Well I fell a bit short of the mark last year – I got 6 out of 8 which isn’t terrible, but it still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. One wrong in each conference, I demand a recount! Well, okay, not really, but let’s see how I can do with the second round of playoff action.
#1 Montreal Canadians v. #6 Philadelphia Flyers
I didn’t give Biron enough credit. After years of watching him play for Buffalo I remember his tendancy to blow the big moments and become unraveled. For the most part he held together in the series against Washington, and the boys up front got the job done. Now the Flyers have to face Montreal who came through their series by the skin of their teeth – much like Philly they almost blew what seemed like an unstoppable push through the first round. Montreal’s rookie goaltender (Carey Price) did everything but score a goal of his own in their game 7 thrashing of the Bruins. Offensively they’ve got the momentum on their side, but sadly they’ve shown how quick they are to give up that momentum. In order to get past Philly Montreal will have to get under Biron’s skin – look for an agressive attack right out the gate. However, assuming Biron continues playing to the level he played in the first round, Philly’s size, experience, and big guns are going to prove too tough for Montreal to handle in the long run. Daniel Briere has been a goal scoring machine. He leads the playoffs in both goals and overall points. He’s going to be too much for Montreal’s rookie netminder to handle. Philly takes in six.
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins v. #5 New York Rangers
While half of them can’t slide up to the bar for happy hour, the Pittsbrugh Penguins sure can put the puck in their opponents net. They’re young goaltender is finally coming in to his own as well. This was a team that did nothing but break a lot of hearts last year, but this year it seems to have come together for them and they’re carrying that fast paced style of play right through the playoffs. They’re seeking to prove that in the NHL experience isn’t everything. They’re about to put that to the test because the Rangers have some of the most experienced long lasting players in the game today. Some of these guys put the energizer bunny to shame. For years the Penguins relied on Jagr’s quick hands and aggressive skating to light up the scoreboard, but now they are going to see how the other teams felt with Jagr on the other side of the ice. Add to that Scott Gomez, and hard hitter Sean Avery and you’re starting to look at a lot to contend with. The only potentail soft spot for the Rangers is their goalie, Lundqvist, who hast yet to have a break out playoff performance. He had a good first round and is going to seek to build upon that. To win the Rangers are going to have to turn their physical game up a notch and win every battle in the corner. It’s going to be a tight one, but I stick with the adage that come playoff time experience trumps youth. Rangers in 7.
God, am I really calling a Rangers v. Flyers Conference finals? Wouldn’t that just suck, but that’s what it looks like to me.
#1 Detroit Red Wings v. #6 Colorado Avalanche
This is the kind of game that makes fans of the Western conference all giddy on the inside. Two traditional power houses coming together. Normally this is the type of action reserved for the Conference final, but the Avs had a few hiccups along the way and didn’t finish as strong as one might expect. Still, this series is the kind that could generate a lot of highlight reels. Big names, heavy hitters, and a strong supporting cast. The Red Wings got a special apperance from Chris Osgood who stepped in to relieve the floundering (and lets face it, long since over the hill) Dominik Hasek. Osgood made a great claim on the number one netminder spot by playing some brilliant hockey against a determined Predators squad. Datsyunk, Zetterberg, and Holstrom were insturmental for the Wings, dominating the transitional play and finding the back of the net. On the other end of the ice both Forsberg and Foote proved that they haven’t lost their game quite yet. Both of them put on performances harkening back to previous Avs Stanley Cup victories in the past. Throw in Joe Sakic’s scoring magic and you have what looks like a great lineup on paper. In round one they proved that paper translated to perfection on the ice. Now they have to prove that they have their age won’t compromise their endurance as they are poised to face the best team in the league. Will Detroit fall apart as they have in so many past playoffs, or will they roll four exceedingly talented lines right overtop of the Avs veteran squad? I’m going to say that the stars for Colorado have enough left in them for one more good cup run and that they’ll dispatch Detroit in 6.
#2 San Jose Sharks v. #5 Dallas Stars
Dallas threw me for a loop. They had the Ducks number and held their high flying scorers in check while solving the Giguere riddle. Dallas took advantage of several powerplay opportunities and played a controled game that kept their own players out of the box. They are going to be looking for that same kind of advantage when they face a San Jose team who nearly fell apart in their series against the Calgary Flames. Joe Thorton is going to have to play the defensive series of his career to keep the San Jose big bodies out of the crease. They’re going to need Zubov to stay consistant on offense (especially the power play) if they want to pull off another upset. On the other side of the ice San Jose is going to look to continue is bone crushing, hard hitting style of play. They’re gone to have to pound the Stars defensive with wave after wave of physical, rough and tumble play and create a lot of traffic in front of the net so talent like Marleau, and Cheechoo can put the puck away. Both these players thrive in close quarters and aren’t afraid to take a run at the net. If San Jose can get their act together and keep the penalty minutes down they should be more than enough for the Stars to handle. San Jose wins the series in 6.