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Great Playoff Debate: 2010

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Panthers broadcasters Steve Goldstein (FSN Florida) and Randy Moller (790 The Ticket) are back for their third go around to break down the Playoffs series all the way until the Stanley Cup. The two will each pick a winner for each series and why they think that team will win. There will of course be some jawing, but all in good fun.

Steve Goldstein - It's the second round of the playoffs and in the East things are upside down! Where is Ryan Miller, Zach Parise, Alex Ovechkin and Martin Brodeur? Same place as you and me...home watching the 6th, 7th and 8th seeds play hockey.

The Western Conference is loaded on the other hand and any of the four remaining teams could play for the the Stanley Cup. It's tough narrowing it down to two teams but that's the task at hand.

There is nothing like the NHL playoffs.

Randy Moller - It really was a crazy first round in the East Goldie. Three of the top four teams are not invited to the swing dance in the “topsy-turvy” Eastern conference. The only top seed to move on was Pittsburgh.

Let's get on to the picks.

Sidney Crosby and Jaroslav Halak
Eastern Conference
(#4) Pittsburgh vs (#8) Montreal

Moller - Oh to be the Cinderella Story! The Habs slayed the giant (Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals) in the first round utilizing the PIG system (penalty killing, intensity, goaltending). 24-year old Jaroslav Halak has carried Montreal so far this spring but the Penguins will be much more prepared. Sidney Crosby leads the NHL playoffs with 14 points (5 goals) in only six games. Evgeni Malkin was so-so for the Pens against the Senators and needs to help on the offensive side. Can Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri continue to supply the clutch goals? Is Hall Gill the Canadian’s answer on the blueline? The two keys to this series are the Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fluery; he has to be the 1st star, and Montreal has to stay out of the penalty box...Montreal in 7.

Goldstein - Montreal meets Pittsburgh after the stunning game 7 win in Washington. The Canadians played the prevent defense and got superb goaltending from Halak. He allowed just three goals in the final three games of the series as the Habs came back from a 3-1 seies deficit. This time around it's the experienced, "know how to close out a series" Penguins. Led by Crosby, who somehow keeps getting better, the Penguins won't overlook the Canadiens like the Caps did. Fleury knows what it takes to win in the postseason and the Penguins will turn the clock to midnight on Cinderella...Pittsburgh in 5.

Patrice Bergeron and Mike Richards
(#6) Boston vs (#7) Philadelphia

Goldstein - When they met New Year's Day at Fenway Park in the outdoor Winter Classic I never thought Boston and Philadelphia would play each other in the 2nd round of the playoffs. When they both struggled to hold onto playoff spots due to major injuires to Marc Savard and it seems like ALL the Flyers goalies, I never thought they'd both be standing as two of the NHL's final eight teams. And when they faced Brodeur and Miller in the opening round, there was NO WAY I thought Philadelphia and Boston would still be playing hockey.

Yet, through all the adversity both teams faced, here they are. The Flyers had all sorts of trouble keeping the puck out of the net this season and the Bruins were one of the worst offensive teams. So how does this series go? It is so close that it goes 7 games. I will give the edge to the Bruins because of goaltending and the return of Savard.

These two proud franchises , no matter who wins the series, deserve a pat on the back for being here. Boston traded Phil Kessel, lost Marc Savard, went through a golaie change with Tuukka Rask taking over #1 from Tim Thomas and they had many injuries throughout the season. They found a way. Impressive. Same goes for the Flyers who lost their top two goalies, Jeff Carter for the stretch run, had a coaching change and played through reported turmoil in the lockerroom...Bruins in 7.

Moller - Two storied franchises who met in the NHL’s “Winter Classic” at Fenway will lock horns again. Goaltending has been the key for both squads. Rask, the Bruins 24-year old rookie netminder stoned Buffalo in the 1st round, boosting 4 wins, and a 2.18 GAA while steering aside 93% of shots on his goal. Boston welcomes back Savard, out since March 7th with a concussion. Zdeno Chara versus Flyers Chris Pronger. Who will be the king of the shut-down defense? Flyers co-MVP’s so far has been goaltender Brian Boucher, the NHL's playoff leader in GAA 1.59, and .940 Save %, and their heart and soul captain Mike Richards, who carried the Broad Street Bullies offensively against the Devils notching 5 goals, logging 22 minutes of ice time and winning face-offs. This series will be won in the trenches and in front of the net. 41-year old “wonder” Mark Recchi could be the wild card for the Bruins...Bruins in 7.

Western Conference
Patrick Marleau and Jimmy Howard
(#1) San Jose vs (#5) Detroit

Moller - The Sharks cruised through the regular season with 51 wins and 113 points to lead the Western Conference. They then disposed of Craig Anderson and the Colorado Avalanche in six games in round number one. But two questions pop up. San Jose lost three of four against the rival Red Wings this year. Is there a “trend” here? And will the Sharkies top guns Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, and Jumbo Joe Thornton raise their level of play as the playoffs edge on? Another playoff collapse in the Bay Area will not be tolerated.

I said, “nobody wants to play Detroit in the 1st round” and after the Wings dispatched the pesky Desert Dogs in a thrilling 7 games, I think I can say the same thing here in round two. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg combined for 11 goals against Phoenix, and will lead the offensive charge for the Red Wings. Will Detroit rookie Jimmy Howard outduel San Jose veteran Evgeni Nabokov between the twine? Home ice advantage will be a key factor...San Jose in 6.

Goldstein - San Jose can officially shake off the choke label with a playoff win over the Red Wings. Everytime people try to count Detroit out...they're baaaaaack!!! A Game 7 blowout over Phoenix has the Wings flying high but their top guns still aren't hitting on all cylinders. Thornton, Heatley (playing hurt) and Marleau weren't the stars of the the first round win over Colorado. Instead, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and Devin Setaguchi, not exactly household playoff names, all came through and formed San Jose's top line. It's a star studded series with the winner, in my mind, becoming the Cup favorite. It'll come down to Game 7 and my money is on Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk. Howard emerges into the NHL's elite goalie fraternity as the Wings bite the Sharks in 7.

Jonathan Toews and Alex Burrows
2) Chicago) vs (#3) Vancouver

Goldstein - A rematch of last year's playoff battle in which Patrick Kane and the Hawks schooled the Canucks and goalie Roberto Luongo...not going to happen this time. The Canucks have been strong offensively and after struggling early in the first round against LA, Luongo came up big in the series clincher. Nashville had some big games against Chicago goalie Antti Niemi in the first round and the Sedins will know how to beat him. Chicago has some super players on defense and one of my NHL favorites in the dynamic Kane, but Vancouver gets it's revenge from last year, beating the Blackhawks in 6 games.

Moller - The word to describe this series is animosity, with a capital A. Ever since the Blackhawks eliminated the “Nucks in last years chippy Western Conference playoffs in six games, blood has boiled, and spilled. Vancouver and Chicago ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in scoring during the regular season, so expect the offence to flourish. The Kane/Toews combo is as dangerous as it gets, as Kane comes in with four goals so far this post season. But, head to head against the Sedin twins and seven post-season goals from Mikael Samuelsson on that line, I give the Canucks the edge. As usual, this series comes down to goaltending. The sexy choice, of course, is Luongo. Captain Louie can single handedly win you a series by himself, but the Hawks capable netminder, Niemi will surprise a few “experts” as long as protection in front of his crease by the likes of Norris Trophy candidate Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, and Keith Seabrook play up to par. Chicago starts this series at home in front of 20,000 maniacs and it will make all the diference...Chicago in 7.
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