The first round of the NHL playoffs this season was nothing short of phenomenal. There was a little bit of everything: overtime games, new playoff heroes, goaltending clinics, and upsets galore.
Can the second round bring the same type of drama as the first few weeks of the postseason? A few series definitely have the potential to do just that.
The Western Conference still has the top three seeds competing, while in the East, all three top seeds have been knocked out.
Let's take a look at the four series, and see who is going to come out from both sides to meet in the Conference Finals.
The Montreal Canadiens did the unexpected and shocked Alexander Ovechkin. Can the Habs do the same to Sidney Crosby?
It will all depend on what Jaroslav Halak can do for an encore. After falling behind 3-1 in the series against the Capitals, the Slovakian netminder played out of this world, and helped the Canadiens pull off a massive upset, which will go down as one of the biggest in playoff history.
The Canadiens were in control for large portions of the series against the Capitals, but this is now the defending Stanley Cup champions, and a superstar that almost single-handedly defeated the Ottawa Senators.
Sidney Crosby has been the offensive star of these playoffs, and he knows what it takes to win. He also has a supporting cast that includes last year's Conn Smythe winner in Evgeni Malkin, as well as Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes.
During the regular season, the Penguins took three of the four games from Montreal. However, the one big difference is that the Canadiens never had Andrei Markov in the lineup for the first three games, and Mike Cammalleri wasn't around for the fourth meeting.
This is the first time that the Habs will ice a healthy lineup, and oh, there is also the goaltender of the first round to get past: Halak.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six
Who would have thought two weeks ago that the second round would feature a matchup of the sixth-seeded Bruins taking on the seventh-seeded Flyers?
Of course, at the beginning of the season, these two were considered to be serious Stanley Cup contenders. It's just how the season progressed for both that has made this seem like an unlikely second-round series.
The Bruins made it past Ryan Miller and the third-seeded Sabres without their top scorer in Marc Savard, and a rookie goaltender in Tuukka Rask.
The Flyers made it past Martin Brodeur and the second-seeded Devils without their No. 1 goaltender in Ray Emery, and even their No. 2 in Michael Leighton.
Boston will get a big lift when Game One kicks off with Marc Savard returning to the lineup. With another offensive weapon up front, the Bruins should be able to score more than they have for the last month without him.
As for Philadelphia, the holes left by the injuries to Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne up front might make it very difficult to generate goals.
Just like the other Eastern Conference series, this matchup will come down to goaltending, and there is a good chance that Tuukka Rask should be able to shut down a depleted Philly offense.
After an emotional series against a division rival, the Bruins will be on a high, with home-ice advantage an unexpected perk.
Prediction: Bruins in five
The San Jose Sharks were able to get past the first round after six games against an inexperienced Colorado team that wasn't even expected to make the playoffs.
San Jose's reward for being the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference: a second-round matchup against the defending two-time Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings.
During the regular season, the Sharks had a very tough time against the Wings, as Detroit won the first three games of the four that were played, with San Jose finally being victorious in a contest just before the Olympic break.
Of course, the Red Wings took off right after the break, when all of the key cogs returned to the lineup, with Johan Franzen the main cog. The Sharks lost three times when Mule wasn't in the lineup, and that includes a game that Chris Osgood started.
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom are doing exactly what star players do: elevate their game in the playoffs.
Along with Jimmy Howard in goal and the rest of the supporting cast, the Wings had no problem putting the puck behind Vezina finalist Ilya Bryzgalov in a couple of different games in the first round against Phoenix.
The Sharks had some bad bounces against them that maybe cost them a game, but unlike the young Avalanche offense, this is a veteran well-oiled machine that is ready to roll.
Dany Heatley was a non-factor during the regular season against Detroit, and there is nothing that says it will be any different in the playoffs.
This has the chances of being a quick series, but the Thornton line wakes up for a game or two.
Prediction: Detroit in six
This is easily the most anticipated series of the second round of these playoffs: a rematch of last year's classic second rounder that saw the young Blackhawks advance to the Western Conference Finals after beating the Canucks in six games.
A year has gone by, and a lot has changed since Patrick Kane scored a hat-trick against Roberto Luongo to send Vancouver packing:
- The Blackhawks are now led by Antti Niemi, who has had some big moments this season, although he is a tad inconsistent.
- Marian Hossa. The Slovakian sniper was not on Chicago last year, but he's one of the most dangerous players in the game, and could change the outcome of a game with one quick play. Just ask the Predators.
- The Sedins have taken their game to another level. Look at the regular season statistics to see who was the leading scorer. It wasn't names like Toews, Kane or Hossa....it was Henrik Sedin.
- The Canucks are a lot deeper this year up front. If you can contain the Sedins and Alex Burrows, you still have to deal with Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson, the speedy Mason Raymond and the crafty veteran Pavol Demitra.
During the regular season, the teams split the season series 2-2. Although Roberto Luongo did not have a good outing the last time out against the Hawks, he should be good to go and is looking forward to redeeming himself for last season's failure.
For Chicago to advance, Patrick Kane will need to step up, as he potted zero goals against Vancouver during the regular season. Kesler will do his hardest to make sure that doesn't happen.
Prediction: Vancouver in seven