Greg Wyshynski, Editor
Penguins in 6
Rangers in 6
The Penguins’ goaltending situation scares the bejesus out of me. So does Craig Anderson’s goalie prowess. So does the fact that Ottawa is one of those teams piling up compelling storylines – Karlsson’s comeback, Spezza’s potential one, Paul MacLean-as-walrus, a ton of unsung heroes – that sometimes lead to a team of destiny vibe. But the Penguins are too good and too deep to lose this series.
The Rangers and Bruins is going to be a slobber-knocker. I give the Rangers the advantage in goal with Lundqvist and their scoring depth is a bit better than expected. That said, it’s time for Nash to become a force, and I think this is the spot for it. The Bruins were exposed a bit in the Leafs series, miracle comeback be damned.
Blackhawks in 6
Sharks in 7
If Detroit plays as it did in Game 7 against the Ducks, this is going to be a very tight series. But I think Chicago knows it played average hockey against the Wild and will course correct. Plus, they’ll exploit the Wings’ defense in ways the Ducks did not.
The Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are the series of the semifinals. Two teams at the top of their games. Can the Sharks crack the Kings’ defense? Can the Kings solve a locked-in Antti Niemi. This could be a classic, but in the end, it’s the Sharks. Who seem like a team of desti … I can’t even finish that yet.
Sean Leahy, Editor
Penguins in 7
Bruins in 6
You have to believe the Penguins learned from their many mistakes against the Islanders, right? Right? That's what we're banking on here, but they will be put to the test mightily from Craig Anderson, who, should Pittsburgh fail to make the necessary adjustments, could end this series quickly.
The Bruins found their legs in the final 10 minutes of the third period against the Maple Leafs, and while momentum doesn't flow from series to series, the wakeup call some players got in the first round could go a long way. Still without goals from Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, it won't come easy against Henrik Lundqvist, but like the Penguins, their mistakes in the opening round will provide a much needed lesson in what needs to change.
Blackhawks in 6
Sharks in 7
There's still some life left in those Red Wings, and aside from a 7-1 drubbing, they played the Blackhawks tight during the regular season. But after a Game 1 wakeup call, the Blackhawks took control of their series against the Wild and know that it's Stanley Cup or bust for them. A final meeting with the Red Wings before realignment takes over will be a nice way for them to say goodbye.
Sharks/Kings will probably be the best series of the second round. LA looks to be back to their Cup winning form after dropping the first two games to St. Louis, while the Sharks, behind Antti Niemi's fine goaltending look to be hitting their stride after sweeping Vancouver. The Kings love themselves some tight games, and Jonathan Quick allowed just 7 goals in three starts versus San Jose during the regular season. But there's something about these Sharks. Maybe it's the realization the window is closing for their current core group or maybe it's Niemi ready to lead another team to a deep run.
Harrison Mooney, Editor
Blackhawks in 6
Kings in 7
The Red Wings were able to squeak past the Anaheim Ducks, but the Ducks were something of a paper tiger. Not so for the Blackhawks, who boast the sort of offensive thrust -- from their elite breakout to their superior puck possession -- that the Red Wings used to have.
Detroit remains a skilled team, and Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are probably good enough for a win each, but they can't run with the Blackhawks anymore.
Nobody expected the Sharks to do what they did in Round 1. It's enough to make one wonder if they're this year's Kings. But I can't shake the conviction that this year's Kings remain this year's Kings. LA got a scare from the Blues, but after dropping the first two, they righted the ship and steamrolled St. Louis in four. Now they're rolling, and I think they'll be able to get past the Sharks.
How did the Sharks beat the Canucks so easily? Their decided advantage up the middle, with Thornton, Couture and Pavelski. But the Kings are stacked at centre as well, with Kopitar, Richards and Stoll, and I think it's enough to play the Sharks to a standstill. Add that to the fact that the Sharks are a little easier to score on than St. Louis and I think the Kings will come out on top.
Penguins in 7
Bruins in 6
Simply put, if the Penguins play the sort of generous defensive game they played versus the Islanders, the Senators will eat them alive. But I don't think that's going to happen. And if Marc-Andre Fleury plays all the games in this series, the Senators will probably win. But I don't think that's going to happen, either.
The Penguins have been exposed in a lot of ways, but they're still the Penguins. They still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and those two remain difference-makers that the Senators don't have in the middle of the ice, especially with Jason Spezza still on the shelf. That in mind, I think they'll make the difference in a tight, exciting series.
The Bruins got a scare from the Leafs, but they seemed to find their game somewhere about the ten-minute mark of the third period. Perfect timing, right?
That's what Boston is capable of, and I don't think the Rangers are similarly gifted. This is going to be a nasty, tight-checking, probably low-scoring series, but the Bruins are the superior club in most areas (save, maybe, in goal) and they should be able to make the Rangers go away.
Dmitry Chesnokov, Senior Writer
Blackhawks in 6
It’s not that I don’t believe in Detroit, and the last series showed that you never write them off. I just think Chicago’s a bit too much to handle for any team.
Kings in 7
The Sharks were very impressive in dismantling the Canucks this year. The Kings got in the playoff groove winning 4 straight against the Blues after losing the first two of their series. This one is going the distance.
