NHL Playoffs: Handicapping the Second Round
With the hunt for the Stanley Cup whittled to eight teams, it's do-or-die time in the NHL. Here, Bleacher Report's Francois Gendron sizes up the second round action.
Detroit Red Wings (1) v. San Jose Sharks (5)
The Detroit Red Wings finished first in the Western Conference and defeated the Calgary Flames in six games during the first round. Offensively, the Wings can count on Niklas Lidstrom (two goals and six assists against the Flames), Pavel Datsyuk (three goals and two assists), and Johan Franzen (two goals and three assists). The Wings also have Dominik Hasek in net and a well-balanced team on the ice offense and defense, youth and experience.
The San Jose Sharks finished fifth in the West before defeating the Nashville Predators in five quick games during the first round. Offensively, Patrick Marleau registered three goals and three assists. Joe Thornton had six assists but still only has one career playoff goal. Craig Rivet, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens during the season, is the most productive San Jose defenseman thus far in the playoffs with two goals and three assists.
The Sharks have already gone farther than I expected them to, but they're facing a very good team in the Red Wings. I doubt they can steal more than two games.
Prediction: Detroit in 6
Anaheim Ducks (2) v. Vancouver Canucks (3)
The Anaheim Ducks rode the momentum from a second-place finish in the Western Conference to a five-game, defense-driven defeat of the Minnesota Wild in the first round. The Ducks' main offensive weapons in the postseason have been Chris Pronger, who registered two goals and four assists against the Wild, and Ryan Getzlaf, who tallied two goals and three assists. Jean-Sebastien Giguere will mind Anaheim's net and is among the best goaltenders in the league.
The Vancouver Canucks finished third in the conference and defeated the Dallas Stars in seven games during the first round. The offense in that series came mostly from Taylor Pyatt and Trevor Linden, who posted two goals and three assists apiece. Against the Ducks, they'll get help from Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Brenden Morrison, and Markus Naslund and goaltender Roberto Luongo, who's no less talented than Giguere.
Prediction: Vancouver in 6 (...only because they're Canadian.)
Buffalo Sabres (1) v. New York Rangers (6)
The Buffalo Sabres finished first in the Eastern Conference this season and will benefit from home ice advantage during the duration of the 2007 playoffs. The Sabres defeated the New York Islanders in five games in the first round.
The short first round series means Buffalo will be fresh for the Conference Semifinals. Chris Drury has four goals and one assist so far in the playoffs, while Daniel Briere has one goal and four assists and Dainius Zubrus has five assists.
The New York Rangers finished in sixth place during the regular season and swept the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round. On the attack side, the Rangers are in good shape: Michael Nylander notched four goals and four assists in only four games; Jaromir Jagr had two goals and five assists; Sean Avery, one goal and four assists.
This series will be an exciting one, as Avery promised the Buffalo players that he'll be very physical with them. Both teams have decent offensive power, with a small advantage to the Sabres on the defensive side of the ice. Expect hard-fought, high-intensity games.
Prediction: Buffalo in 6
New Jersey Devils (2) v. Ottawa Senators (4)
The New Jersey Devils finished second in the East before eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games during the first round of the playoffs. The team's success depends on their defense and goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Patrik Elias (one goal and six assists against Tampa), Zach Parise (six goals), and Brian Gionta (five goals and one assist) are the Devils' main offensive weapons.
The Ottawa Senators finished fourth in the Conference and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games during the first round. Daniel Alfredsson led the offensive charge with three goals and three assists, while Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza chipped in two goals and two assists apiece.
Don't expect a quick series here both teams are ready for a fight. The home ice advantage may help the Devils , but Ottawa's attack should be strong enough to win out.
Prediction: Ottawa in 6
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