2010 NHL Playoffs Preview and Free Picks – Second Round ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
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By Mike Ivcic
It was a tale of two conferences in the first round – the West held virtually true to form with only one lower seed winning (which wasn’t even really a true upset as Detroit took out Phoenix) while the East saw only the defending champion Penguins march on out of the higher seeds, meaning they’ll now have home ice for the remainder of the conference. Beware of Jaroslav Halak and the Habs, however – as Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals can attest, it’s no small task scoring against a man who, right now, is playing better than anyone else in the postseason, Sidney Crosby included.
As well as the Canadiens have played in the last three games, this will not be the same type of series. The Penguins have been to the top before and will know how to dig deep for the so-called “gut check” when that time comes. If the Caps had been able to score on even two or three more powerplays than their 1-for-33 clip in the series, the Canadiens are watching this round. Expect Pittsburgh to be much better than that in this round, meaning the Habs might get a game or two, but the Pens are moving on.
(6) Boston vs (7) Philadelphia
For the Bruins to win this series, they must take both game 1 and game 2 on home ice, especially if Gagne and Carter miss both games. The Flyers will have been off for over a week by the time the puck drops on Saturday, so Boston has to jump on them early. Philly, meanwhile, should look for the split and try to get the series back home with a chance to take control. Since both teams have some big flaws, the series will likely be won by the team that takes advantage of the other’s weaknesses, as well as special teams. Boston didn’t allow a power play goal to Buffalo; the Flyers scored 8 against New Jersey in just five games. Something will give here, and the ultimate difference – game 7 in is Beantown.
The Red Wings got by Phoenix by showing the grit and determination of a team that’s won two straight conference championships. Their issue is still goaltending, where Jimmy Howard has waffled between outstanding and subpar. We know the Sharks can score, but can they do it when it matters? We know the Wings can score, too, but can Evgeni Nabokov outplay Howard? If the Sharks can get ahead early (and it should be easy with the travel and short turn-around for Detroit) it could have a lasting effect on the series. If Howard can gain confidence, it could be déjà vu all over again for San Jose. I think Detroit runs out of gas here after a grueling series with the Coyotes.
(2) Chicago vs (3) Vancouver
The key for Chicago is special teams. They must shut down the Sedin twins on power play chances (or just don’t go to the box) and they need to take advantage of a weak Vancouver penalty kill in order to solve Luongo, who seems to have rebounded after a tough game 3. No doubt he still remembers the seven goal Chicago scored on him last season to advance past Vancouver, so maybe a little redemption is on his mind. That said, the Blackhawks are deeper than Vancouver, and if Antti Niemi can remain as strong as he was against Nashville, then we’re looking at a top 2 final in the West.
First Round: A very disappointing 4-4
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