Holey Moley. One white-wash, three game 7's, OT, and fatso's. What an exciting first round!
In the east, Pittsburgh pounded Ottawa, Montreal staved off the biggest upset of the playoffs against Boston, Philadelphia stole the show from Alexander the Great and Washington, and New Jersey were put to the sword by the New York Rangers.
In the west, Detroit were lucky at times but cruised past Nashville, San Jose outlasted my beloved Calgary in a see-sawing contest, Colorado crushed Minnesota, and Dallas starred against the sitting Anaheim Ducks.
I got a respectable 5 out of 8 of my first round predictions correct, including all four eastern conference matchups.
Now to do some number crunching for the second round games:
1. Montreal vs. 6. Philadelphia
Both teams will be happy to have gotten through game 7's. Both the Canadiens and Flyers held 3-1 leads during their respective series, but needed three games to deliver the knockout blow. The difference is that Montreal were strong favorites against Boston, whereas Philadelphia were considered underdogs against Washington, so it's just a reality check that it is anyone's game when it comes to the playoffs. The Habs beat Philadelphia 4-0 in the regular season series, but having said that, they beat Boston 8-0 during the regular season and the Bruins took them to game seven. The alarming thing for the Flyers is that in the 4 games against the Canadiens this season, they netted just 6 times, and scoring 1.5 goals a game against Montreal is not going to be enough. The numbers all seem damning for the Flyers, but maybe the underdog status will bring out the best in them, and it will take their best to beat Montreal. Canadiens to win in six games.
2. Pittsburgh vs. 5 New York Rangers
They lost just once between them in the first round. Both teams dominated their first round opponents. Someone's gotta blink first right? Hey I wonder what Sean Avery has in store for Marc-Andre Fleury? In terms of numbers, the Rangers won 5 of their 8 matchups during the regular season scoring 19 goals in those 5 wins. New York won all four against the Penguins at home, but Pittsburgh have home ice advantage. Evgeni Malkin was a thorn in the Rangers side's however, netting 5 times in the series, including a hat-trick and a lone goal in a 1-0 win at home. New Yorks big names shared the scoring against Pittsburgh, with Sean Avery, Scott Gomez, and Michael Rosival scoring 3, and Chris Drury, Jaromir Jagr, Brandon Dubinksy, and Martin Straka getting 2 each. This is gonna be a dandy, and I'm going to pick New York to upset Pittsburgh in seven games.
1. Detroit vs. 6. Colorado
Could Detroit have asked for a better run? With all due respect to Nashville, the RedWings were never really in any serious threat during the first round. And now, they face a team in which they won all four regular season games against. That's not the worst part - in those four games, the Avalanche were shutout three times and only scored two goals. The Avs were outshot 130-76 in those four games. The RedWings scored 11 goals in the regular season series, Henrik Zetterberg and Valteri Filpula the main culprits with 3 each. That's right, Filpula scored more goals than the whole Colorado team did in the series. As good as Colorado played against Minnesota in the first round, they now find themselves playing the team that has been the benchmark the entire season, and the Redwings will win in five games.
2. San Jose vs. 5. Dallas
Can you say 'GOALS'? These teams combined 43 goals in the 8 regular season meetings, of which they split 4 apiece. An interesting thing to note is that each team went 1-3 at home against each other, so I believe the Sharks home ice advantage is futile. Mike Modano was the leading goalscorer in the regular season series, with 5, and teammates Steve Ott and Brendan Morrow each had 3, while for the Sharks, Joe Thornton and rookie Devin Setoguchi scored 4 times, and there were 17 other goalscorers during their regular season series. Not one of those 8 games resulted in a shutout, so expect to see some shootouts in this series. Dallas are the more rested of the two teams, following their mastery of last years champions Anaheim, while San Jose are coming off a tough seven-game series against Calgary, and with that, I think Dallas will win in seven games.
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