In the first round of the NHL playoffs, while I only got 5/8 the series right: Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and Vancouver, and Pittsburgh, I was able to correctly guess the Vancouver and Boston series right on the nose with each ending in six games.
With that, comes the next round:
Eastern Conference (4) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Montreal
With the top three seeds: Washington in stunning fashion, New Jersey in hapless fashion, and Buffalo losing in prediction fashion, Pittsburgh, as the "four" seed steals home-ice advantage for as long as they remain alive in the playoffs.
While I am not a Pittsburgh fan, even the most inattentive outsider can see they have the most talent of anyone left in the playoffs. I'm not going to turn this column into a praise-fest for the usual-suspects: Malkin, Staal, and Crosby-we all know what they can do.
Just continue to watch for names like Pascual Dupuis who scored the game winner in Game Six which I hinted at, and corrected guessed-right down to the double OT win, in my previews of the last round, along with Bill Guerin who I still think has a big moment in him before its all over.
As for Montreal, everyone who reads my columns knows I want Canadian teams to do well and bring the Cup home to Canada which hasn't had been in its rightful place since 1993 when they did it. Should be a "Halak" of a series, with the net-minder reminding me of J.S. Giguere of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2002-03 playoffs during their Cup run.
I'm not suggesting anything other than, you can ride a hot goalie a long way and he's been the most impressive since then in terms of dominance and exciting saves.
Watch for the twist of the glove on any shots hit by his ear, reminiscent of how Roy used to do it as an added flare for good measure.
Hal Gil should be given a permanent star of the game for the way he played defense and can someone please switch out the Andrei Kostitsyn line? He's missing way too many open nets.
Promote P.K. Subban, a fan favorite who was just recalled from Hamilton of the AHL. He makes plays happen and has assisted on at least one goal in Games 6 and 7, not surprisingly both wins.
As much as I'd love to say Montreal in Six, because of the talent, Pittsburgh should win in six exciting games with several going to at least one OT. Montreal, on adrenaline, may be able to steal game one along with a game at home.
Pittsburgh in 6
(6) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Philadelphia Flyers
Remember the last time Philadelphia played? Because I don't. They've been off for almost a week and will be by the time they play. That could hurt them, as in Boston could win game one.
Still, they made it look so easy-too easy? against New Jersey that I am not sure how good they really are. Brian Boucher can't keep this up right? I doubted him against the great Brodeur and he made it look so easy. Now he gets a downgrade in Tukka Rask, so that could get really interesting.
The names to watch remain the same: Carter and Briere for the Flyers and Sturm, Riecci, Marc Savard, and Miroslav Satan, with Satan and Riecci especially as both played big roles, as I predicted, in the last round. David Krejci should be added to the list. When you've got veterans like this, you can go a long way as they've been there before.
Not cutting the Flyers short, they are the hotter team, but Boston is more playoff tested, having played more recently. They also have a flair for the dramatic.
Prediction: Bruins in Six
Western Conference (1) San Jose Sharks vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
Still looks wierd to see A. Detroit seeded so low and B. them having to open series' on the road. They are obviously both the hotter team and experienced team. The thrilling seven game set against the faberge Coyotes has them now awoke and battle tested. The names are all household: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Lindstrom but look for players like Justin Abdekader and Howard to continue to emerge as the next generation of Wings. Veteran players like Kris Draper and Brad Stuart could play big roles before this thing is all said and done, similar to those on the Bruins.
As for the Sharks, as Barry Melrose said, they are basically Joe Pavelski's team. I call them the "San Jose Joe Pavelski's" as he's basically the reason they survived the first round. If Heatley-Marleau-Thornton, whom many call the most overrated, and I call the best regular season line money can buy-don't step us soon they will surely be gone this time. The trio combined for just one goal in the first round. Oh, and Rob Blake, feel free to make your veteran presence felt too.
Red Wings in Five (although I hope I'm wrong and the Sharks can prove me wrong)
(2) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (3) Vancouver Canucks
Chicago has Kane, Toews, and Sharp we all know that. Duncan Keith, who recently signed a hockey-esque twelve year extension has been coming up big along with Mr. May Marian Hossa. Of course they have the talent to get it done.
Vancouver on the other hand, is much more intriguing. Roberto Louongo is basically the Jaroslav Halak of the Western Conference. When he's good as I've said and he's shown-he's very good but like Halak, he could get benched in a game or two. As he goes, so does his team.
With that said, the Sedin-Mikael Samuelsson-Sedin line was absolutely awesome and the reason the last series was won having combined for 18 points in the last three games with Samuelsson of all people scoring seven goals. The Sedins are finally earning their keep and lofty draft projections at at time when it counts. Look for that to continue in what could be the next round's most exciting series.
Other names you better know are Alexandre Burrows (35 goals) and defenseman Willie Mitchell whose paycheck comes on the penalty kill and whose finally found a home after bouncing around the league.
Vancouver in Seven, no doubt a few in OT
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