Well, now. After going 5-3 in the first round, there's no way I can match last year's prediction record. Am I going to let it stop me? No.
Frankly, Montreal was a bit of a surprise (I figured Washington would make it to round 2 before their crummy defense and inconsistent goaltending were exposed). Jaroslav Halak is a great goalie and he got hot at the right time. Boston was even a bigger surprise considering all the issues they had this year. On the other hand, I almost picked Philly in the upset because of their regular season record against NJ. Maybe I should have.
(4) Pittsburgh vs (8) Montreal. Pittsburgh looked better against Ottawa than they had the last month of the season, but still not the dominant force they were last year. Sidney Crosby lead the team (naturally) with 14 points in the series, but the Penguins got much more balanced scoring than they did last year with a total of 12 different players scoring goals (2 of those scorers being defensemen). Montreal beat Washington with special teams and goaltending (always key in the playoffs). They had a 21.8 success rate on the power play during the regular season, and were close to that during round 1. Their PK limited Washington to 1 goal all series. And who can say anything bad about Halak after his performance in Games 6 & 7? You always have to worry about a hot goaltender in the playoffs, and a hot MONTREAL goaltender is always extra trouble. Pittsburgh was 3-1 against Montreal during the regular season, but that is no guarantor of success during playoffs. Still, I'm going to pick Pittsburgh for the win in 6 games.
(6) Boston vs (7) Philadelphia. The Big Bad Bruins vs the Broad Street Bullies. The Flyers will be without scorers Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne and energy guy Ian Laperriere for the series. The Bruins will be getting Marc Savard back. The Flyers need Claude Giroux (who has been a playoff MONSTER in his 2 seasons in the league) and Brian Boucher to continue their hot play. This game is going to be physical and nasty and wear a rut in the ice near the penalty box. I can see Boston winning this one, but I'm going to go with Philly in 7 to set up another Penguins-Flyers Eastern Conference Final match-up.
(1) San Jose vs (5) Detroit. This should be an amazing series. The past couple years, San Jose has been the best team in the regular season but has failed in the playoffs. Detroit is a playoff machine as everyone knows by now. Both teams have solid goaltenders. Rookie Jimmy Howard has supplanted Chris Osgood as the starter and has shown himself capable in every way. Evgeni Nabokov posted a 1.76 GAA and .926 save percentage in the first round. This is the year San Jose needs to show they can get it done. Going up against a Red Wings team that was 20-6-2 since the Olympic break and just had an emotional seven game victory over Phoenix should give them ample challenge. This one can go either way, but I'm going to pick Detroit in 7.
(2) Chicago vs (3) Vancouver. Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. Luongo has long been one of the league's top goalies and this year proved himself by winning the gold medal for Canada. Antti Niemi has had a great year, but is still untested in the playoffs. In front of their great goaltending, Vancouver's defensive corps experienced several lapses in the first round. Does coach Alain Vigneault have a counter for Chicago's offensive onslaught? I'm going with Chicago in 6 to set up a Detroit-Chicago rematch for the West Title.