The second round of the playoffs begin tomorrow with Vancouver and Chicago.
This should be an interesting second round, as almost all four series could go either way.
Here are predictions on while will advance to the conference finals.
Boston Bruins (1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6)
The Boston Bruins have a lot of advantages over the Hurricanes—yet they have one big disadvantage going into the series.
While the Bruins swept the Canadiens and will not have a played a game in two weeks when the series begins, the Hurricanes are all full of energy following their seven-game victory over the New Jersey Devils.
The Hurricanes, if fatigue is not a factor, could actually steal a game from the Bruins at the Garden.
The Bruins will most likely need some time to find their legs again and get their gigantic offensive machine pumping again—although, the Bruins could be very much ready for the supercharged ‘Canes.
They had five players with a point or more per-game average, as well as two players score a goal per game.
Cam Ward has been hot since the All-Star break. He was very hot in 2006 as a rookie when the Canes won the Cup, and he is showing that hotness again after upsetting the favored Devils in the first round.
The Bruins are a complete team, though. Tim Thomas was spectacular in the first round, although against a depleted Canadiens team. He is a Vezina finalist and he will have Zdeno Chara, along with two other tough, gritty defensemen in Aaron Ward and Mark Stuart.
The Bruins are very lethal up front. Phil Kessel and Marc Savard are very deadly pair, as are David Krejci and Michael Ryder. It must have felt nice for Ryder to score four goals and seven points against a team that cast him out last year.
The Bruins have plenty of sandpaper with Milan Lucic, Stephen Yelle, and Shawn Thornton.
They also have plenty of playoff experience and leadership from trade-deadline acquisition Mark Recchi, who helped Carolina win its first Cup in 2006 in a deadline deal.
They also have Stephane Yelle, who has two Stanley Cups with Colorado and was part of the Calgary Flames team that lost in Game Seven against Tampa in 2004.
Those two players certainly know what it takes to win the Cup, and will provide much leadership to a team which is fairly young and has no playoff experience.
The Canes are playing like they did in 2006 when they won the Cup.
They're getting dangerous and they're clicking.
Cam Ward trumped King of Kings of goaltenders Martin Brodeur for the second time in the playoffs. The Hurricanes have many of the same key components they did when they won the Cup in 2006.
Paul Maurice has sparked this team from playoff dark horses to the sixth seed after the All-Star break.
The Hurricanes have a very deadly top line featuring Ray Whitney, Eric Staal, and tough guy Chad Larose. Larose, who reached a career high in goals (19) and points (31) this year, has a point per game in the first round.
However, after their top line, the Canes' production goes downhill.
Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen have provided some offense on the back end, and Jussi Jokinen has provided some secondary scoring. After that, the team trails off in a bad way.
If the Canes home to make this a close series or have a shot of upsetting the Bruins, they need players like Samsonov—who has one point—and Rod Brind'Amour, who has not scored any points yet, to score too. They also need scoring from Tuomo Ruutu, who has very efficient in the regular season.
Cam Ward will be facing a lot more rubber this round and will be plenty busy.
The Bruins have a lot more offense than the Devils did, and will need to try to take as much out of that factor to survive. Ward will be tested and so will their defense, but the Bruins have too much power and jam.
The Canes might be able to steal a win or two from them, depending on Cam Ward.
But the Bruins take this series with no problem in six games.
Washington Capitals (2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
This is what everybody has been hoping for since the 2005-2006 season: Sidney Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs. This is history—nothing will be bigger in this round than this series.
This series is the equivalent of Wayne Gretzky vs. Mario Lemieux, if the two had ever played against each other in the playoffs.
These two players are possibly the biggest and most popular players since those two. All eyes will be on these two to see who advances—along with the sub-drama of Alex Ovechkin versus Evgeni Malkin and Alex Semin versus Crosby. I'm sure Crosby hasn't forgotten Semin's comments about him earlier in the season.
The Penguins have a big advantage over the Washington Capitals.
They went to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, and are the first team since the Dallas Stars in 2001 playoffs to advance past the first round after losing in the finals. And they’re playing like the team that went to the finals last year as well.
The Capitals, a heavy favorite against the Rangers, struggled and had to force a Game Seven to win the series—although the Capitals have a lot of energy and momentum following that playoff round.
The Capitals are a young team; virtually no one on that team has any playoff experience besides Sergei Fedorov and Chris Clark. Clark went to the Finals with Calgary in 2004, and everyone should know Fedorov's success in the playoffs with Detroit—three Cups and four Finals visits.
At the age of the 40, just how valuable can a player like Fedorov be now?
Well, if you watched Game Seven last night, you know—very. He played like he did while he was in Detroit; he did not skate like a 40-year-old with bad knees, but like a very confident mid-twenties player, who knows his speed is his gift. He skated down the wing and sniped a very impressive shot over Henrik Lundqvist for the game-winning goal.
Another key component for the Capitals is how well rookie Simeon Varlamov plays against the Penguins. Beating the Rangers and keeping the score low is one thing, but the Penguins are a completely different breed of animal—or species, for that matter.
