Well what a first round we had. The Senators advance over , the Leafs suffer a massive meltdown in the final 10 minutes of game 7 and the Canucks were the lone team swept in the first round.
So now, what does the second round have in store? Four great matchups, 2 of them featuring original 6 matchups and the other two each featuring recent Stanley Cup Champs. In fact, the last 5 Cup winners are still alive in the postseason.
So here we go, a breakdown of each series, as well as our predictions.
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL – #1 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs #7 OTTAWA SENATORS
RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY
This will be the 4th meeting in the last 7 years between the Penguins and the Senators. While Ottawa won the first meeting in 2007 on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals, Pittsburgh turned the tables on the Senators, sweeping them in 2008 and then ousting them in 6 games in 2010.
Kris Letang, PIT – With all the offensive firepower on the Penguins, the most important player is Letang. The Norris Trophy nominee is relied upon to be the puck mover to get the biscuit to the scorers in full flight.
Erik Karlsson, OTT – Karlsson will not only be counted on to produce offensively, but will also be required to go head to head with one of the top lines of the Penguins and hold them off the scoreboard. Karlsson looked uncomfortable at times in the first round, but has had almost a week off and should be even stronger for this series, which is vital to the Sentors’ success.
MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES
Pittsburgh’s stars are all pretty healthy, as just rookie winger Beau Bennett is out with an upper body injury.
For the Senators, fans will be sitting on the edge of their seats until Friday’s game 2 to see if Jason Spezza can return. Coming off back surgery, Spezza will not play in game 1, but game 2 is definitely in the discussion. Also, defenseman Patrick Wiercioch left game 3 of the opening round with an injury, but it is not known if he will be available in this series.
Pittsburgh’s bounty of skill started to gel later in the Islanders’ series, the leadership group is vast and experienced.
Ottawa plays as a tight-knit group and never thinks they are out of a game. The will just hang around and play rope-a-dope and then strike when you least expect it.
THE PENGUINS WILL WIN IF
They get average goaltending and Sidney Crosby stays healthy.
THE SENATORS WILL WIN IF
Jared: As Pesky as the Senators are, without a 100% Spezza, they are facing an uphill climb. They will not get the advantage of facing Fleury (unless Dan Bylsma has a stroke before the game), like the Islanders did. Still, the Senators will not give up, and their defense is just big, mobile and physical enough to contain the buzzing Pittsburgh forwards. PREDICTION: Penguins in 7
Phil: Marc-Andre Fleury or Tomas Vokoun? I feel like goaltending will determine the winner of this series. On the other hand the Penguins have the fire power to advance even with a great goaltender. This series is hard to judge as a fan of the Sens but I feel like the Sens will have their hands full with this Pittsburgh offense. I think this one will go 6 maybe 7 and could go either way but it’s too hard not to pick the Pens. PREDICTION: Pens in 7
Jamie: This is explosive offensive threats and volatile defence versus quiet offence and booming defence. If the Senators can avoid the penalty box and get rough in the corners they have a solid chance in this series. Iginla got heavy on the assist sheet in the first series and will probably be the most dangerous setup man for the Penguins. Pens are the clear favorites in this series but they showed they were far more than human against the Islanders. With the prospect of Jason Spezza returning to the lineup, this team enters into a realm they only played a few games in this season. The regular season was tight, this series will be tighter. PREDICTION: Senators in 7
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL – #4 BOSTON BRUINS vs #6 NEW YORK RANGERS
RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY
The Bruins and Rangers haven’t met in the playoffs in 40 years. No player in this series was even alive the last time they met, so there is little post-season animosity.
Patrice Bergeron, BOS – After a very quiet first six games against Toronto, Bergeron had a goal and an assist in the final 100 seconds of game 7 and then scored the OT winner. The Bruins’ best all-around player needs to catch fire, because goals won’t come as easily against the Rangers.
Rick Nash, NYR – Nash moves into the second round for the first time in his career. Brought over from Columbus to add offense, Nash did little of that in the first round. With just 2 assists in the 7 game series against the Capitals, the Rangers need more from their big winger if they are going to beat the Bruins.
MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES
The Bruins’ blue line took a beating in the first round. Andrew Ference missed game 7 with an injury and Dennis Seidenberg left game 7 early and did not return. If either of those players are out long-term, then the Bruins defense could become succeptable to the Rangers hard hitting cycle game.
Ryane Clowe and Marc Staal both missed a majority of the first round. Staal played only once (game 3) after recovering from a devastating eye injury, but is still suffering from blurred vision and is doubtful to start the series. Clowe has an upper body injury and a couple of days rest might do him enough good to suit up early in Round 2.
Boston’s exhilarating and improbable comeback gives them momentum heading into this round, after they muddled through much of the first round.
THE BRUINS WILL WIN IF
THE RANGERS WILL WIN IF
Jared: While the Bruins are deeper offensively than the Rangers, New York got back to that stifling style of defense and Lundqvist is at the top of his game. When this happens, there are not too many chances against them. Boston was exposed defensively and Toronto showed that Chara can be knocked around. I have grown to really respect Ryan Callahan as a captain, and I think he can will them to a series win. PREDICTION: Rangers in 6
Phil: Not going to lie, was pretty sure the Leafs won this this thing. But like I’ve said before the Bruins find a way to win almost all the time and they proved that tonight. The Bruins should use this to their advantage in this series. The Rangers have also played 7 games which might make the first game a little slow out of the gate. Both clubs have good goaltending and have good depth at the forwards rank. I think the Bruins are still a better team which is why I picked them. PREDICTION: Bruins in 6
Jamie: Two teams coming off a rough 7 game series. Both teams are coming off big comebacks so emotions should be high on both sides. Tuuka Rask proved he can be just as clutch as any other goalie, so the matchup of him and Lundqvist should be great to watch. This series is skill against grind. Look for Rick Nash to final realize he has to play hockey in May. PREDICTION: Rangers in 7
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL – #1 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS vs #7 DETROIT RED WINGS
RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY
The Hawks and the Wings met in the Western Conference finals four years ago. Detroit sent the Hawks home in 5 games to advance to the Stanley Cup finals in 2009.
Jonathan Toews, CHI – The captain had a very quiet first round, recording only a pair of assists. The bigger the game, the bigger Toews plays, so expect him to be a menace in this series.
Henrik Zetterberg, DET – After taking over from Nicklas Lidstrom as the Wings’ captain, Zetteberg had 7 of his 8 first round points in the final three games as he carried the Wings to the upset win. Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk will carry the Wings as far as they will go.
MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES
Dave Bolland missed the entire first round, creating a hole in the middle of the second line. Ray Emery also missed the win over the Wild, but Corey Crawford entrenched himself as the #1 and Emery was not really missed. Both are reportedly close to being ready in time for Wednesday’s game 1.
The only causalty of the first round for the Wings was rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who broke a finger and is likely out for the remainder of the playoffs. He joins Drew Miller and Darren Helm on the sidelines.
Both teams have good coaching, play a system and have great leadership. There is not much to choose between these clubs despite the fact they were separated by 21 points in the standings.
THE BLACKHAWKS WILL WIN IF
Johnathan Toews shuts down Pavel Datsyuk. He doesn’t need to score a ton, but if he can keep Detroit’s most dangerous player in check, then the Hawks have more secondary scoring than the Wings.
THE RED WINGS WILL WIN IF
Jimmy Howard can steal a game on his own. The Wings are slightly overmatched, but they could have the better goaltender, albeit the less consistent one.
