#2 Anaheim vs #3 Vancouver
Why Vancouver will win: Roberto Luongo is a candidate for the Hart Trophy, and he was arguably stronger yet in the first round against Dallas. There may be no tougher goalie to face in a best-of-seven series right now. Vancouver’s defense seems to know exactly when to pinch and when to retreat, and they receive decent offensive punch from the blueline.
Why Vancouver will struggle: Beyond Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins – who were quiet for the middle five games of the opening round -- the Canucks lack scoring depth up front. Against Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, this could be a fatal flaw.
Why Anaheim will win: Niederpronger – also known as Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger – plays nearly 60 minutes a game. If the Canucks get past the rearguards, there’s always J.S Giguere or Ilya Bryzgalov as the last line of defense.
Why Anaheim will struggle: Luongo. It seems cliché, but Luongo can win a series on his own.
Conclusion: Look for a very low scoring series, as Anaheim’s blueline and Vancouver’s Luongo will make sure that is the case. In the end, the Ducks should be able to pound Vancouver at both ends of the ice, and that can be the difference in a long series.
Prediction: Ducks in six.
#1 Detroit vs #5 San Jose
Why San Jose will win: The Sharks have the West’s best depth at forward with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Pavelski, Bill Guerin…. you get the idea. The two-headed goaltending tandem known as Naboskala – Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala – ensure San Jose will have solid netminding, even in the case of an injury.
Why San Jose will struggle: Bill Guerin is the only Shark with his name on the Stanley Cup. On the other hand, Detroit features a plethora of past champions.
Why Detroit will win: The Red Wings were the league’s best regular season team and they dominated Calgary in the first round. The Wings have great depth up front and on the blueline, while Dominik Hasek has turned back the clock between the pipes.
Why Detroit will struggle: San Jose is a much younger, bigger, and more physical team. There is always a chance the Wings will start to show their age – but do not bet on it.
Conclusion: Perhaps the most intriguing series of the second round, this one could go either way. Detroit must find a way to shut down San Jose’s top two lines in order to advance to the conference finals.
Prediction: Sharks in seven.
#1 Buffalo vs #6 New York Rangers
Why the Rangers will win: Since acquiring Sean Avery before the trade deadline, the Rangers have been the NHL’s hottest team. Brendan Shanahan provides playoff grit and experience, while Jaromir Jagr is still one of the game’s elite players. Henrik Lundqvist has regained his rookie season form in goal, and the rearguards in front of him have turned around their mediocre early season performance.
Why the Rangers will struggle: Compared to the Sabres, the Rangers have a notable lack of depth. If Jagr or Shanahan struggles, who will pick up the slack?
Why Buffalo will win: No team rolls four lines better than the Sabres, yet they still have impressive top-end talent with the likes of Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, and Thomas Vanek. Ryan Miller has emerged as one of the league’s best netminders the past two seasons.
Why Buffalo will struggle: The Sabres might not have an answer for the ever-annoying Sean Avery, although they can limit Avery’s effectiveness by taking early leads.
Conclusion: Unlike last year, the Rangers peaked at the right time this season. Many observers are writing them off against the mighty Sabres, but that is a little premature. Look for a close, entertaining series between these two teams.
Prediction: Sabres in seven.
#2 New Jersey vs #4 Ottawa
Why Ottawa will win: From the start of the season, this Senators squad looked more like a playoff team than years past. The top line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson is as good as any in the league, while players like Mike Fisher, Chris Neil, and Anton Volchenkov provide depth and grit.
Why Ottawa will struggle: The Senators must overcome a history of falling short in spring. The image may have been true in the past, but it is likely overblown this season considering the makeup of this squad.
Why New Jersey will win: Martin Brodeur. The legendary goalie continues his remarkable career, and he can single-handedly win a series.
Why New Jersey will struggle: The Devils looked sluggish at times in the first round against a schizophrenic Tampa Bay squad. They will need a more consistent effort to knock off the Sens.
Conclusion: Ottawa’s offensive attack against New Jersey’s air-tight defensive system provides an interesting clash in styles, but the Senators have too many offensive weapons for the Devils to shut them down completely.
Prediction: Senators in six.