"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And then there were eight

There are no easy, sure bets in the second round of this year's NHL playoffs, though I feel a lot more confident about picking winners in the East than I do in the West. And based on my success in the first round, in which I called only one series in the right number of games (though I did pick six of eight winning teams) any bets you lay based on my advice better be money you can get along without.

Detroit vs Colorado
Goaltending may tell the tale here - If either side gets an exceptional performance between the pipes, it could be the defining factor. I'd give Detroit the edge on the strength of their blueline corps, but then again they did give up two games to the Predators. Detroit has some younger legs on offense and more depth, despite the Av's gang of stars from days gone by who can still do the job like Sakic and Forsberg. This will be a good, hard fought series: I'd say Detroit in six close games, but probably the most likely series to see an upset.

San Jose vs Dallas
Two teams I've never liked, so I don't care who wins. The Sharks look good on paper, but should have taken Calgary apart and didn't. They needed to get oldtimer Jeremy Roenick - a healthy scratch earlier - dressed to show them how to do it. Joe Thornton is not to be underated either, though his previous playoff record is not overly impressive this could be his year. Add to that a young, inexperienced Dallas defence missing Sergei Zubov and the Sharks look good, on paper. But Dallas just finished off last year's cup winner in six games and look hungry and Brad Richards seems to gotten back on track. This could be another close one, but I'll go with the Sharks in seven.

Pittsburgh vs New York
This is going to be an entertaining series. New York has the offense it needs to beat the Penguins and a solid goalie who, if he gets hot, could stone the twin snipers that are Crosby and Malkin. With the aforementioned two, the Penns have the offensive edge. The series could turn on special teams and which team's less than great defensemen have better series, but my money is on Sid the Kid being able to beat Lundqvist. Barring an injury to one of Pittsbergh's big guns, it will be the Penguins in six

Montreal vs Philadelphia
Obviously you know where my sympathies lie, but the this is the series I feel the most confident picking a winner for a number of reasons. The Flyers' offense is overly reliant on Briere, who won't be able to hear himself think in Montreal for the booing everytime he steps on the ice. Add to that the Habs' tough forechecking and of course Carey Price being unbeatable when he is having an "on" night. And I pity the goon who tries to run the goalie in this series, something the Flyers like to do and have done in each of the four games they have lost to the Habs this season. Koivu is back to lead the team and after the close-call with Boston they are unlikely to be overconfident or lax. Add to that the history of the two teams all the way back to the mid-70s finesse-versus-fisticuffs matchups and the pregame benchclearers of the 80s when Gainey and Carboneau were still on the ice -- the Flyers are team the Habs like to beat. Montreal has a faster team with more depth on the scoring chart and more finesse, while the Flyers have Briere, Prospal and a bunch of thugs like Downie and Cote. It could well be a chippy couple of games to start the series and if that's case, I like the Canadiens' chances even more, because we can and will outmuscle them as well as skate rings around them. Shades of '76 indeed!
Allowing for Price to have a couple more off nights, the Habs will ground the Flyers in six

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