The first round is over and as always there was some great, high-tempo, heavy-hitting hockey. Some stray thoughts:
- The Boston-Toronto series was, for me, a big disappointment. It was nowhere near as physical as a lot of people (myself included) thought it would be. I was actually hoping the Leafs would pull it off, so that there would be a little more Canadian flavor to the second round, but things ended in predictably disastrous fashion for the Leafs. A highlight for the Leafs, though, was the play of Grabovski, who despite not putting up points, didn’t give up on a single play, getting run over time and time again, but getting right back up.
- What Toronto and Boston lacked in craziness, the Canadiens and Senators made up for. I hadn’t seen an actual line brawl in a long time and there it was, happening between two teams that rarely engage in fisticuffs. Montreal’s lack of discipline killed them. Karlsson didn’t play as large a part of the Senators success as I thought he would.
- John Tavares gets better and better with age. The team around him is growing up, too. Watch out for them in the next couple of years.
- The highlight of the first round was definitely Niklas Kronwall’s beautiful hit on Kyle Palmieri, the crowd’s reaction to the hit and the following “You got Kronwall’d” chant.
And now, on to the second round.
We’ll start in the West:
- Blackhawks(1) vs Red Wings(7)
An original six match-up that promises to be a classic. The underdog Red Wings (are they ever really underdogs, though?) against probably the best team in hockey right now. Detroit really came together over the last couple games of the Anaheim series and if they can keep that up they could pull off an upset. The strong play of Jimmy Howard and the formula of Franzen, Abdelkader and Bertuzzi crowding the net, with the two geniuses, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, buzzing around the outside, will give Chicago some trouble, but the Hawks should be able to keep rolling.
My prediction: Blackhawks win in 6. (Look for Toews to pick up his game)
- Kings(5) vs Sharks(6)
San Jose got scoring from all four lines against Vancouver and as long as the long lay-off they’ve had doesn’t kill their momentum, the Sharks will keep scoring. It will be up to the Kings to try to keep up with them. The Kings will also need to get past Niemi, who I think will put up better numbers than Quick.
My prediction: Sharks win in 7.
- Penguins(1) vs Senators(7)
These two high-tempo teams should make for a great series. Much like the first round, Ottawa will have the edge in net here. Watch for Anderson to steal a game or two. Ottawa will probably also have an edge in speed. Despite dominating at points in this series I don’t think Ottawa has the experience nor scoring depth to beat Pittsburgh.
My prediction: Penguins win in 6.
- Bruins(4) vs Rangers(6)
Another original six contest that will probably be a gritty, grinding affair that goes the distance. Two very good goaltenders will keep this series a low-scoring one, and there could be some nastiness. Boston, led by their monster, Chara, will win this long series.
My prediction: Bruins win in 7.
A recap of my first round predictions:
- Penguins to win in 4 – Right winner, wrong games (Pens in 6)
- Senators to win in 7 – Right winner, wrong games (Sens in 5)
- Capitals to win in 5 – Totally wrong (Rangers in 7)
- Bruins to win in 6 – Right winner, one game off (Bruins in 7)
- Blackhawks to win in 5 – Right and right.
- Ducks to win in 6 – Wrong and wrong (Red Wings in 7)
- Sharks to win in 7 – Right winner, wrong games (Sharks in 4)
- Blues to win in 6 – Wrong winner. (Kings in 6)
Well, I picked 5 of the winners correctly, and I’m going to give myself a bonus point for getting the Blackhawks-Wild series bang on.