It's been a theme for me lately. Making predictions as though I have some idea what I'm talking about. They have been of the NBA variety of late, but this time, I will test the waters of a game I have been indoctrinated into my entire life.
|Photo by: Getty Images|
The NHL is never easy to predict. Sometimes a couple bad bounces can propel a team that has been outplayed all night long into the winner's circle. Nevertheless, I will hazard some guesses.
- #1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Ottawa Senators
The Penguins won a shootout of a series against an impressive New York Islanders squad in 6 games. While they didn't look sharp on their own end of the ice, the Stanley Cup favorites managed to light the lamp often enough to earn their place in the second round.
In a series between two teams separated by just over 100 miles, Ottawa looked extremely formidable against the Montreal Canadiens. It took Canada's capital city all of 5 games to eliminate the NHL's all-time most successful franchise. The Senators are Canada's only remaining hope at the first Cup north of the border in 20 years.
The Penguins showed in the opening round that they are not too good to lose to a team like Ottawa. Pittsburgh needs to play better defense and their goaltending needs to step up in a big way. If the move from Marc-Andre Fleury to Tomas Vokoun needs to be made, so be it. If the right decisions are made at the right times, the Pens will come out of this more or less unscathed.
Pittsburgh: 4, Ottawa: 1
- #4 Boston Bruins vs. #6 New York Rangers
The Bruins became the first franchise in NHL history to win a Game 7 after trailing by 3 goals in the third period. They beat a Toronto Maple Leafs squad that looked poised to finally win a playoff series after battling back from down 3 games to 1. I'm sure Maple Leafs fans were far from shocked to witness yet another epic fail from the first billion dollar team in league history.
Through the first 6, every game in the New York Rangers/Washington Capitals series was taken by the home team. The Rangers changed that statistic at exactly the right time, beating the high-flying Capitals 5-0 in the final contest. Henrik Lundqvist became the first goalie since Dominik Hasek in 2002 to record a shutout in games 6 and 7 of a series.
This match-up between two of the NHL's "original six" teams features two clubs that each found themselves in the middle of hard fought, 7-game series. The second round won't be any easier. The Bruins have been pretty inconsistent all season long, so I think this is where the wheels finally fall off.
New York: 4, Boston: 3
- #1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Detroit Red Wings
The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild played in some of the least exciting games I've had the "joy" of watching in these playoffs. The Blackhawks were far from impressive, but did manage to beat the Wild in only 5 games. Chicago was good enough, but they let Minnesota force them into playing their game. That kind of hockey won't win you many postseason series.
Detroit keeps shocking the world. A month ago it seemed they might not even make the playoffs. Many people had the Anaheim Ducks as the best team in the Western Conference, but they just couldn't handle the Red Wings in what was an exciting 7-game series. The moral of the story is, you simply cannot sleep on Detroit. Fans in the Motor City have come to expect winning hockey about as much as they have come to expect losing football.
Another match-up between two of the "original six" is one worth watching. I'm going with the 1-seed. Unless the Red Wings can steal one of the first 2 games in Chicago, I believe their goose is cooked.
Chicago: 4, Detroit: 2
- #5 Los Angeles Kings vs. #6 San Jose Sharks
The reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings were sluggish in their first 2 games against the St. Louis Blues. They managed to keep those games close, but inevitably lost both. After that, the Kings found new life and took 4-straight on their way to the second round. Los Angeles and St. Louis both played some great hockey in a series where every game was decided by only 1 goal.
In the opening round, San Jose pulled off their first postseason sweep in franchise history, a feat accomplished against a favored Vancouver Canucks team no less. The Sharks have been idle since the impressive sweep was completed back on May 7th.
Rest isn't always a good thing in sports, but in a physical game that demands every bit of energy you have, this might just be the time that some R&R is exactly what the doctor ordered. Having shed the image of perennial Cup favorites, the Sharks will continue to fly under the "expert's" radar.
San Jose: 4, Los Angeles: 2
Regardless of who wins these series, I hope round two is half as good as the opening round was. The National Hockey League rarely disappoints come postseason time, so hopefully that trend continues.