Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eight that will carry on with playoff dates

With only the San Jose Sharks ruining our perfect record of round one (though some would suggest we were folly for having such faith), we carry forth with our prognostications on the second round of the NHL playoffs.

While we were a tad off on the number of each games required by some of our selections, for the most part (yes thank you San Jose) we found success and thus we tempt the hockey Gods one more time.

Chicago Black Hawks and Vancouver Canucks

Schedule of round two games

The Canucks are rested up, have healed the majority of their aches and pains and now begin the quest for success in a second round. Their opposition just finished a hard fought first round battle with the Calgary Flames, but surprisingly the Black Hawks look ready to go for another seven games if the need be.

Of all the teams that the Canucks might have had a second round date with, the Hawks offer up the best opportunity for a Vancouver advance, if only because of their relative youth and first time appearance in the playoffs after a fairly long sabbatical.

The two teams matched up well in the regular season and each game proved to be a hard hitting and at times nasty affair. The Canucks will be riding on the back of Roberto Luongo once again, as he continues to showcase why he's one of the best, if not the best of goaltenders in the league.

Scoring in the first round came from the Sedins and Alexander Burrows, what Vancouver needs is some scoring from the second and third lines now, if either of them can help take some of the load off the first line then the Canucks will be doing just fine.

Chicago will have to take advantage of the scoring opportunities when they become available, for with Luongo in the nets the chances will be few and far between. While toughness is their mark these days, taking too many penalties will provide Vancouver with a chance to put its power play to work, that could be the difference in a close series.

There's a lot to be optimistic about in Chicago these days, this is a very young team and one that seems destined for greater things, however, these things take stages. This is but phase one, phase two comes next year...

Vancouver to defeat the Black Hawks in five games.

Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings

Schedule of round two games

Stanley Cup champions always find it hard to repeat in the NHL, the nature of the long regular season and the constant hitting and physical nature of the playoff rounds can leave many would be repeat squads battered and left by the side of the playoff trail.

Detroit however is heading into the second round not only in fairly good health shape but building on the confidence of a rather convincing round one victory over the Blue Jackets.

The Ducks have come through to the second round having also been convincing but a little more battered, having played a tough series with their rivals in California the Sharks.

Still they did win that series, an upset in that they topped the number one team in the West, though not quite an upset considering that team was after all the seemingly always under performing Sharks.

It will bring back together two teams that have met before in the playoffs and offered up some pretty intense games, where the Ducks control in physical play the Red Wings can punish with offense. A fine line will be in place for Anaheim and their always hard hitting nature, take too many liberties and they'll be filling the penalty box and sending one of the leagues most dangerous power plays to work. Sit back a little too much and give the Wings room to use and well it will seem like a power play anyways...

Goal tending may prove to be a deciding factor for the series, the Ducks riding the hot hand of Jonas Hillier who surprised all with his work in round one, the Wings had a good run in the first round as Chris Osgood stood strong in the Wings nets, although there wasn't a great test offered up by the Blue Jackets in most games.

Still he's been strong in the Wings net when required and if he can continue on in that frame of mind then he will be offering his team the opportunity to control the game.

The Ducks struggled through most of the year, making a push for the playoffs in the waning weeks. They played hard in the first round but showed signs of stumbling, the Wings are not the Sharks they will take advantage and they will advance...

Red Wings over Ducks in six games.

Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins

Schedule of round two games

Carolina is still probably reliving those fascinating last two minutes of Tuesday night, when they turned around a New Jersey lead and sent the Devils down to defeat. Game time Friday night is 7 pm, one would imagine that head coach Paul Maurice will have managed to turn their attention to the Bruins by then, as if they're still looking back at their success with the Devils they may find that it may be the last happy moments that they have.

The Canes go up against the dominant team of the east this year the Boston Bruins, a team solid in every position and playing some of that old time Bruins hockey that the folks in New England look back on with fondness.

With Boston finally back on top, they'll be anxious to secure their place in the strata of sports teams in the Boston area, with their penchant for heavy hits and fast moving puck handling the Bruins will prove to be a huge challenge for Carolina.

Paul Maurice has once again moved his Carolina team into a playoff run, a spot that seemed all but lost for him while he toiled away in Toronto. The Canes will have to be up to the intensity level of the Bruins however, who play a much faster and harder hitting game than the Devils did.
The Bruins will have learned from their rest just how dangerous the Hurricanes can be in the last minutes of play, if the game is even close expect Carolina to pay the price for any incursion into Bruins territory in the waning moments.

There's a sense of destiny with this Bruins team this year, they easily took care of the Canadiens and one has the feeling that Carolina may put up a bit more resistance but in the end will also fall by the wayside.

Bruins over the Hurricanes in five games

Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals

Schedule of round two games

It's the marquee series for the NHL, with the top stars of the game facing off against each other, one series too soon for the drama of an Eastern final, but you take your gems where you find them.

The Capitals having survived their near death experience with the Rangers will be more than aware that if they allow the Penguins to take a three game to one lead, then the chances of moving on will be remote.

The highlight reels should fill up quickly as Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Crosby, Malkin and Guerin to name a few make the plays and score the goals that we'll be talking about every morning after the game.

Both teams play a fast paced and entertaining style of hockey, the template for what the NHL would like to be. Both teams are more than willing to play hard and hit hard and both have a nice mix of veteran and young stars to keep us entertained through this second round.

Goaltending will be an interesting position to watch as the Caps apparently will continue on with their young but relatively unknown phenom Varlamov, Pittsburgh counters with Marc Andre Fleury who has given signs that this may be his break out post season, the time when players make that step to their next level of development.

Pittsburgh which did not have the greatest of regular seasons is back on a roll after a hard hitting series with the Flyers, hopeful of a return to the Stanley Cup final which they left last season with a few bitter memories.

The Capitals have been the rising team of the NHL for the last few years, their style of play bringing fans to the game (though some of the traditionalists are a little weary of their sense of celebration in DC). This is the series that will define whether they are ready to make their move to top team status or if they will settle in at the middle, one of those teams that shows so much potential but can't seem to break through (hello there San Jose).

As they say this one is going to be a beauty, settle in for a long and enjoyable ride.

The Capitals in seven...

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