Western Conference#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Season Series: 3-1 Red Wings
San Jose Preview
Well as the #1 seed, the Sharks made it past the first round. And considering San Jose's past history and seeing what happened to the Capitals, getting to the second round is definitely something to be proud of. The Avalanche played the Sharks tough and gave them a good battle last week and that certainly bodes well for the Sharks because the Red Wings are going to be an even tougher opponent. Joe Pavelski led San Jose in goals last round with five and Evgeni Nabokov looked sharp against Colorado with a 1.76 GAA. Joe Thorton has yet to heat up yet either--he didn't score a goal in the first round and is a -4. The Sharks are looking to get back to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2004, can they do it?
Detroit has been here before--they've been to the Stanley Cup Finals the past two seasons and upended the Sharks in the second round back in 2007. Jimmy Howard was superb in game seven against Phoenix stopping 32 of 33 shots but was only average in the series as a whole (2.59 GAA and a .919 SV%). Henrik Zetterberg is tied for second in the playoffs in both points (11) and goals (7). The Wings showed why they've been to the Cup two years in a row--they have that extra gear that few playoff teams have. But can they rev it up again after a grueling series against the Coyotes?
Prediction: Detroit wins the series in 7
#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks
Season Series: Tied 2-2
The Blackhawks are Barry Melrose's so-called "team of destiny." They won game five against the Predators in stunning fashion by pulling the goalie while on a five minute penalty kill and scoring with 0:14 left on the clock to tie the game. They killed off Marian Hossa's major penalty in overtime and he is the one who netted the game winner 4:07 into the first OT--his first of this postseason. Antti Niemi was solid in his first playoff series with a 2.15 GAA. Jonathan Toews showed why he's the captain of the Hawks by leading the team in scoring with eight points. Is Chicago a "team of destiny," who knows? Does Barry Melrose have the greatest mullet and goatee of all time? That we do know.
Well the Sedin twins are at it again. Daniel has 10 points and four goals while Henrik has eight points and seven helpers. And they're not even the team's top scorers; Mikael Samuelsson is leading the team in scoring with 11 points. The shakiest player on the Canucks may have been in goal in the form of 2010 Olympic gold-medalist Roberto Luongo. He was pulled in game three in favor of Andrew Raycroft. He did settle down later in the series and came up with some huge saves in game six to clinch the win for Vancouver.
I want to pick the Canucks here, I really do. But I just don't know if I have the guts to do it...
Prediction: Chicago wins the series in 7
Eastern Conference#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Season Series: 3-1 Pittsburgh
The Penguins got past the first round after a tough battle with the Ottawa Senators . Some say the Sens lost the series more than the Pens won it, but Pittsburgh is in the semifinals and Ottawa isn't and that's really all that matters. Sidney Crosby showed why he is one of the best forwards in the game by leading the league in playoff scoring with 14 points. Perennial playoff scoring machine Max Talbot did little in the first round as did goaltender Marc-André Fleury. He had a 2.75 GAA and a .890 SV%. He let in a few softies in both Pittsburgh losses in the series and if the Penguins want to advance to the Conference Finals for the third straight year, Fleury needs to be better.
Who beat the Washington Capitals? No, it wasn't the Montreal Canadiens; it was Jaroslav Halak. He made 131 saves on 134 shots in the series' final three games. He was without a doubt the team's MVP. Mike Cammalleri led the Habs in points with five goals and five assists but was a -4. If Montreal wants to have any chance of beating the Penguins they're going to need Halak to have a repeat performance. What also bodes well for the Canadiens is the fact that Washington and Pittsburgh are built very similarly. Neither team has a huge defense and most of their scoring lies within the top two lines. Once again, I want to pick Montreal to upset the Pens, but I don't think I can do it.
Prediction: Pittsburgh win the series in 7
#6 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers
Season Series: Tied 2-2
Another big upset in the East turned out to be the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres. Not many people gave the Bruins a chance over Ryan Miller and the Sabres, but they got it done. Like Philadelphia, Boston is missing some key players--Defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart. The Bruins have good scoring depth; no one on the team has more than five points and veteran Mark Recchi shared the team lead in goals with three. Tuukka Rask was up to the challenge against Buffalo and had a better GAA (2.18) and SV% (.927) than U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller. Boston will be getting injured forward Marc Savard back in the lineup for this series as well. Can the Bruins have a repeat performance of the Winter Classic here in the spring?
Much like the Canadiens, the Flyers series MVP was their goaltender Brian Boucher. He leads this year's playoff goalies with a .940 SV% and a 1.59 GAA. He made key stops when the team needed them and kept the large rebounds to a minimum. He also played very well against the Bruins the two times he played them in the regular season (1.35 GAA and a .949 SV%).The Flyers are without forwards Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and penalty-killer extraordinaire Ian Laperriere. Captain Mike Richards was the teams playoff scoring leader (8 pts), but sophomore forward Claude Giroux was arguably the best skater for the Flyers. This looks like a rematch of the Bruins/Flyers games from the early 70s. The Flyers haven't played a playoff game in Boston since 1978 and they're 0-5 in playoff games in Boston since 1976. The Bruins are, like in the first round with the Devils, the best opponent Philadelphia could have hoped for. Can they come up with another playoff upset?
Prediction: Philadelphia wins the series in 6