By Mike Ivcic
So as it turns out, I forgot somewhere in the middle of my round one column which team I picked to win the series between the Canadiens and the Lightning, since I took the Lightning at the end of the series capsule, then promptly picked Boston to beat Montreal in the next round. Oops. We’ll just assume I picked Tampa and charge it as a loss, leaving me with a 4-4 record through one round. My projected Cup champion is gone, though, so that will certainly put a bit of a damper on things. Well, as Cubs fans say – there’s always next year!
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
Boston was shutout 1-0 in overtime in game one, a tremendous defensive effort from a veteran Red Wings team. They promptly reeled off four straight wins and quite frankly never really seemed challenged after that opening game loss. They’ll now face off against their archrivals from Quebec, who also made their first round series look quite easy. I really like this Canadiens team after briefly watching some of their first round series against Tampa, and it’s distinctly possible that they eliminate the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions if Carey Price can just be equal to Tuuka Rask. The issue for me, though, is that this series has “7 games” written all over it, and I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on picking Montreal in Boston, going against all of that veteran experience the Bruins bring to the table. I want to. I just can’t.
Boston 4, Montreal 3
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers
Allow me to pose one question – at what point will the Penguins finally realize that they have to play defense in order to win in the postseason? Philadelphia made them look downright childish two years ago, and last year the Islanders pushed them hard before Boston finally dispatched them in four quick games, all because Marc-Andre Fleury is a gigantic question mark psychologically and he rarely gets enough help from the five other players wearing the same color jerseys on the ice with him. That will have to change here against the Rangers, who are smothering defensively when Ryan McDonaugh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal are all healthy and playing well. I think the Penguins will struggle to score here, and as a result New York will do just enough to win this series – with the help, of course, from a lack of understanding of all defensive zone principles from Pittsburgh.
New York 4, Pittsburgh 2
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild
Minnesota advanced in the playoffs for the second time in their history, and both times it has come at the expense of Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche. While some would speculate the Avs would have given Chicago a better series, I think it’s the exact opposite because the ‘Hawks would have exposed Colorado’s youth. Minnesota, led by the tandem of Suter and Parise, are much more experienced and, after last year, familiar with the Chicago style of play. The problem for the Wild, though, is goaltending. Whether it’s Darcy Kuemper, Ilya Bryzgalov, or the guy with season tickets in the third row at Xcel Energy Center, it’s still a gigantic question mark – and teams with gigantic question marks in goal don’t typically advance past teams with lots of two-time Stanley Cup winners on the roster.
Chicago 4, Minnesota 2
Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Now that the Kings have once again short-circuited a playoff run for the talented-yet-underperforming Sharks, it’s reasonable to ask whether that magical four game run was more a product of Los Angeles raising their game or San Jose’s inability to come through with a clutch performance in a deciding game. I’m apt to think it’s a little of both, but I’m leaning more towards the latter. San Jose abused Jonathan Quick in the earlier games, and Anaheim is just as talented offensively – plus, they don’t have the same demons that plague the Sharks in the postseason. Anaheim got some much-needed rest for their older and injured players, so I think the Ducks are poised to emerge from the Freeway series and challenge the Blackhawks for Western Conference supremacy.
Anaheim 4, Los Angeles 3
Based on my second-round picks, the rest of the playoffs would be…
New York over Boston
Chicago over Anaheim
Chicago over New York