Series #1 (1) Chicago vs. (7) Detroit
Series #2 (5) LA Kings vs. (6) San Jose
Series #3 (1) Pittsburgh vs. (7) Ottawa
Series #4 (4) Boston vs. (6) NY Rangers
In the West I have Chicago taking out Detroit & the Kings beating San Jose but we learned a few things from the first round & playoffs past.
Series #1. We learned(if we didn't already know it) that Jimmy Howard, Detroit's goalie is for real. Detroit is getting the goaltending & has been in playoff mode for a long time now & if they can continue this string of great play(Datsyuk & Zetterberg have to continue to lead) I think they have a shot against a team that has been on cruise control for awhile. Past playoffs have shown us this. Another plus for Detroit is Abdelkader has been just a beast since returning from his suspension. He played very well in those 2 elimination games as did the majority of the team but they have to be able to hold leads better than they did against Anaheim.
Also, I'm not totally sold on Crawford in Chicago. Of course, I wasn't sold on Niemi a few years back & he won the Stanley Cup & is playing great in San Jose right now. Chicago has a powerhouse up front so this might be the only question mark & Crawford seemed to answer it in round 1 but I'd like to see him do it again against a Detroit team playing well before I'm buying him.
Chicago in 6
Series #2. This is great for hockey fans in California. They get to see all the games in prime time instead of midnight if their team had to travel East. If anybody saw the St. Louis - LA King series you'd know that was just about as physical as it gets. San Jose has been a streaky team & they're on a heater right now. They should be rested with few bumps & bruises after playing the "skirt wearing" Vancouver Canucks(just kidding, this series was surprisingly physical) in the first round but will they continue this? They've been known to go from playing lights out to what the **** happened quickly so we'll see.
I think this is a terrible match up for the Sharks & can't see them matching the physicality of the Kings. If the Sharks are to have a shot I think Niemi has to be very good & they have to really do it on the powerplay & get a little bit of undisciplined play from the Kings. The Sharks were accused of diving in the first round against Vancouver, & rightfully so, so we'll have to see if they continue getting calls. If they do, it could be a long series because the Kings will have to scale back the physical play. If not, it might be short.
LA Kings in 5
In the East we have a couple of interesting matchups. One moreso for the off ice drama & one strictly for the hockey.
Series #3 has some built-in bad blood storylines between Pittsburgh & Ottawa. Pittburgh's Matt Cooke accidentally cut Ottawa's Eric Karlsson's left achilles tendon 70% in early February, an injury that he has miraculously returned early from, & Ottawa maintains that it wasn't an accident at all. It's gone so far that the owner of Ottawa publically chastised the Pens for employing this player & has hired a private investigator to do a report & give it to the NHL. Bizzarre shit to say the least since anybody involved in hockey can see this was just an unfortunate accident. I suspect Paul McLean, the Otawa coach, used this as a rallying cry for his team during the season but doesn't really believe it was deliberate. Now onto the actual matchup:
Craig Anderson has been lights out ever since he arrived in Ottawa. He single-handedly got a poor Colorado team into the playoffs a few years back & I don't think anybody has any questions about him. The same cannot be said of Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh gets the goaltending they got in games 2,3 & 4 in round 1 then they are toast regardless if it's Fleury or Vokoun.
If they get good goaltending, which they are more than capable, I think they win a close, hard fought series. Pittsburgh just has so much firepower, that if they get equal or close goaltending, they will most likely out score an Ottawa team that has trouble scoring at times. If Ottawa can get Jason Spezza back from a season long injury & somehow play well(not exactly a guarantee) it would help their cause. We may see firepower against a good strong defense orientated team game. I'm looking forward to it.
Pittsburgh in 6
Series #4 Looks good on paper but I just don't see it. 2 original six teams coming off hard fought 7 game series' to meet in the 2nd round. Looks good until you realize how lucky Boston was to escape in round 1. Half of Boston's main defensemen are hurt & they're playing with a mish-mash of question marks on the back end. I'll go out on a limb & say there is no way they will come back from a 3 goal deficit with 11 minutes left against the Rangers in any game let alone a game 7. The Rangers are really starting to click on all cylinders & thier goaltending is outstanding. They're getting good contributions from everybody & it looks like that deadline deal with Columbus was good for both teams. They've also been in playoff mode the last month & it shows.
Rask has been very good also but I worry that if they don't get Ference, Seidenberg, & Redden back he will be left out to dry. I mean, Chara can't keep playing 35 minutes a night & stay healthy can he? I thought he was already showing signs of breaking down against Toronto & I can see the Rangers just running him ragged unless he gets some help back there.
This series may end up being decided by injuries. If Boston can get theirs back, especially the back end, & play well it'll be a great series & could be a toss-up. If the Rangers can continue to stay relatively healthy I see them taking this. A couple of big IF's there.
Rangers in 5 or 6 more likely 6.
I see a very entertaining 2nd round happening. What do you guys think?