Here are my picks for the second round, which kicks off tonight in Pittsburgh. The fourth seeded Penguins will host eight seeded Montreal. Boston, the six seed, and Philadelphia, the seven seed, will meet in the other Eastern Conference duel. Out west, the top seeded Sharks will host the Detroit Red Wings, and the Canucks (3 seed) will travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks (2 seed).
PENGUINS OVER CANADIENS IN 7 GAMES
The Pens, winners of the Eastern Conference the past two seasons, seem like the obvious choice against eighth seeded Montreal. But the Canadiens have been playing extremely well, and Jaroslav Halak is on fire right now. On the other side, Marc-Andre Fleury has looked shaky of late, and Pittsburgh looked disinterested early on in their series against Ottawa. Ultimately, the Penguins put it together and narrowly knocked off the Sens in six games. I think they'll keep it going against the Habs, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should slow down Halak. Pittsburgh's certainly got the experience, I think they'll edge out Montreal in seven.
BRUINS OVER FLYERS IN 6 GAMES
Here are two teams going in the opposite direction in terms of injuries. While Philadelphia's roster is dropping like flies, the Bruins seem to finally be getting healthy. Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter are both out with broken feet, and Ian Laperrierre will probably miss the series for Philadelphia, while Marc Savard is finally set to play for the first time since March 7 for Boston. Despite the red-hot play of Flyers netminder Brian Boucher, I think the losses on offense will be too much to overcome. The low scoring Bruins were able to consistently get chances against Buffalo, and their confidence is sky high. They'll get enough pucks to the net to knock out the Flyers in six hard fought games.
RED WINGS OVER SHARKS IN 7 GAMES
Game 1, a 4-3 win for San Jose, was a tough loss for Detroit, who had a quick turnaround after beating Phoenix in game seven the day before. The Wings seem to be in position to make a run every single year and 2010 is no different. The Sharks looked like they were expecting a collapse at times during their series with Colorado, but their talent eventually took over. That won't happen against the likes of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Lidstrom. Detroit is very well coached, and they have the experience and talent to beat San Jose.
BLACKHAWKS OVER CANUCKS IN 7 GAMES
This series should be a doozy as well, as both teams have question marks in net. Roberto Luongo has been OK for Vancouver, but has been far shakier than normal in bigger games. Antti Niemi's play has been solid for Chicago, but is he good enough to take a talented but young Hawks team to a championship? I say no, but he'll be good enough against Vancouver. Both teams will be rested, and it should be an incredibly even battle throughout. I'm taking the Blackhawks because their solid defensive core will protect Niemi enough. He won't lose the series for Chicago, and that's all they need.
Eastern Conference Finals: PENGUINS VS. BRUINS
Western Conference Finals: BLACKHAWKS VS. RED WINGS