With the early elimination of the defending champions, the Anaheim Ducks, a new champion will be crowned.
So here are the second round matchups:
(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (6) Philadelphia Flyers
Both teams went thru similar paths during the first round. The Flyers and the Canadiens dropped game five and six of their respective first round matchups after leading 3-1. Both teams played each other four times during the regular season and all four games were won by the Canadiens who should eventually have the edge in this series. The return of Saku Koivu in the lineup is giving more liberty to head coach Guy Carbonneau. The young Kostitsyn brothers have also played well during the first round and should be seen on the same offensive line more often.
As far as goaltending is concerned, the advantage goes to Montreal once again. Despite being at his rookie season, Carey Price showed that he is soon to be considered as part of the elite goaltenders in the NHL. Martin Biron in net for the Flyers is at his first playoffs and will have to elevate his game to give a decent chance to Philadelphia.
Daniel Briere was hot during the first round for the Flyers. In the seven games he played against Washington, Briere scored six goals and leads the NHL in scoring with a total of 11 points. Briere should expect special attention from the Canadiens' players and from the Montreal home crowd. Last summer, Briere decided to sign his new contract with the Flyers instead of accepting the Canadiens' offer and the fans will remind him every time he will be around the puck.
My prediction: Montreal in six games.
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) New-York Rangers
I expect this series to be long and very disputed. Both teams know each other very well and played each other eight times during the regular season. New-York has won five of those eight regular season games. The experience all across New-York's roster is an undeniable edge for them.
Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers has shown a great deal of consistency in net over the last two seasons while Marc-Andre Fleury has kept decent numbers despite an injury. Both goaltenders will now play in the biggest games of their young careers.
Pittsburgh made short work of the Senators in the first round. They are well rested and ready to go. Pittsburgh's impressive offensive capacity comes from a lot more than just Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa. Some players in their roster like Maxime Talbot, Ryan Malone and Jordan Staal, are also known to be clutch goal scorers.
My prediction: Pittsburgh in seven games.
(1) Detroit Red Wings vs (6) Colorado Avalanche
This will finally be a first serious challenge for the Detroit Red Wings this season. I will not hide and I admit that I always really hated the Red Wings. So do not expect a lot of good words from me about them. The outcome of the series will tell us a lot more about the real value of the Red Wings. Their undeniable offensive talent is still there, no doubt about it. But the defense and goaltending will be put to the test.
After cruising on top in the standings all season long because of playing in a poor division and after cruising over the weak Nashville Predators during the first round, the Colorado Avalanche will stand in their way and represent a real challenge. You cannot ignore Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski. Your defense and goaltending have to be sharp to fend off the Avalanche.
My prediction: Colorado in six games.
(2) San Jose Sharks vs (5) Dallas Stars
This series should be very entertaining. Both the Sharks and the Stars are serious contenders. Dallas has eliminated the defending champions during the first round and are rolling ahead. Mike Ribeiro is a fantastic playmaker for the Stars and really rejuvenated their offense. In net, Marty Turco has experience and has gone all the way before. An interesting duel with Evgeni Nabokov is expected.
San Jose has been picked as champion by many observers for a reason: they have no weaknesses. Evgeni Nabokov is in Vezina trophy shape in net, the Sharks defensive corp is impressive and their offense can sum up goals from all over. Players like Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe will test Marty Turco.
My prediction: San Jose in six games.