Jared: These two teams played a classic game just as the Hawks’ amazing early season run was nearing an end. It ended up 2-1 for Chicago in the shootout. It was the second game they played that went into extra time, as the Hawks won all 3, including the last one in a 7-1 blowout. The Wings are playoff hardened, and both teams have won Cups in the last 5 years. There isn’t much to choose between them, but the lack of Lidstrom still affects the Wings a bit, and Howard is less consistent than Crawford. PREDICTION: Hawks in 7
Phil: Hawks are such a strong team and the Wings are so well coached. I believed the Wings would win against the Ducks unlike maybe, due to their style and coaching. I think that alone might give the Hawks a hard time. But then again the Wings aren’t the Wings of old and the Hawks are just too skilled to lose to this Wings team. Going with the Hawks because I think they are too much for Detroit to handle. PREDICTION: Hawks in 5
Jamie: Shooters paradise! Chicago came out strong in their first series and the Red Wings proved they never say die. I would pay to watch this as a Conference Final every year. This is going to be a series to see what defence corps can shut down the star players of the other side. Toews was silent in the first series, don’t expect that to last. PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 6
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL – #5 LOS ANGELES KINGS vs #6 SAN JOSE SHARKS
RECENT PLAYOFF HISTORY
The California rivals have only met once in the playoffs, and that was a 4-2 Sharks win two years ago. Both teams have vastly different lineups and makeups than that series, and this will prove to be similar to the Bruins/Rangers series, where one team is offensively oriented while the other relies on keeping the puck out of their net.
Jonathan Quick, LA – After a shaky start in the first two games against the Blues, he stopped 104 of 110 shots he faced in winning 4 straight games. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner will need to be just as good, and even better, against the high flying Sharks.
Logan Couture, SJ – The young former Ottawa 67′s centre has made the Sharks his team. Even with the veterans like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle around him, Couture has, at least on the ice, become the man in San Jose. As he goes, so will the Sharks.
MASH UNIT – KEY INJURIES
Robyn Regehr is probable for game 1, and there has been speculation that Matt Greene might be ready to return early in the series which would help the Kings’ blue line. Forward Kyle Clifford is doubtful for game 1.
Martin Havlat is out indefinitely with a lower body injury, which hurts the Sharks’ offensive depth. Jason Demers is nearing a return from an ankle injury, while Tommy Wingels is probable, with an upper body ailment.
This is irresistable force versus immovable object. The Sharks had to be angry that the Kings hoisted a Cup before they did. The Sharks are now the only California team not to have done so, despite the fact that they have been a favorite for so long. That window was thought to have been closed, so coming in as the sleeper might be the tonic for finally getting over the hump.
THE KINGS WILL WIN IF
They can continue to get balanced, timely scoring. They didn’t score much on Brian Elliott and the Blues, but it was timely. If that continues they will dispatch the Sharks.
THE SHARKS WILL WIN IF
They can solve the Kings defensive system and get power plays. San Jose scored 7 of their 15 first round goals with the man advantage and if the Kings want to try to intimidate them, they had better not take penalties in doing so.
Jared: This series will come down to special teams and goaltending. The longer they play 5 on 5, the more it benefits the Kings. If it becomes a power play bonanza, advantage Sharks. San Jose got an average of 6 power plays per game against the Canucks, which is not likely to happen again. The Kings, although very physical in the first round, were shorhanded less than 3 times per game. PREDICTION: Kings in 7
Phil: This should be a really interesting series. Both teams are fairly even. I still don’t think the Kings can repeat and I think it will stop here. Sharks seems to be getting great goaltending when they need it and their offense is clicking too. A hard combination to overcome, which is why the Sharks should come out on top. PREDICTION: Sharks in 7
Jamie: The Sharks swept the floor with the Canucks in the first round, on the strength of their offence. Now they gave off against as tight checking defensive team with incredible offensive threats. The Kings took down the Blues in an incredible series and that style of play should take them over top the Sharks. Marleau and Couture may have beaten the goalie carousel in Vancouver, that won’t happen every night against LA. PREDICTION: Kings in 5
HOW SENSHOT DID IN PREDICTING THE FIRST ROUND
Jared went 6 for 8, missing the Wings and Bruins series wins.
Phil was 7 for 8, only missing the Kings win over the Blues.
Jamie went 5 for 8, missing the Wings, Kings and Rangers series wins.
We each had one correct pick in the correct # of games. Phil and Jared both had the Hawks in 5, while Jamie had the Bruins in 7 correct.