I went 7 for 8 in my first round predictions. Not bad if I do say so myself. I was pretty close on most of the game counts too. I knew I should have predicted more sweeps, but any team could win any night in the NHL.
This round looks to have some awesome matchups. Unfortunately, I haven't seen too many Western Conference games this year, so my predictions out there will be mostly stats/gut based.
(1)Boston vs (6) Carolina. This should be an AWESOME matchup. I picked Carolina to upset New Jersey, and my prediction proved correct. They've been playing great hockey since the beginning of March and pulled off an amazing comeback last night. Boston, however, has been my pick in the East since the Penguins started their downslide in January. The goaltending should be great in this series since Boston's Tim Thomas is a Vezina finalist and Carolina's Cam Ward is one of the big reasons the Hurricanes made the playoffs. Boston won this year's season series and outscored Carolina 18-6. The 'Canes have lots of magic going into this one, but Boston's play this season and 4 scoring lines make me think they'll come out on top. Bruins in 6.
(2)Washington vs (4) Pittsburgh. I think Pittsburgh lucked out not getting the Bruins, but Washington is no walk in the park. The Capitals won the season series 3-1, but 2 of those victories came before Dan Bylsma, Sergei Gonchar, and Chris Kunitz joined the Penguins. This matchup features the league's top 3 regular season scorers (Malkin, Ovechkin, and Crosby), but I think the series will come down to defense and goaltending. Washington's Mike Green is an amazing young talent (31 goals, 42 assists in 68 games), but the rest of their defense isn't as talented. Washington gave up the 6th most goals in the Eastern Conference (though Pittsburgh is 7th). Goaltender Simeon Varlamov has done an outstanding job since coming in for relief of Jose Theodore, recording two shutouts, two games letting in only one goal, and one game letting in three. Washington can continue to ride the hot hand, but how long until the rookie runs out of steam? Marc-Andre Fleury looked good vs Philly and has the ability to steal a couple games if need be. I can see Washington winning this, but I'm going with an upset. Pittsburgh in 7.
(2)Detroit vs (8)Anaheim. Like I said, Anaheim is the best #8 seed we've seen in years. Both teams have balanced scoring and great defense. Both teams have goalies who deserve more respect (Hiller and Osgood) and good backups for both (former Conn Smythe winner JS Giguere and Ty Conklin). I think Detroit is just too good for Anaheim to pull another upset. Detroit in 6.
(3)Vancouver vs (4)Chicago. Chicago has a younger, more talented team. They have great offensive depth, but Vancouver has one of the best goalies in the league with Roberto Luongo. Chicago has more offensively minded defensemen - which is big in the playoffs - and has a better powerplay unit than Vancouver. But Vancouver has more experienced players and a goalie I have more confidence in. This is another matchup that can go either way. Do I dare pick another upset? Why not? Detroit vs Chicago will be a hum-dinger of a Western Final. Chicago in 7.