolitan division. If the current system wasn’t in place they don’t have a harder first round matchup than they deserve. Though the weaker stretch run than the Pens have put them in the position to win from the lower seed. Though I wouldn’t count it as an upset if the Blue Jackets win.

They won’t however. I’m taking the Pens in six games to win the series. Offense and a solid two goalie system with experience in the playoffs paying off.