WestDetroit/San Jose - Wings in 6...
Boy, if the Red Wings come close to duplicating the way they played in game 7 in their quarterfinal series against Phoenix, for their entire series against these Sharks, they will win and in quick order. The Sharks get the edge earlier in that they beat Colorado in 6 and have had bit of a rest before the start of this series and they do have an edge in goal, but I am still going to pick the Wings in 6 games.
Vancouver/Chicago - Canucks win in 7... It would be best for the National Hockey League to see the 'Hawks win this series and advance to the Conference Final against Detroit, but I have a strong belief that the Canucks will win this series in a thrilling seven games! Big edge in goal in my opinion Luongo over Niemi. There's no question that the 'Hawks have some firepower led by Kane and Towes, but so do the Canucks with Samuelsson and the Sedins. This might be the most entertaining of all the Conference Semifinals but that said, these playoffs have been nothing short of outstanding and I believe you see the same in this second round.
Montreal/Pittsburgh - Penguins win in 5... Kudos to the Canadiens for first coming from a 3-1 series deficit and then their stunning win in game 7 over Presidents' Trophy winning Washington Capitals. Jaroslav Halak WAS the reason Montreal prevailed but as solid as he has been down the stretch and in the first round of the playoffs I doubt he can duplicate his performance against the Defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Penguins will go into the dirty areas, pay a price to score and no one epitomizes that more than Sid the Kid.
Philadelphia/Boston - Bruins in 7... I am a bit concerned about the Flyers goaltending despite Brian Boucher's strong performance against the New Jersey Devils. That said two of the biggest and best defensemen go head to head in this series... Pronger and Chara! I like the way the Bruins played against the Sabres and they now have Marc Savard back and healthy. Their grit, their skill and their goaltending, Rask in particular, give me the feeling the Bruins win in 7.
Detroit/San Jose - Wings in 7... The Red Wings won three of four in the regular season series, but the Sharks built some confidence in their first round win over Colorado. Pavelski has been outstanding for San Jose offensively and that will need to continue. Detroit is better rested for a playoff run than they were a season ago and had an impressive Game 7 road victory at Phoenix. Expect a better series from Datsyuk and Franzen than we saw in the opening round.
Vancouver/Chicago - Blackhawks win in 6... Look for some drama in this series with the history of last year's postseason fresh in the minds of the players, as well as the regular season drama when Willie Mitchell hit 'Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. Luongo was good enough in round one and the matchup with Niemi will be the key in this series. How much will the bad blood boil over? We'll see, but it should be a high-scoring series with the second and third highest scoring teams from the regular season.
Montreal/Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh win in 6... One of the historic franchises added to its history when Montreal became the first 8-seed to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win an opening round series. Halak put up impressive numbers stopping 131 of 134 pucks in the final three games of the series (after sitting out game four) and he is a huge key in this one along with Mike Cammalleri (5-5-10 in round one). Pittsburgh won three of four in the regular season series and will be rested after finishing off Ottawa in six games in round one. Crosby, as per norm, leading the Penguins with 5-9-14, along with Malkin (4-4-8) and Staal both playing well. They did show balanced scoring however with 12 goal scorers versus Ottawa.
Philadelphia/Boston - Bruins in 6... Philly was the last team in the playoffs and first to advance to round two. They did it with strong special teams play, both the PP and PK were good. Injuries will be a key factor with Carter, Laperriere and Emery out for the season and Gagne out for the series (3 weeks). Tuukka Rask was key in the series win over Buffalo and will have to be again in round two for the Bruins. Boston doesn't score much, but they don't give up much either. Savard, the team's leading scorer in the regular season, returns in round two after missing round one.
Detroit/San Jose - Wings in 6... Detroit has a healthy team and I have been impressed through the first round with their play. Jimmy Howard showed some savv coming back and winning game seven at Phoenix. The San Jose Sharks are desperate and that starts with the management group and trickles all the way down to the netminder, Nabokov. Joe Thornton was -4 in the first series vs. Colorado. The puck management of the Detroit Red Wings is far superior to what San Jose is trying to do. Lidstrom took control of Game 7 at Phoenix, but in round two you are going to see Helm and Cleary pick it up. Look for Franzen and Holmstrom will get more involved in front of the net.
Vancouver/Chicago - Canucks win in 6... Roberto Luongo told Patrick Kane at the Olympics that they would see them in the playoffs. Luongo has something to play for and they put Samuelsson on the top line for Burrows and he has been unbelievable. Look for traffic in front of Chicago netminder Antti Niemi.
Montreal/Pittsburgh - Penguins win in 5... I think Montreal played well in round one, that emotionally draining hockey, where your goalie has to be the best player. Halak was the only player who really stood out for the Habs. The Penguins have three of the top centermen in the NHL and the depth will haunt the Canadiens. The Pens d-men will move the puck East to West and that will wear out Halak. Maybe Carey Price comes in if needed.
Philadelphia/Boston - Bruins in 7... There might be four or five fights in the first game to send messages back and forth in this one. The Flyers have three forwards out and Pronger will have to amp his game up. Savard coming back for Boston, especially on the power play, will help them accomplish what they want to do in this series. The difference will be in net, Rask knows he has Chara and others in front of him and with their depth, they should win this series.
Detroit/San Jose - Wings in 6... The Detroit Red Wings are the type of team that can afford to stutter step out of the gate because they are so talented. They lost game one in the first round at Phoenix and won the series. Jimmy Howard answered a lot of questions in round one. I am not convinced San Jose is ready to get over the hurdle. Joe Pavelski has been good, but they need Marleau-Heatley-Thornton to produce if they are going to win this series.
Vancouver/Chicago - Blackhawks win in 5... Last year still bothers Luongo and if the Blackhawks can get to him and plant the seed of doubt, they should be able to win. Niemi has played well and had a couple of shutouts in round one, and Brent Sopel has been an unsung hero on the back end for Chicago.
Montreal/Pittsburgh - Penguins win in 5... Halak is getting the accolades he deserves, but he was pulled in game three and didn't play in game four. He has to play at that level again vs. Pittsburgh. Crosby can up his game, but he keeps others involved at all times. A healthy Sergei Gonchar helps the Pens as well.
Philadelphia/Boston - Flyers in 7... The teams are pretty evenly matched. There are questions in goal with Brian Boucher, but he has played well. The Flyers edge is on defense with the likes of Pronger. Will they have enought up front? They did it in the first round with Carcillo scoring game winners. Tuukka Rask has been great for the Bruins, but Flyers pull a rabbit out the hat and win.