all I have to say is that if
Round 2 of this yearís Stanley Cup Playoffs is even half as intense as Round 1,
we are in for a treat!!! Round 1 certainly wasnít without its share of
surprises, as least as far as the East is concerned anyway!
Many folks have asked me, what happens now that the first
round is over? Well, using the same seeding formula that was used to determine
the matchups for the first round, the surviving teams are now reseeded 1-4 in
each respective conference and the second round will essentially follow the same
formula. 1st will play 4th, and 2nd will play 3rd.
the West, all 4 top seeds advanced to Round 2. Detroit
took 2 games to get it going against Vancouver, but once they did, there was no
turning back. Colorado looked shaky, but they managed to make it through in 7
against Los Angeles. San Jose cruised to a 5 game shellacking of Phoenix. And
St. Louis managed the same 5 game almost sweep against Chicago. I was expecting
at least one upset in the west, but it didnít happen.
So what happens if a top seed is eliminated? In the case of
the East, where both #1 Boston and #2 Philadelphia bowed out, using the same
regular season standings, Carolina who was #3 will now assume #1. Since #8
Montreal advanced, they are still the lowest seed and play the Hurricanes in the
next round. Toronto will now play Ottawa (again!). Got it?? Good.
With the top two seeds in Boston and Philadelphia gone, the
East is essentially wide open. I wouldnít at all be surprised if we end up with
an all Canadian Eastern Conference final.
you were paying attention, youíll know that my
predictions from the first round in some cases were right on the money, while
others picked the right team to advance, while others picked the right amount of
games. Overall, I was .500 in picking the winners and .500 in picking the right
amount of games. The only one that I was dead on with is the Montreal series, I
picked them in 6 and it happened. Not bad, considering that last year I
predicted one series correctly in the first round (that was Los Angeles over
Now, the matchups and predictions:
1st vs 4th Ė DETROIT vs ST. LOUIS
Goaltending looks extremely lopsided in this series on
paper, but if you look at how both fared in the first round, this should be a
dandy. You have Dominick Hasek for Detroit, who actually looked shaky early, but
ended the series in his usual flip-flopping form. Brent Johnson, on the other
hand, is playing the best hockey of his career, having shared a tie of the NHL
record in playoff shutouts with Patrick Lalime of Ottawa with 3. There is no
question that your goaltending has to be great to win in the Stanley Cup
Playoffs, and for both of these teams, they have it.
Unfortunately for St. Louis, the puck stops here. Like
Vancouver, the Blues simply cannot matchup against the offensive firepower that
the Red Wings have. Brett Hull was on fire in round one, having scored his first
ever playoff hat trick. Look for that hot streak to continue in round two. Steve
Yzerman is hurting (as usual) but still manages to be dominant. This is why he
wears the C. Then you have "Lucky Luc" Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Chris
Chelios. Those players alone can win a series. Most impressive in the first
round, though, has been the play of rookie Pavel Datsyuk. He racked up 2 goals
and 5 assists in his first ever taste of the NHLís postseason. Detroit will be
firing on all cylinders, and it will take more than Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk,
Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger to stop them.
I mentioned before that Detroit is on a mission this year,
and that mission will only be accomplished with a Stanley Cup victory. They
survived a scare in the first round against Vancouver but they smartened up in a
hurry. On the other hand, St. Louis is looking to get to the final four for the
second straight season. Unfortunately they will have to qualify for the playoffs
for a 30th straight season, next season. The Blues are in too deep
with this matchup, and it hasnít even started yet.
Prediction: Red Wings in 5
2nd vs 3rd Ė COLORADO vs SAN JOSE
I had predicted that Colorado would bow out in 7 to Los
Angeles, but then Patrick Roy pulled another miracle out of his helmet and shut
out the Kings in game 7. The Avalanche finally got their entire lineup healthy
for this one, and not a moment too soon, as they now will face another tough
opponent in San Jose. Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg have not scored for 6 games,
so look out! There is no way that these two will stay off the score sheet for
long. They not only need these two guys to step up, but Alex Tanguay, Chris
Drury and Milan Hejduk have to pot some goals as well. Rob Blake is solid as
always on defense, and while Darius Kasparaitus is not Ray Bourque, he has been
able to fill in for him quite nicely.
Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Vincent Damphousse, Niklas Sundstrom,
Todd Harvey, and Teemu Selanne have all figured in the scoring for the Sharks in
the first round. Add Patrick Marleauís team leading 3 goals and you have a
balanced attack for San Jose. Evgeni Nabokov has shown us this season why he was
the Calder Trophy winner last season.
Unfortunately for Nabokov, Patrick Roy is back in playoff
form again, just when I thought he was done. If the Sharks are to have a hope of
advancing to the final four for the first time, they will have to steal a game
or two in Denver. I get the feeling that this is not going to happen. After all,
the Avalanche are the defending champions. Home ice should be a big factor here.
