Well, the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames are cleaning out their lockers, and that can only mean one thing.
The second round of the playoffs is about to begin.
But this isn't meant to be a dig at either organization, or any others that bowed out after the quarterfinals; instead, it's another chance to look ahead. Another chance to grab some bragging rights. Another chance to take a wild guess and giggle like a schoolgirl if, somehow, the stars align and your predictions actually pan out.
Round one went well for me, and after going 6-2, it's time for the second round predictions.
So without further ado, or filler text, on with the predictions for the second round.
(2) Detroit Red Wings Vs. (8) Anaheim Ducks
The first round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs provided plenty of excitement and drama; still, it's tough not be excited about this one, as Detroit and Anaheim will meet up for the second time in the past three years. In their last playoff meeting, the Ducks beat Detroit in the West finals en route to their first Stanley Cup.
That was just the most recent meeting between the two, who have quite the interesting playoff history.
The Red Wings, despite finishing second in the conference, were still looked at by many as the class of the league, and they proved it in round one, dismantling the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets in a four-game sweep. The Ducks, meanwhile, delivered an "upset" of sorts, knocking the Presidents Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks from the playoffs in six games.
The forwards look like they will match up quite well against each other. Ryan Getzlaf has been an early MVP of the postseason, and the Ducks are also getting quality contributions from Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, are likely the deeper of the two at the forward position. Detroit has six forwards playing at a point-a-game pace, and as is their M.O., they got a great scoring balance in the first round to dump the Blue Jackets from the playoffs.
Five of Detroit's six defensemen were able to register at least one point in the four games of the first round, with Brett Lebda being the only Wing left off the score sheet. Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall each had four points in four games, with Brian Rafalski right behind with three.
Anaheim, meanwhile, have the two-headed monster of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, which is being complemented this season by the emergence of Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski, both deadline acquisitions. Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Brookbank round out the top six for Anaheim.
While the defense didn't have too many problems with the Sharks, there is no question Detroit is a deeper, more skilled team, which may be a problem for younger D-men like Wisniewski and Brookbank.
In goal, we have two of the playoff's top goalies who will go head to head. Chris Osgood entered the playoffs under heavy criticism but let his play do the talking.
Osgood was very sharp in three of the four games this round. During the fourth game he seemingly had a meltdown, but an injury may have been nagging him. The Wings are hoping the long rest will do his lower body good. Osgood was having trouble pushing from one side of the net to the other.
Jonas Hiller, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to grab the Ducks' starting spot this year, and once inserted for Game One against San Jose, he never looked back. Hiller has been a great story in the playoffs for Anaheim, posting a goals against of 1.64 and a save percentage of .957.
We're in the second round. There are no choices here. I could just as easily see this series going either way, but in the end, I think Detroit has deeper, more experienced forwards.
Prediction: Detroit in Seven
(3) Vancouver Canucks Vs. (4) Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks proved a lot in the first round. Among those was the fact that, despite being young and inexperienced, they would not let anyone intimidate them or push them around. The Blackhawks got balanced scoring and great efforts from role players to oust the Flames in six games.
The Canucks, meanwhile, engaged in a spirited series with the upstart St. Louis Blues. Vancouver, among other things, got fantastic goaltending from Roberto Luongo to sweep the Blues in four, though the series was probably closer than the score indicates.
There isn't much not to like about this series. Perhaps if you have to work early, the late time could be an issue, but who needs sick days anyways?
If you're not excited about this series, just click here for a refresher. This is from the last time the two teams played.
Both teams have great young scorers who are playing well in this postseason, and both have shown a willingness to get physical, which should make for a fantastic series.
I want to pick the Blackhawks because they showed me a lot in round one, but in the end, I have to go with the team who I feel has the edge in goal.
Prediction: Vancouver in six
(1) Boston Bruins Vs. (6) Carolina Hurricanes
Sticking basically to the script, the Boston Bruins ousted the Montreal Canadiens in four straight in a series that really was rarely ever close. The Bruins got solid goaltending from Tim Thomas and timely scoring from all four lines to roll over Montreal, ending their disaster of a centennial season.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are no doubt still on an emotional high after their Game Seven triumph over the New Jersey Devils.
The forwards match up well, with Boston likely having the advantage based on depth. Still, Carolina has gotten great efforts from Ray Whitney, Chad LaRose, and Eric Staal. Should Rod Brind'Amour and company choose to jump on board, they may well find themselves with lofty goal totals.
This is another series that features fantastic goaltending. The Bruins have the aforementioned Tim Thomas, while the Hurricanes are receiving the best from Cam Ward, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
While the Hurricanes have been a blast to watch this postseason, in the end I just think Boston is deeper at forward and on defense. While it won't be easy, I think the Bruins will punch their ticket to the East finals.
Prediction: Boston in six
(2) Washington Capitals Vs. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins
Despite being impartial, you know somewhere Gary Bettman nearly wet himself once he found out the Devils had been eliminated from the playoffs by Carolina.
Why? Well, simple. Because it sets up the NHL's dream playoff series.
The Washington Capitals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Mike Green, Simeon Varlamov.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Marc-Andre Fleury.
And a bunch of other fantastic players as well.
As one friend put it to me, "You can see the big shots at NBC smiling from space!"
This series should have everything: two young teams, two explosive offenses. Both also feature defenses that aren't shy about getting into the play.
The Capitals struggled at times in the opening round against New York but were able to put the Rangers away in seven.
The Penguins, meanwhile, got past the Flyers in six.
As one would say, fasten your seat belts. If this series lives up to its hype, no doubt it can be one of the most exciting, back and forth series of the postseason.
While I have enjoyed watching the Capitals (there are few places like their home rink during a playoff game), I think the only difference between these two teams is knowing what it takes to get to the Cup finals. My heart says Washington, but my head is leaning towards the Penguins.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in seven
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