With the first round wrapping up on Tuesday night, that does not leave much time until the puck drops on Thursday for the start of the second round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Detroit (1) vs. Colorado (6)
The odds are slim that this match-up produces the same bloodshed as the past Wings/Avalanche battles, but there are some familiar faces. Forsberg, Sakic, and Foote lining up against Lidstrom and the Grind Line (albeit on different lines, now). Jose Theodore was lights out against Minnesota, and he gives the Avalanche an edge in goal for this series. Their defence has to stay healthy, and they will lean heavily on Adam Foote to shut down the Wings top stars like Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Up front, Forsberg looked great with Stastny and Hejduk, and Ryan Smyth was the best forward against the Wild. The Wings have a smart, speedy defence, but do they have the depth to match up against the deep Avalanche attack? Colorado’s ability to spread their scoring among three lines may be the difference in this series.
I’m calling the upset here, Avalanche in a very fast and offensive seven games. Jose Theodore’s return to prominence continues.
San Jose (2) vs. Dallas (5)
This is in my opinion the most even match up of the second round. San Jose had some trouble with the Flames, while Dallas made the former cup winners look like over-aggressive chumps. Dallas can roll three scoring lines and are very opportunistic offensively. Nabokov is a much better goalie than Giguere, so the Stars will need to make the most of their chances. Dallas may be without Boucher and Zubov for most of this series, so it may be asking too much of the trio of rookies – Fistric, Grossman, and Niskanen – to handle the fast and physical Sharks forwards. This series is going to come down to secondary scoring. Whichever team can get the most out of their depth is going to win this war. You don’t have to look to far back (end of the regular season) to see the bad blood between these two teams.
Although the Sharks were my pre-playoff pick to win it all, Dallas proved me right with their relatively easy series against the overrated Ducks. The Stars take this series in seven.
Montreal (1) vs. Philadelphia (6)
If Philadelphia thought they were in tough shutting down the Caps, Montreal is an entirely different beast. The Kostitsyn brothers skated circles around the Bruins defence, and after Coburn and Timonen the Flyers blue liners can be exploited big time. Philadelphia is much more potent offensively than Boston, so Carey Price will have to continue to improve and build off his two shutouts in the first round. The difference in this series will most likely be Montreal’s depth against the slow Flyers defence. Richards and Briere dominated in the first round, and look for them to continue to lead the Flyers attack. Montreal’s defence is far from impenetrable, so the Flyers should win a game or two, but do not have the horses to skate with Montreal over a seven game series.
Montreal skates circles around the Flyers defence in six games.
Pittsburgh (2) vs. New York (5)
Both the Penguins and the Rangers got through their first round match-ups quickly. Pittsburgh looked unbeatable against the Senators, and New York outclassed the gritty Devils. Malkin has been the best player in hockey over the past few months, and Crosby looks like he is getting healthy again. Pittsburgh’s role players like Ruutu and Talbot will continue to supply energy. The Rangers have the best goalie in the East with Lundqvist, and their big off-season signings are paying off. Gomez and Drury looked fantastic in round one and have excellent playoff pedigrees. Both teams have some depth issues at defence, although the Rangers play a very strong team system game. If Fleury can keep up with Lundqvist, the Pens will take this one.
The Penguins will have to step up big time after dispatching a poor Senators squad. I’ll take them over the Rangers in a hard-fought six games.