You have to wonder if Colorado can continue to play these gruelling 7 game
series and still advance to the Stanley Cup Final series. Looks like they got
their entire line-up healthy just in time, because theyíre going to need it!
Prediction: Avalanche in 7
3rd vs 8th Ė CAROLINA vs MONTREAL
fitting is it that the first time the Habs make it to
the second round since they last won the Stanley Cup in 1993 that they matchup
against the team they beat in the first round that same year!? The Hurricanes of
course are the former Hartford Whalers, a team that has never been able to beat
Montreal; ever! They may have knocked off New Jersey, but they are now up
against a force greater than the Hockey Gods themselves: The Forum Ghosts!!
personally really like how Carolina played in round 1
against the Devils. I saw a comment somewhere that the Hurricanes team is like
the Rodney Dangerfield of Hockey, meaning they get no respect. Well Iím pretty
sure that they have gained a little bit of respect, and momentum from that first
round win. Look out if any of the games in this upcoming series goes to
overtime!! If Carolina is going to have any chance in this series, they need to
duplicate their performance against New Jersey and multiply it by two! I have
really liked the play of Eric Cole in the playoffs so far, not to mention the
always fine play of Ron Francis and stellar goaltending from both Kevin Weekes
and Arturs Irbe.
the Habs simply satisfied with having just won the first
round? Absolutely not! Iíve always said that if Montreal is in the playoffs that
you never count them out. Now that the Forum Ghosts finally seem to have come to
call the Molson Center home, you could see some more magic in a city that has
seen nothing but all season long. It isnít quite midnight yet for this
Cinderella team. Whether you like this team or whether you hate this team, you
have to agree that the stories surrounding their incredible run have been
nothing short of amazing. I have six words for the Carolina Hurricanes: Saku
Koivu, Doug Gilmour and Jose Theodore. Bring it on!!!
Prediction: Canadiens in 6
4th vs 7th Ė TORONTO vs OTTAWA
we go again, the Battle of Ontario!!! After managing to
avoid each other in the first round for a 3rd straight season, they
still manage to meet for a 3rd straight season, and you know what?
Itís Payback time!!!
This time itís all about bragging rights. Forget about the
Leafsí prior victories, this one is going to come down to which team has the
most heart and which team is the most disciplined. I think the tables have
turned this year. The Senators are healthy, the Leafs are not. This has been the
opposite the last 2 times the two teams have met.
Senators came out of nowhere and beat Philadelphia in 5
games. Had it not been for the dťjŗ vu overtime loss in Game 1, they could have
made it through in a sweep. Aside from winning the round, I have noticed
something different about Ottawa in the playoffs this year. They have
confidence, they have grit, and they have pride in themselves. This is something
that you can lose really quick when you lose in the first round 3 years in a
row. This time however, it was time for the Sens to break on through.
Everybody talks about how the Flyers were one of the best
teams in the east but were not able to execute. But letís be realistic here,
Philadelphia lost the series because they couldnít score on a hot goalie! Not to
mention that they lost their cool one too many times. Ottawa, on the other hand,
kept their composure and were rewarded for it. Bill Barber got the axe in
Philadelphia, just like Jacques Martin would have suffered a similar fate had
the tables been turned.
this year Ottawa was able to get that playoff monkey
off their back. If the Senators can play this next series the way they played
against the Flyers, they should be able to finally beat the Leafs. However, they
will need to continue to keep their composure and they will need their physical
play to continue. They will also have to win at the Air Canada Center, something
they havenít been able to do in past seasons. But as I mentioned, forget about
the past! The Leafs are missing several key players, most significantly their
captain Mats Sundin. While the emotions from a hard fought 7 game series against
the New York Islanders should help them out, they are simply too banged up to be
able to compete with the speed, the grit, and the finesse that the Senators have
displayed thus far. Not to mention that the Senators have had a few extra days
of rest after winning their first round series early. They have had scoring from
all four lines and the defensive corps have chipped in as well. Martin Havlat
should have an emotional lift from having scored the overtime winner in game 5.
Daniel Alfredsson is as fired up as Iíve ever seen him. And of course, Patrick
Lalime is writing his own page in hockey history. In fact, so far he is
reminding me of Bill Ranford from 1990. The Senators need his stellar play in
net to continue. Jacques Martin said after winning the Philadelphia series that
he has seen this team mature, and they will only get better as the playoffs
proceed. One thing Iíd like to see the coach do is dress Bill Muckalt for at
least one game. He is due to score in a big way. Perhaps they can alternate him
with Jody Hull.
know that everybody is hoping for a Toronto-Montreal
conference final, but itís not going to happen. An Ottawa-Montreal matchup,
however is definitely possible. Just remind me not to walk into a night club in
Toronto (or Philadelphia for that matter!) wearing my Sens jersey!
Prediction: Senators in 6 (please?)