Senators in 7
Don’t want to pick against the Penguins. But their goaltending situation is a cause for concern. If it’s just a blip and the win the first two games, the Pens will advance.
Bruins in 7
I have a feeling 5 of the 7 games will go to overtime. By that time we’ll all just say ‘Someone score already!’Ryan Lambert, Columnist
Chicago in 5
San Jose in 7
The Blackhawks are the clearly best team left standing and if it took seven games for the Wings to put down the Ducks, then Chicago, with depth at every position against a poor Detroit defense, looks to have as much trouble now as it did in the first round. Which is to say none at all.
San Jose and Los Angeles is an intriguing series that could honestly go either way, and I guess it all depends on which Kings show up. The ones that let St. Louis hang around too long early in that series will find their Cup defense ending pretty early, but the later-on gang of marauders could put a pretty hefty scare into something as conceptually narrative-driven as this being Logan Couture's team. I think San Jose is better overall but I also think they're still the Sharks In The Playoffs.
Pittsburgh in 6
Boston in 6
If either of these series are shorter than predicted, it will be the 1/7 matchup. But then, given how both teams played in the first round, with Pittsburgh white-knuckling six games thanks to the calamitous goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury, and the Sens gutting an already injury-riddled Montreal, either team could be the one to go on the run. In cases such as these, though, it is perhaps unwise to back the one led offensively by a bunch of rookies.
As for Boston and New York, it is, like the 5/6 in the West also just a matter of which teams show up. The Bruins have given little reason outside their miraculous comeback to believe in them especially deeply, but the Rangers of Games 1-5 were not all that impressive either. If the team that shut out Washington in Games 6 and 7 shows up, it could be a very long and simultaneously exceedingly short series for the Bruins. Don't necessarily think it'll happen, but it might.
Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Fantasy Hockey Guru
Chicago in 5 and LA in 7
I'm still believing that Chicago and Pittsburgh are the juggernauts, but I'm backing off of my (tongue only partially in cheek) 16-0 stance. Basically since it's impossible to do that now. Meanwhile, the defending champs are finding some of that old magic, but the Sharks on a roll and will thus push them to seven.
Pittsburgh in 6 and New York in 7
The Penguins will still struggle to find chemistry with this All-Star cast that was slapped together. Meanwhile, the Senators are a cohesive unit and between that and Craig Anderson they're stealing at least two games. Meanwhile, the Bruins love going to seven games and the Rangers love doing things the hard way so that series just screams "going the distance"
Chuck and Pants, the Ladies From What’s Up, Ya Sieve? (Your Official Playoff Beard Pundits)
Chicago (1) vs. Detroit (7)
The Red Wings squeaked into the playoffs, then managed to up end the higher seed. They will need serious “third time’s a charm” mojo to take on the Blackhawks, who are unlikely to let the Wings back into the series every other game. The Hawks rolled over Minnesota despite zero goals from Toews or Kane - we wouldn’t bet on them coming up empty twice. Crawford’s 1.32 playoff GAA is too low and Howard’s 2.74 too high for the Wings to need as many 1-goal and OT victories as they did in Round 1.
Los Angeles (5) vs. San Jose (6)
Winner: San Jose
We love a good goalie battle. Vezina-nominated Antti Niemi’s stellar save percentage has improved in these playoffs - but not as much Jonathan Quick’s. San Jose scored (and needed) a lot of goals in Round One. If Quick can squash the Sharks’ 3.75 G/G output, he could put a choke hold on this series... while we all suffocate slowly waiting for the Kings to score. With the lowest G/G of any team going into Round 2, the Kings need guys like Kopitar and Brown (1 goal each) on the board in a big way. That’s a tall order in this situation. We expect Quick to be great against San Jose, but the Kings’ offense won’t be good enough.
Pittsburgh (1) vs. Ottawa (7)
Remember when smart girls were into slacker guys, like in Knocked Up? That’s Pants and the Penguins. If the Pens don’t get their act together and do the damned dishes in Round 2, they’re sleeping on the couch all summer. Of course, they have to play those pesky Sens. Ottawa is getting a little production from a lot of guys - 12 different scorers in Round One - so the opposition can never rest. The only team with more? Pittsburgh’s 14 scorers. We’re of a mind that the Penguins can do this, but they need to do it right away and never stop. Get Malkin throwing himself around, find the magic in James Neal’s mysteriously ginger beard and, for heaven’s sake, move Tyler Kennedy up! Did we just say that? Playoffs make us crazy.
Boston (4) vs. New York (6)
These Original Six teams have not met in the playoffs since 1973. That’s 40 years of playoff intensity just waiting to be unleashed! Both are riding high after Game 7 wins, but the Bruins’ legitimately insane third period comeback means the bear has awoken from hibernation and he’s wicked hungry. Neither team’s top line was all that productive in Round One, instead relying on role players to carry the offense. Imagine if Nash, Richards, Seguin and Horton get going? Goaltending will be essential in this series. Lundqvist has the hot glove hand with back-to-back shutouts, but Rask has been calm and steady between the pipes. We expect this series to be physical and in the end, the Bruins to come out on top.
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