Now the real fun starts! With a decent look at the first round and how teams are shaping up, I'm going to enter my predictions for the rest of the playoffs.
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 6 Carolina
Prediction - Boston in Six
Boston is dominant, and with a first round sweep under their belts, you have to believe their confidence is running high. Confidence should also be high for Carolina who pulled off quite an upset in the final 80 seconds of game seven vs. the New Jersey Devils. Boston will take the first two games, games three and four will be split, Carolina will steal a game in Boston in OT, before heading home and being shut down in game six. Everything is just clicking for Boston this year, and this series shouldn't offer much shock value.
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh
Prediction - Washington in Five
Unless the NHL rigs this series to last seven games, Washington shouldn't have too much trouble with Pittsburgh. You can talk Crosby and Malkin for hours, but I personally don't believe in any sort of depth that Pittsburgh claims to have. Washington hammered New York through the first round with a phenomenal fore check, and this will trouble the Penguins defense. Fleury will still look good in this series, but he will not be able to steal the show from Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals.
No. 1 Boston vs No. 2 Washington
Prediction - Boston in Seven
How simple to pick the top two seeds right? Well, I just know there is a good reason these two teams played well all season. Washington doesn't have an ounce of quit in them, and they will push every game to its limit. However, Varlamov will start to show his inexperience by this point in the playoffs. Boston will take full advantage of every youthful mistake the Capitals make, and find themselves coming out on top.
No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 8 Anaheim
Prediction - Detroit in Seven
In some ways Anaheim is a better team than when they won the Stanley Cup, and that has shown in their first round upset of the President's Trophy winning San Jose Sharks. Detroit is one the best looking defending Stanley Cup Champions in a long time. This is going to be a good series, not for flashy goal scoring, not for ridiculous highs and lows, but because it will be good old fashioned hockey. Anaheim is going to bump and bruise Detroit; Detroit is going skate hard and use every inch of the ice. In the end, Detroit has the skill and experience to repeat as Stanley Cup champions and their journey won't end in this series.
No. 3 Vancouver vs. No. 4 Chicago
Prediction - Chicago in Six
Vancouver has one of the best goalies going, and a very solid defense that will put a wall in front of the young Blackhawks. However, the Blackhawks seem to run so deep, that it would seem impossible that Vancouver would even have enough defensemen to keep a constant watch on them. This is going to be a close series, and I feel almost wrong predicting on it, because, in my opinion, whichever team does come out on top will be going on to win the Stanley Cup finals.
No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 4 Chicago
Prediction - Chicago in Seven
This series will almost certainly come down to goal-tending, and I will always give the edge in goal-tending to Khabibulin. Detroit will run into a similar problem with Chicago, in trying to contain their depth, which will only push the series further because of their own offensive threat, a threat that Vancouver simply couldn't offer Chicago.
Stanley Cup Finals
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 4 Chicago
Prediction - Chicago in Seven
Boston has had an unbelievable season; it's definitely been a shock to a lot of people to see their dominance. Chicago seemed destined going into the season, this was their eventual RIGHT, and they will just realize it earlier than many predicted. It's because of these two factors that Boston will see its game start to crack. I imagine a few players will pick up the "yips" and just lose their game for no apparent reason. Chicago will feel their destiny ever so close and unlike the Penguins before them, they won't let it slip away.