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Canucks, Habs in tough as NHL playoffs move into second round. Our picks

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The NHL playoff have moved into the conference semifinals after three of four favourites from the West but only of the top-four seeds in the East advanced from the opening round.

Here's our picks of who will reach the conference finals:

Montreal vs. Pittsburgh

Like their last series with Washington, the Canadiens are up against a superior offensive team, with Sidney Crosby instead of Alex Ovechkin as the principle threat. But Montreal's Jaroslav Halak has been better than the Pens' Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs and the Canadiens special teams have been stellar. That's a winning combination in the post-season. Prediction: Canadiens in seven.

Boston vs. Philadelphia

The Flyers showed great heart knocking off New Jersey in five games in the first round, but it came at a cost - Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere all injured. The Bruins, meanwhile, got good news with the return of top centre Marc Savard. With Tuukka Rask a clear advantage over Brian Boucher in goal, the Bruins no doubt smell blood. Prediction: Bruins in five.

Vancouver vs. Chicago

A year ago, the Blackhawks took out the Canucks in six games, ending with a 7-5 blowout that left goalie Roberto Luongo in tears. Now they meet again after going 2-2-0 against one another in the regular season. This should be spectacular hockey, featuring skill and animosity. Vancouver's Sedin twins have emerged as top stars since last spring, but Chicago's Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and others also keep getting better. Much depends on how Chicago's young goalie Antti Niemi holds up. It's a toss-up, but Chicago has a slight edge in depth. Prediction: Hawks in seven.

Detroit vs. San Jose

The Sharks will try desperately to shake their reputation as playoff underachievers, but that would mean key players like centre Joe Thornton and goalie Evgeni Nabokov will have to shine for once. It won't be easy against the experienced Wings, who have stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk playing their best hockey now. Detroit went 3-1-0 against San Jose this season. Prediction: Red Wings in six.

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