The Rangers are not flashy, they had to work hard and bang their goals in. The Penguins can score, Gritty one's and beautiful one's. They have three very potent lines lead by Crosby and Malkin.
They also possess a very potent shut-down line of Staal-Kennedy-Cooke.
This line resembles the shut-down unit of Moen-Niedermayer-Pahlsson the Ducks used to win their Cup in ‘07. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will probably try to match this line against either Ovechkin's or Semin's line as much as possible.
Marc-Andre Fluery has been a very good goaltender in the playoffs the past two seasons. However, he will not be as hard to score against than Henrik Lundqvist was in the first round.
Ovechkin complied only three goals and seven points in the series and was shut out in two games of any points. Yet Ovechkin loves the spotlight, and the spotlight just got a little bit brighter on him in the second round.
Another key component to the Capitals scoring is if Alex Semin can continue scoring goals. He scored five goals and eight-points in the first round. If he can do the same in the second, it will certainly make Ovechkin's job easier with less pressure to deal with.
Another key match-up is the Penguins' Sergei Gonchar versus Capitals' Norris trophy canididate Mike Green. Although Green only scored one goal, he should pick his game up for the second round.
Gonchar has been in the playoffs, and knows what it takes to produce and succeed. The two players are very similar in style of play.
They both get the offense going for their respected clubs. Gonchar has the experience over Green, while Green has the youth and a better knack for scoring goals.
One way to stop the other teams offensive will be to neutralize these players from being able to make the first pass.
This series will be very close. Both teams can score goals, and both are deadly on the power play. This will come down to a very dramatic Game Seven.
I give the edge to the Capitals. Ovechkin is very determined, and his energy and passion will get the better over the Penguins' calm demeanor.
Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. Anaheim Ducks (8)
This series will be as exciting as the Ducks' first round. Jonas Hiller was spectacular, and he is in for another round of the same assault he faced from the Detroit Red Wings.
The only difference this round is the Wings are a more disciplined team and have more playoff experience than any team in the NHL. The Red Wings have won four cups in 11 years. They virtually keep the same key ingredients that it takes to win.
They have one of the greatest defenseman to ever play the game in Niklas Lidstrom, and a very great all-around player in Pavel Datsyuk.
Oh, they also have Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, and power forwards Tomas Holmstorm and Johan Franzen—who are impossible to move out of the way in front of the net—along with a very skilled defenseman in Brian Rafalski.
The Red Wings had eight players have a point or more per game against Chris Mason, who is a Vezina and Calder Candidate. Hiller will be facing just many or more shots than he did from the Sharks.
The Ducks upset the first-seeded team and President Trophy winner, along with many experts' choice to win the Cup this year.
That was no easy task. In all their games, the Ducks were outshot by a large margin, yet they scored key goals and shut down the Sharks' potent offense. The Ducks will be playing this series much as the same as they did the last.
If Jonas Hiller gets burned out from all the rubber or even if the wings manage to get three by him, the Ducks are in trouble.
The Wings are a puck-possession team, and have a great ability to transition in the game. They can go from high-scoring machine to defensive shut-down team. In the first round, the Wings swept the Jackets and never were behind in a game.
If the Wings score first, the Ducks are in trouble.
The Ducks are much of the same kind of team as the Jackets, with the exception that the Ducks have a much better blue line. Pronger and Niedermayer will be playing close to 30-minutes a game trying to shut down the Red Wings potent offense down.
The only problem might be for that the Red Wings have too many lines and combinations to throw at them.
This will be a very exciting series and with the experience and surprising turn-around from Chris Osgood, the Wings will wrap this series up in five games. Hiller will manage to steal one game for the Ducks.
The Wings will create way too much traffic in front of him. He will be burned out, and the Wings will take advantage.
Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (4)
This is probably the hardest series to predict, besides the Capitals and Penguins.
The ‘Hawks have a very young and inexperienced team, but the Canucks are also inexperienced.
Luongo has never been past the second round and has only gotten there twice, but to be fair this is only his second postseason appearance. The ‘Hawks are riding behind Nikolai Khabibulin, and the Canucks are riding behind Luongo.
The only difference is that the Chicago Blackhawks have a very solid top two forward lines, while until Sundin returns the Canucks only have one.
The Canucks received much of their scoring from three guys—Andrew Burrows and the Sedin twins. The Blackhawks scored seven power-play goals against Calgary from seven different players—although, the Canucks have the advantage, on paper at least, on the blue line.
Their blue line is much more experienced than the Hawks. The only player with experience for the Hawks is Brian Campbell, and his deflection goal against Calgary was his first in 51 games.
I think the Hawks will surprise everyone with their play on the blue line. Cam Barker, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith are all good young defenseman. Although none of them have played in the playoffs before, they didn't show that against Calgary.
I think this will end up being a goaltending dual. Kabby has a Cup; Luongo does not. Although Luongo is still younger than him, Khabibulin will triumph over Luongo in this round.
Prediction: ‘Hawks in a very close six games.