(4) Pittsburgh v. (8) Montréal
For me, this is the Eastern Conference Final from 2008, two years later. Except now instead of it being the #1 and #2 seeds facing off, it’s the reigning Stanley Cup champions against the (let’s be honest) surprising Habs. The highest remaining seed in the East (Pittsburgh) against the eight seed no one expected to get this far. But when it comes down to it, it’s going to be Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the experience of two consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup final against Montréal’s limited playoff experience (which does include four players with a combined five Stanley Cup rings). I hate to say it, but Pittsburgh should win.
Pittsburgh in 6
(6) Boston v. (7) Philadelphia
I expected both of these teams not to be here. What we have is Boston, which discovered its scoring touch. We also have Philadelphia, which has received decent goaltending from a former Philadelphia standout who almost washed out. But you have to give credit to Boston goalie Tuuka Rask, who has managed to take over from last year’s Vezina winner, Tim Thomas. But, I still don’t trust the Boston offence. So, I’m taking Philadelphia to take the series.
Philadelphia in 7
(1) San José v. (5) Detroit
San José doesn’t need to run into Detroit. San José, author of repeated face plants in the playoffs after stellar regular seasons, does not need to run into the best team of the past decade and a half. But there is something about Detroit this year. Through most of the year it was more or less stumbling along, not a lock to make the playoffs. Only a stellar post-Olympic run kept it alive. And in dispatching Phoenix, Detroit appeared to lack the killer instinct it has had in the past, until Game 7, of course. But Detroit is Detroit, and until San José manages to break through with a strong playoff run, Detroit is the favourite.
Detroit in 7
(2) Chicago v. (3) Vancouver
A rematch of last year’s Round Two series, which saw Chicago beat Vancouver in six games. Goaltending will be the story of this series. Many prognosticators feel the Chicago tandem of Christobal Huet and Antti Niemi are not good enough to lead the team to the Stanley Cup. Roberto Luongo’s reputation says he is good enough to lead Vancouver, but recent results refute that claim. This series features the NHL’s leading scorer in Henrik Sedin, his twin brother Daniel who scored at roughly the same pace when healthy, and a number of other Vancouver weapons. On the other side, Chicago has a strong defence corps, and numerous weapons up from in the form of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It should be a long one, with Luongo rebounding and Vancouver coming out on top.
Vancouver in 7