2008 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF PREVIEW

ROUND 2 - RETURN OF THE RIVALRY

 

First of all, I want to thank Versus in the U.S. for their outstanding hockey coverage while I was away.  Although I still missed a lot of the action, I have to say, I was not expecting to be able to sit on a balcony in Miami and be able to watch playoff hockey of any sort.  For some reason, there was something just not right about the whole thing, but then again, this from somebody who in the early 90s used to catch the games on Satellite in Bermuda of all places, so I digress.  Just a suggestion for the various executives at the station there are Canadians who watch while on vacation, perhaps more coverage of the Canadian teams would be a good thing.  I was able to see most of the Calgary-San Jose series, one game of the Ottawa-Pittsburgh series, and virtually none of the Montreal-Boston series (which was one of the best of the first round) more Canadian teams, please!!

Anyway folks, Im back safe and sound from Florida, and the NHL has a real treat in store for us four outstanding playoff series showcasing four great rivalries, all having the ability to go the distance and I think they will.  Lets get it on!

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Montreal vs #6 Philadelphia

Isnt it ironic how in both conferences the #1, #2, #5 and #6 seeds all advanced to the second round?  Im not sure if Ive ever seen this happen, yet here we are!

Not too much surprise to see Montreal make it through their first round series against Boston, but I was surprised it took seven games to decide.  Philadelphia-Washington, however, I did expect to go seven games, and it did even went to overtime, with Joffrey Lupul forever etching his name into Stanley Cup Playoff history with the winner.  Who knew he had it in him a couple of years ago when he used to hit the post five times a game in Edmonton?  Too bad for Alex Ovechkin, but hell be back.

Youre going to hear me say this a lot: this series will be a dandy!

Why Montreal should win: 1st overall in the East, they still have the best power play in the entire league throughout the first round they have the loudest (and evidently the most destructive) fans, and they have arguably the best goaltender of the first round Carey Price.  We all know his accolades 1st round draft pick, Canadian junior gold medal, Calder Cup MVP, just to name a few.  What I cant believe is why he was passed on for the Calder trophy as leagues best rookie, but Im not too sure he played enough games to even be considered.  I can guarantee you this much, had he played the entire season in Montreal hed be the undisputed winner, hands down.  Then again, Jonathan Toews didnt play the entire season either.  Am I missing something here?

How Philadelphia could win: Keep playing exactly how they did against Washington.  Even though I do believe the Habs are way deeper than the Capitals were (with all due respect to Mr. Ovechkin), and even though they have a way better goalie, Martin Biron has held his own.  I need to quit forgetting the Flyers have Jason Smith, a proven warrior on defense in his own right.  Hes barely visible because he gets the puck out of his end so quickly you hardly know hes back there.  Philly does have the right mix of youth (Mike Richards, Scotty Upshall) and veteran leadership (Smith, Derian Hatcher, Daniel Briere) to make some noise.  With Lupul on the score sheet now, who knows? 

I get the feeling Ive entered a time warp and ended up back in the 1970s and we all know how good the Habs were back then with a young Ken Dryden.  Could this be a case of dj vu?  Do you get the feeling the Forum Ghosts have finally found their way into the confines of the Bell Centre, or will the Spectrum Ghost herself, Kate Smith, make a monumental comeback?

Prediction: Canadiens in 7

#2 Pittsburgh vs #5 New York Rangers

While everybody and their dog was rooting for a Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin match up, we ended up with Crosby vs. a dog (Sean Avery).  Careful what you wish for.

Why Pittsburgh should win: For the same reasons they won round one in a sweep great scoring threats from Crosby, Geno (Evgeni Malkin) and Marian Hossa; great leadership from Gary Roberts; and ultimately, two players who can handle Avery and his antics Georges Laraque and Jarkko Ruutu.  Has Marc-Andre Fleury ever played better?

How New York could win: If Avery does his job and draws penalties, and if Jaromir Jagr can remain interested long enough to be able to get on the scoreboard.  Henrik Lundqvist was great against New Jersey, hell need to be outstanding against the Penguins.  The x-factor will be Brendan Shanahan can he lead the Rangers to what could be a dark horse trip to the semi-finals?

Its going to be a dandy series!

Prediction: Penguins in 7

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Detroit vs #6 Colorado

Weve been waiting for this rematch ever since Patrick Roy retired.  The only thing missing from this series is Roy himself, Steve Yzerman and Claude Lemieux!  The modern age rivalry is back!

Why Detroit should win: Nicklas Lidstrom can shoot and score from anywhere even centre ice.  Hes done it before, and he did it again to help sink Nashville.  Is it any wonder why hes won so many Norris trophies and is a front runner again?  Has anybody told Chris Osgood hes 35 years old?  Hes playing like he did when he was 25!  Ditto for Chris Chelios and his youthful 46!  Do we really need to ask who in the hell is this guy Johan Franzen anymore?  Probably the best news for the Wings Dominik Hasek wont be the starter as he couldnt stop a beach ball in round 1.

How Colorado could win: Get Peter Forsberg back from his recurring groin problem as soon as possible.  Keep getting production from Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny.  This team probably surprised a lot of people in their six game victory over Minnesota, but as I already said, short of Lemieux and Roy, this team is a shadow of the 1996 Stanley Cup winner.  Do they have Uwe Krupps address and phone number?

Another dandy series coming up!

Prediction: Red Wings in 7

#2 San Jose vs #5 Dallas

They played each other eight times in the regular season, and could potentially face each other 7 more times before its all said and done this time its not for the Pacific Division, its for the right to move on to the Conference finals.

Why San Jose should win: Its time for the Sharks to advance beyond one or two rounds if they cant get motivated for this series, they have no hope of ever making it anywhere.  The time is now.  Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo are clicking again, Patrick Marleau may get shaken but not stirred (do a Google for round 1 hit from Cory Sarich).  Evgeni Nabokov is a Vezina trophy candidate.  Jeremy Roenick has been simply awesome and seems to be on a mission.

But

How Dallas could win: They only eliminated the defending Stanley Cup Champions from Anaheim, so theyre not to be taken lightly.  Marty Turco finally seems to be the goalie the Stars always knew he was.  Stu Barnes and Mike Modano are the heart of the team, and that guy named Brad Richards, he isnt bad either.  If they could ever get Sergei Zubov back in their lineup theyd be lethal, but quite frankly, do they even need him?  Stephane Robidas must be making people in Montreal take notice, when they're not too busy starting fires on St. Catherine Street.

And do you know what?  This series will be a dandy!!

Prediction: Sharks in 7

So there you have it, predictions for round two As always, Ill be back for the semi-finals, and thankfully Ill actually get to see some of these games, theyre going to be great!  So whatever you do, dont blink!  And dont forget, as you probably know by now, I blog during most of the games, so if youre not near a TV, or vacationing in Florida, this will be your best bet to keep up with all the action.

 

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