Wed Apr 27 11:46pm EDT
One of the best opening rounds in Stanley Cup Playoffs history is complete. Here are some preliminary thoughts about Round 2, with formal picks coming on Thursday.
Which series are you most looking forward to?
|Saturday, April 30||at Philadelphia, 3:00 p.m.||NBC, CBC|
|Monday, May 2||at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.||VERSUS, TSN|
|Wednesday, May 4||at Boston, 7:00 p.m.||VERSUS, CBC|
|Friday, May 6||at Boston, 8:00 p.m.||VERSUS (JIP), CBC|
|*Sunday, May 8||at Philadelphia, 3:00 p.m.||NBC, CBC|
|*Tuesday, May 10||at Boston, TBD||VERSUS, CBC|
|*Thursday, May 12||at Philadelphia, TBD||VERSUS, CBC|
The Flyers somehow overcame their goaltending deficiencies to win in seven games; the Bruins overcame their own self-inflicted problems to survive a Montreal scare in seven games.
Does the psychological damage from the Flyers' rally last season have an effect on this series? Not unless the scenario plays out again.
Special teams are huge here, as the Flyers' kill was underwhelming while the Bruins power play was putrid. No forward on the Bruins has looked as good as Danny Briere(notes) or Claude Giroux(notes) have in these playoffs; the B's need to be a hell of a lot tighter defensively against Philly.
Leaning Towards … My pick out of the East was the Bruins, but the Flyers have looked damn impressive at times — and Pronger's only going to get healthier. So I'm leaning Philly.
|Friday, April 29||at Washington, 7:00 p.m.||VERSUS, TSN|
|Sunday, May 1||at Washington, 7:00 p.m.||VERSUS, CBC|
|Tuesday, May 3||at Tampa Bay, TBD||VERSUS, TSN|
|Wednesday, May 4||at Tampa Bay, 7:00 p.m.||TSN|
|*Saturday, May 7||at Washington, 12:30 p.m.||NBC, TSN|
|*Monday, May 9||at Tampa Bay, TBD||VERSUS, TSN|
|*Wednesday, May 11||at Washington, TBD||VERSUS, TSN|
The Capitals were 4-1-1 against their division rivals, with one of those wins coming in the shootout.
The Rangers didn't really test the "new" Capitals defensive dogma. They didn't have the weaponry. The Lightning do, and they're also much more dangerous on the power play, which is another test. But the Capitals looked like a deep, focused team in Round 1; if Michal Neuvirth(notes) could match Henrik Lundqvist(notes), he can match Dwayne Roloson(notes).
Leaning Towards … The Capitals, who have to like the fact they're avoiding the Habs and the Penguins for Round 2.
|Thursday, April 28||at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m.||CBC, VERSUS|
|Saturday, April 30||at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m.||CBC, VERSUS|
|Tuesday, May 3||at Nashville, TBD||CBC, VERSUS|
|Thursday, May 5||at Nashville, TBD||CBC, VERSUS|
|*Saturday, May 7||at Vancouver, 8:00 p.m.||CBC, VERSUS|
|*Monday, May 9||at Nashville, TBD||CBC, VERSUS|
|*Wednesday, May 11||at Vancouver, TBD||CBC, VERSUS|
Conventional wisdom is that the Nucks will be gassed for Game 1, having celebrated their win against the Chicago Blackhawks like they won the Stanley Cup, a gold medal and the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes all in the same night. But the Thursday night start for this series should mean that the momentum carries over into Game 1, the weight of two crushing playoff defeats (and nearly a third) lifted off their backs.
The key to the series is Pekka Rinne(notes). He was ordinary against the Ducks, but it didn't matter when there were seven different players with two or more goals for the Preds. He needs to steal a couple here, and Nashville has to make these games uglier than a 400-pound transvestite.
Leaning Towards … The Canucks. Should be a rollicking good time in Nashville for these games, but Vancouver advances.
|Friday, April 29||at San Jose, 10:00 p.m.||VERSUS, TSN|
|Sunday, May 1||at San Jose, 3:00 p.m.||NBC, TSN|
|Wednesday, May 4||at Detroit, 8:00 p.m.||VERSUS (JIP), TSN|
|Friday, May 6||at Detroit, 7:00 p.m.||VERSUS, TSN|
|*Sunday, May 8||at San Jose, 8:00 p.m.||VERSUS, TSN|
|*Tuesday, May 10||at Detroit, TBD||VERSUS, TSN|
|*Thursday, May 12||at San Jose, TBD||VERSUS, TSN|
The first real indication that the Sharks were shedding the choker label was last spring, when they built a 3-0 lead on the Red Wings in the conference semifinals, got their asses handed to them in Game 4, but still managed to close out the series in Game 5. Now, that maturation as a contender has continued, to the point where Joe Thornton(notes) — Joe Thornton! — is scoring clutch, series-winning goals.
But while the Sharks are learning to be a champion, the majority of this Red Wings roster has been one. They dispatched the Phoenix Coyotes with an assassin's resolve. They'll be rested. They'll be healthy. They'll be ready.
Leaning Towards … The Sharks. Niemi and Howard are a wash, and San Jose has more quality depth at forward than Detroit. This is a different Sharks team; dare I say a special one?