One of the best first rounds in NHL playoffs history has just concluded and, as a fan, I can tell you that my heart can't take much more of these close finishes. It has been a nonstop roller coaster of great hockey and I can't wait for it to start again. Every single one of the teams in the second round are worthy of a Stanley Cup championship. From Alex Ovechkin to Zdeno Chara and Pavel Datysuk to Steven Stamkos, the ice will be packed with superstar talent.
The matchups for the second round have been set:
Follow along with me as I break down each matchup for you and offer up predictions!
This is going to be an extremely tough series to predict.
If it weren’t for an almost non-existent offense for Boston, I would choose the Bruins in this series. However, the Flyers offense is way too deep and the defense is starting to wake up since Pronger is back in the lineup.
The Bruins will need solid and productive play from both Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara, who have both been playing poorly as of late.
The single most important advantage the Bruins have is through defense and goaltending. In order to crack the B’s, the Flyers will need to replicate Game 7 of the Sabres’ series in which they dumped pucks on the net and jumped on every rebound. That’s what it will take to beat Tim Thomas and that ironclad Bruins defense.
Prediction: Flyers in 7
The Sharks have some issues in goal. Otherwise, they are a fairly solid team with a ton of offensive firepower. The key for San Jose is Joe Thornton. He must be amazing in this series in order for the Sharks to win.
The Red Wings are just the better team. They are highly experienced in the playoffs and have a number of lights out playmakers such as Datsyuk, Filppula, Lidstrom, etc. Jimmy Howard is also playing extremely well. Most of the teams in this years’ playoffs have high-flying offenses so solid goaltending is a must.
Bottom line: The Sharks are used to rolling out of the playoffs early and the Red Wings aren’t. Experience and consistency at all positions will prove to be too much for SJ.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6
After a seemingly slow start to their highly-hyped 2011 NHL playoff campaign, the Vancouver Canucks looked like they were going to become the victims of a 2010 Flyers-over-the-Bruins-type comeback. The Chicago Blackhawks steamed back from a 3-0 series deficit to tie the ‘Nucks and eventually lost in Game 7.
The Predators won their series against the Anaheim Ducks behind stellar performances from newly-acquired Mike Fisher as well as star defenseman Shea Weber. The Predators are young and hungry, but they aren’t as experienced as the Canucks. Vancouver is deep as a whole and one of the most solid teams at each position.
Nashville has the ability to steal a couple of games, but other than that it should be a fairly smooth ride for Vancouver.
Prediction: Canucks in 5
One word comes to mind when I think of this series: fast.
Both the Capitals and the Lightning are extremely quick and offensively oriented. The Caps have more depth in their last couple of lines than Tampa Bay. Other than that, the teams are pretty much equal in terms of ability.
The resilience of Tampa Bay is what will get them through to the Eastern Conference finals. The Caps are a talented squad, but when they are in a hole, the team tends to take its feet off of the gas. Resiliency is a word that is being thrown around a lot this time of year in the NHL. Lots of teams came back to force Game 7s.
If Washington wants to win this series, the Caps are going to have to step up on defense (an area that hasn’t been strong for the them during the regular season) and Michal Neuvirth needs to continue his strong play.
Prediction: Capitals in 6