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Canadian Press writers torn on Ducks versus Detroit in second round of playoffs @NHLdotcom

Another Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby matchup and a Detroit-Anaheim showdown should make for gripping NHL conference semifinals.

And the Vancouver Canucks are the last Canadian team left standing as they face the hot young Chicago Blackhawks, while Boston battles the resurgent Carolina Hurricanes. Here are our picks for the second round of post-season play:


No. 1 Boston vs. No. 6 Carolina

Beacon-The Bruins may have had it too easy as they steamrolled the Montreal Canadiens in four games in the opening round. After a week and a half of inactivity, rust may be factor when the best-of-seven series opens Friday. But that likely won't last long.

The Bruins had all aspects of their game going strong against Montreal. Their power play clicked on 25 per cent of its chances, while their penalty killers were a perfect 100 per cent. The Hurricanes scored on only 6.9 per cent of their man advantages, although that was against Martin Brodeur and the tight-checking New Jersey Devils.

Boston won all four regular season meetings with Carolina, but after the last of them, a 5-1 Bruins win on Feb. 17, the 'Canes went 17-4-2 for the rest of the season.

Goaltending is a saw-off between Tim Thomas and Cam Ward, Boston giant Zdeno Chara gives his team the edge on defence, and the Bruins have more scoring depth, particularly with second-liners Michael Ryder and David Krejci hot.

Prediction - Bruins in six.

Johnston - The Hurricanes should be complimented for showing all kinds of fight in dispatching New Jersey from the first round. But how much gas is left in the tank?

Boston has been resting at home for a week and will be fresh when this one gets going.

Ultimately, the Bruins have more depth throughout their lineup and a Vezina Trophy candidate in goal. Carolina may be plucky, but that can only take you so far.

Prediction - Bruins in five.


No. 2 Washington vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh

Beacon - The attention will go as usual to Pittsburgh's Crosby and Washington's Ovechkin, the NHL's flashiest offensive players, but it was the Pens' Evgeni Malkin and the Caps' Alexander Semin who led their clubs in scoring in the opening round.

Malkin leads all playoff scorers with nine points, one more than Semin and Crosby, with Ovechkin one point back of them at seven.

Pittsburgh won a nasty, hard-hitting first round series against Philadelphia, but the Capitals are on a roll after erasing a 3-1 deficit to beat the New York Rangers in seven.

The hero of that series was Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov, who replaced the floundering Jose Theodore and posted two shutouts. He's up against a sharp-looking Marc-Andre Fleury. Both will need to shine with all that scoring talent on the ice.

The Caps were 3-0-1 against the Pens in the regular season, but can Varlamov keep up the heroics against the Pens' shooters?

Prediction - Penguins in seven.

Johnston - When you take away the individual storylines between these compelling rivals, one thing stands out - experience. The Penguins have it and the Capitals want it.

Last year's run to the Stanley Cup should continue to serve Pittsburgh well this time around. Combine that with some continued good play from Fleury and we give them the edge over Varlamov and the Capitals.

It won't be easy, but Pittsburgh is headed back to the Eastern Conference final.

Prediction - Penguins in six.



No. 2 Detroit vs No. 8 Anaheim

Beacon - The Ducks got injured players back late in the season and finished on a 10-2-1 run to take the eighth and final playoff spot in the western conference. But this team looks nothing like an eighth seed.

Their five-game demolition of the first-place overall San Jose Sharks made them look more like the 2007 Ducks, who beat Detroit in the conference final before taking out Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings came back and won the Cup last spring.

So both have coaches and players, especially veterans, who have won it all. Both have scoring - Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne for Anaheim, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Frantzen for Detroit - and both have smart, tough and skilled defencemen.

Jonas Hiller has been spectacular in goal for Anaheim, while Chris Osgood didn't need to be as the Wings swept Columbus.

It's a toss-up, but the Wings have just a little more balance and depth.

Prediction - Red Wings in seven.

Johnston - This could be the most entertaining series of the second round.

The last two Stanley Cup champions are loaded with experienced players who know all about the rigours of playoff hockey. The return of Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim's lineup gives it four defencemen that can at least match the Red Wings - no small feat.

Ducks goalie Hiller has been a solid performer during his first playoffs as the No. 1 man and should tilt the scales in his team's direction.

We picked Detroit to go out in the first round and were proven to be very wrong. Maybe it'll turn out different this time.

Prediction - Ducks in six.


No. 3 Vancouver vs. No. 4 Chicago

Beacon - Despite the sweep, the Canucks' first round win over St. Louis wasn't easy and now they face a team with even more youthful talent.

The biggest concern will be stopping Chicago's power play, which at 29.2 per cent was second best to Detroit's 31.8 per cent scoring rate in the opening round. But the Vancouver penalty killers also put up a fine 95.8 per cent success rate.

And the best penalty killer of all was goalie Roberto Luongo, who leads the playoffs with a 1.15 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. Nikolai Khabibulin has been strong in goal for the Hawks, but Luongo has the edge.

The teams split four regular season meetings, but Vancouver won the last two - 7-3 at home on Feb. 7 and 4-0 in Chicago on March 29. Daniel Sedin invoked the playoffs after the most recent win, a game filled with fights and big hits, saying it would "show we can play in this building."

The Hawks had too much for injury-plagued Calgary, but Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Co. will need much more against the Canucks defence and goaltending.

Prediction - Canucks in six.

Johnston - It's tempting to be charmed by the enthusiastic young Blackhawks, but Vancouver will provide a much stiffer challenge than Calgary.

Like the Bruins in the East, Vancouver should benefit from having more time to rest after a quick first-round series.

We see this one going the distance and can't imagine Chicago coming up with a Game 7 victory at GM Place. So ...

Prediction - Canucks in seven.



Beacon - 2-2

Johnston - 1-3

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