NHL: Conference Semi Time

Michael BruckContributor IApril 29, 2010

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 22:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks to make a pass against the Ottawa Senators in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on April 22, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Senators defeated the Penguins 4-3 in triple overtime.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The first round of hockey is over and many surprises and shocking finishes occurs. In the East, all 3 top seeds fell. The Capitals couldn't hold off the Canadiens (and Halak's out-of-this-world goal tending effort) in one of the biggest upsets in NHL history although they were up 3-1.

The Devils had no chance to their division foe, the Flyers, as they fell in 5, and the Bruins upset the Sabres in 6. That put the #4 Penguins right up top who beat the Senators in 6 (with a great start from the kid: 5G, 9A).

In the west, the Sharks take the series with the Avalanche in 6 after a pretty rocky start. The Blackhawks beat the Predators after a very rocky start also, and the Canucks won in 6.

No upsets in the West unless you count the Wings beating the Coyotes in Game 7, but although they were the lower seed the Wings were favored.

Eastern Conference:

Pittsburgh Penguins (1) VS. Montreal Canadiens (4)

What a fantastic job by the Habs keeping their composure and coming back to win three straight and defeat the Capitals. Halak goal tending really helped them out with 53 & 41 saves in the last two games of the series.

You hate to count out their offense but the defense really is what pulled the Canadiens through Round 1. Stopping the Capitals to only 3 goals in 3 games isn't an easy task.

The Penguins came out swinging as they played a very aggressive first series against the Senators. There were no complaints about the Penguins offense, but more toward Fleury as he let a few softies get in on more than one occasion.

Sid the Kid had a great start with 5 goals and 9 assists that definitely helped the Pens pull through and get to the next round.

It will be very interesting to see how the Canadiens play in this series after an extremely exhausting previous one. Winning 3 games in a row and then winning Game 7 away isn't exactly stress-free.

This series also presents a classic goal-to-goalie match up. If Fleury plays soft then the Penguins will be need to be aggressive against a superb goalie in Halak. So, it will be interesting to see if Halak can keep it up on this powerful Penguins offense and whether or not Fleury will be able to maintain focused and strong.

Because of the aggressive Pens offense and the fact that the Habs are coming off such a draining series. Pens in 5.

Boston Bruins (2) VS. Philadelphia Flyers (3)

It is weird to see that the Bruins and Flyers are the number 2 and 3 seeds but it's NHL playoff hockey.

The Flyers came out swinging and took down the #2 seeded Devils in just 5 games (best first round in both east and west). They played very well rounded to breeze by the Round 1.

Boucher (goalie) had a very good series with the Devils getting at most 3 goals in one game and a shut-out in Game 5. Many people think that this was just an old division rivalry that wasn't too bad for the Flyers (after all they did beat the Devs 5-6 in the season).

The Bruins never seemed to be perfectly in rhythm in the regular season, but after a 6 game defeat over the #3 Sabres think were looking good.

The B's look like a team with a lot of heart and really stepped up as their offense and defense made it look easy. You can't go wrong with a goalie like Ryan Miller who played a fantastic series.

The Bruins really played with a team effort and Ryan Miller is still staying focused as a goalie, and it's hard to say how the Flyers are as they just a beat a division opponent who they have had their number all season. Bruins in 7.

Western Conference

San Jose Sharks (1) VS. Detroit Red Wings (4)

The Sharks proved they are no longer that 'have a great regular season and fail in the playoffs' team as they took down the Avs in 6.

The Sharks played a great series offensively (Pavelski: 5 G) even after rocky start where it seemed they were going to down 0-2 early (including an own goal).

The Wings played a fantastic series as they were the #5 seed but the favored team. They had to take all the way to seven, but it happened. They proved how dangerous they were offensively scoring almost 3 goals a game. 

The high scoring Wings offensive players were: Zetterburg with the very hot stick starting the 2010 playoffs with 6 goals and 5 assists (a hat-trick in game 2), and Datsyuk had 5 goals and 3 assists.

Of course, no one can leave out Howard who started hot a shut-out and holding the Coyotes to only 1 in Game 7.

We could expect a sluggish start from the Wings after a long series or we could see the Sharks hit that 'on' button again. Either way the high powered offense of the Wings is frightening. Wings in 6.

Chicago Blackhawks (2) VS. Vancouver Canucks (3)

The Blackhawks really started to look bad when they lost Game 1: 4-1 and Game 3: 4-1, but after some close games the Blackhawks came out on top.

Niemi had 2 great shut-outs that really helped the 'Hawks advance. One thing the Blackhawks really did well was mainting focus and never getting soft in the tight games.

The Canucks started off looking really good and on a positve note. Then they lost two in a row. After a sudden slap to the face the Canucks won 3 straight. 

The Canucks and Blackhawks have personalities in that they have both determination and focus. It doesn't take too much to get them right back on track and to stick it where counts. Tough call, Canucks in 7.






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