New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres
I’m a firm believer in the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres and have been since I realized how incredibly good they are. They have explosive offensive talent running thick through four lines or even six lines depending on how you look at it. The team is only bettered by a solid defensive core that actually does a pretty good job keeping the other teams offense at bay. Then you look at their goalie and you have a very average young talent in net. That average young talent is enough to win because of the rest of their team. I don’t think this series will be nearly as simple as it was against the Islanders, and that is because the Rangers are a good hockey team. The Rangers are much deeper on the offensive side of the puck and will need to work that hard to beat the Sabres, a feat they could achieve. Jagr and crew will definitely put a barrage of shots on Miller in hopes of breaking his confidence, and I think they will succeed. However, their success won’t be enough; Buffalo will take advantage of a weaker defensive corps in New York, and then find the same holes that the Rangers will on offense.
Prediction: Sabres in six
, Sabres win two, Rangers win two, and Sabres win last two with a shutout in game six.
Ottawa Senators at New Jersey Devils
Isn’t this a classic new-age playoff match up? These two teams aren’t new to the playoffs and both are coming in this year looking solid, but who is better? Clearly the decision is the Senators. The Sens have been a solid team in the playoffs every year for the last decade but have never been able to get past the Eastern Conference, and this year they are just as skill as the rest of the years. They have a ton of talent in front including the most talented first line left in the playoffs and then also have solid second and third liners to back them up. Follow that with a solid group of guys on the blue line and it will be hard to get through. The game breaker though for Ottawa is that they now have one of those young averagely talented goaltenders, the third team in a row I’ve mentioned with one of them. This is better than they’ve had in playoff past, and is good enough to get them to the next round. The Devils aren’t going to be exactly easy though. It’s never easy and you can never really rule them out with Brodeur between the pipes. He will need to dominate in this series much like he did in games five and six against Tampa bay. The Devils will be in trouble though because the Senators won’t give them nearly the space that the Lightning did in the first round and that will cause trouble because Gomez and Parise won’t be producing like they did in round one.
Prediction: Senators in five
, Devils win game two because of Brodeur
Vancouver Canucks at Anaheim Ducks
I read somewhere on hockeybuzz.com a post about how the Ducks are facing an almost identical series that they did in round one, and I agree except for one thing: Luongo. The Vancouver Canucks play the same style of hockey that the Wild perfected in the 02-03 playoffs and the Devils have had down for the last 15 years. But you know how the Ducks do against that? Really, really good; they have beaten the Wild eight out of nine times because they lacked offense, and then even played well against New Jersey in 02-03, but were beat out because of the Devils had offense, and Brodeur. The Canucks only have one of those things, and their lack of offense almost cost them the series against Dallas. This series is against a better defense and an almost as talented goaltender. What does that mean? It means that Canucks need to start scoring in order to have a chance, but they won’t. The Ducks will continue giving Pronger and Niedermayer 30+ minutes a game and Giguere will once again prove himself a playoff winner.
Prediction: Ducks in five
, Canucks win game 4 at home
San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings
This is actually my favorite series of round two, these two teams will make for an exciting playoff series. The Sharks were talented last year and a lot of people had them going far, what has changed? The answer to that is not a whole lot, they’ve gotten bigger, they’ve gotten stronger, they’ve gotten more skilled. Thorton is ready to push the envelope this year and make a deep playoff run, Cheechoo still hasn’t hit his stride, Guerin is still fitting in and the rest of the Sharks offense shows great depth (Marleau, Michalek, Grier, etc). Their defense isn’t as strong as Detroit or Anaheim but it still shows no real weaknesses. They can confidently play most of their defensemen and not really worry much. If they do run into trouble at defense, they have a great backup plan in net. Nabokov is due for some deep playoff success and so far this playoffs has played like he wants it this year. Forget all of those good things about the Sharks for a second though and you’ll see a very good Red Wings team. This Red Wings team is a lot better than people give them credit for. They have the great two defensemen that Anaheim has, they have great offensive youngsters and a mix of veterans and they have an excellent veteran goaltender. What more could you ask for? I don’t think you could ask for anything else, the key to this series will be to keep pushing and shoving. This will be the Vancouver/Dallas match up of the second round. We’ll probably see 2-4 overtime games and maybe even another game with 3-4 overtime periods. My gamebreaker though will be Pavel Datsyuk who will find the wholes and eventually lead the Wings to success.
Prediction: Detroit in seven
, home team wins 1-4, swap 5 and 6, and Detroit wins it in Detroit.
- Also, a reminder to anyone interested: Tomorrow from noon-2pm I'll be doing my live radio show here on campus called "The Last Two Minutes." It is our last show of the year and we'll definitely be highlighting the NHL while covering a little bit from the rest of the world of sports (MLS, MLB maybe, etc.) To listen check out: http://wmtu.mtu.edu