Thursday, April 29, 2010

2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round Predictions

The first round of the NHL playoffs was another example of why the hockey playoffs are the best of any sport. Turn on nearly any playoff game on any night and you are bound to see a surprising win or a player playing out of his mind. Then, of course, there are the edge of your seat Game 7's where, even if you don't have a rooting interest, you find yourself holding your breath on nearly every shot. Expect more of the same in the second round as we have four very even matchups on the slate. After going a solid 6 for 8 on my first round predictions for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, here are my picks for the second round:

Eastern Conference:
(4) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Montreal
Pittsburgh in 6
While we here in Philadelphia were thrilled about the Canadiens knocking off the Capitals, the other side of the state was ecstatic. Now, with the top three seeds in the East out of the way, it almost looks like a clear path back to the Stanley Cup finals for the Penguins. After watching Jaroslav Halak shut down the Caps "potent" offense, however, you can bet the Penguins will have some problems right away with Montreal. While myself and everyone else outside of Pittsburgh will be rooting for the Cinderella in this series, the Penguins are just too strong to go down here. That's because, unlike the Capitals, the Penguins are filled with players that know what it takes to win in the playoffs. As much as I despise him, Sidney Crosby is the big-game player that Alex Ovechkin is not.

(6) Boston vs. (7) Philadelphia
Philadelphia in 6
The fact that the Bruins are hosting a playoff series as the 6 seed is ridiculous. As with every series with the Flyers, expect things to be rough and for there to be plenty of penalties on both sides. Luckily for the Flyers, the Bruins aren't equipped to kill them if Philly starts parading to the penalty box. Not so lucky for the Flyers is how good the Bruins are on the penalty kill; Philly isn't exactly the strongest team 5 on 5 so they rely on their power play to get them going. If the supposed "worst goalie in the playoffs" continues to play like one of the best goalies, I expect Brian Boucher to carry the Flyers into the Eastern Conference Finals. While they are dealing with a handful of injuries, the Flyers have plenty of depth waiting to step forward, including an emerging star in Claude Giroux and the criminally under-used Ville Leino. Homer pick? Perhaps, but this looks like another great matchup for the Flyers. As for the next round, however...

Western Conference:
(1) San Jose vs. (5) Detroit
Detroit in 7
It's funny how the Sharks getting out of the first round was deemed as such an accomplishment. While they were good enough to overcome beating themselves, let's not forget that it usually isn't the first round that gives them trouble, it's the second round. Things aren't going to be easy in this series, either, as Detroit looks to be back to their old ways. The key for the Red Wings will be Jimmy Howard. If he plays at all like he did early in the series against the Coyotes, Detroit won't be able to keep up with the Sharks on the scoreboard. Of course, with how poorly Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been playing, they still might not be able to capitalize.

(2) Chicago vs. (3) Vancouver
Chicago in 6
Hey, we have a rematch from the second round last year! This was the most difficult series to predict out of all of them, there is just so much to like about each team. Do you go with the Blackhawks and their tremendous defensive group and young star forwards or do you go with the Canucks with Roberto Loungo looking for revenge and the Sedin twins tearing it up? When in doubt, I looked to last season and picked the same outcome. What we can be sure of is this series features the two best teams in the West and could very easily go the distance.

Those are my picks for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Check back tomorrow for a more complete breakdown of the Flyers/Bruins series.

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