2nd round predictions
After going 4-4 in the first round with conservative picks, I will take the unconventional path and favor every underdog in the second round.

Western Conference

Dallas [1] vs Anaheim [7]
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Most hockey pundits will say that Giguere can not duplicate his first round heroics against the Stars. Jean-Sebastien Giguere [Jiggy] will not only duplicate that performance, but he will continue to improve each game in doing so. Modano, Arnott, Young, and Barnes will try to crack Jiggy early, but look for desperation smashmouth hockey from the Stars as the series unfolds. As many Detroit fans found out, a hot goalie can steal a series.
Bottom line: Ducks in 6.

Vancouver [4] vs Minnesota [6]
[Note to Minnesota defenseman] When 6,3 245lbs Todd Bertuzzi skates into the corner after the puck, play the puck quickly and duck. Al MacInnis played the puck slowly, and received a seperated shoulder for his trouble. The Wild will try to clog the middle of the ice, and capitalize on turnovers. Marion Gaborik [4G,2A] has the talent to score almost at will when his team is down.
Bottom line: Wild in 7.

Eastern Conference

New Jersey [2] vs Tampa Bay [3]
Nikolai Khabibulin

In the first round I gave the edge to New Jersey over Boston, but I picked the B's anyway [no cup since 72]. New Jersey should roll easily, but it is plausible that Nikolai Khabibulin can steal 4 games. After allowing 9 goals in 2 games against Washington, Khabibulin was able to right the ship for 4 straight wins. For Tampa Bay, Martin St. Louis [5G,4A], Vaclav Prospal [3G,2A] and Vincent Lecavalier [3G,2A] are going to be matched against NJ's excellent defensive forwards. If the Lightning can give Khabi some goals to work with, he just might make this an interesting series.
Bottom line: Tampa Bay in 7.

Ottawa [1] vs Philadelphia [4]
The Flyers survived the war of attrition against Toronto in the first round losing only Eric Desjardins with a broken foot. Philadelphia will look to capitalize on its size [Leclair, Primeau, Handzus] and skill [JR, Recchi, Kapanen] to crash the net and create chances. Ottawa will counter size with speed and scoring from all 4 lines. Daniel Alfredsson [0G,3A] was shut out in the first round, but Hossa [3G,1A], Bonk [2G,2A], and Havlatt [1G,3A] picked up the slack. Philly fan did not cause any problems in the first series, but that goes against the usual tradition.
Bottom line: Flyers in 6.


Sharks playing in the World Championships
The 67th IIHF World Championships get under way Saturday April 26th in Finland. Below is the preliminary list of Sharks, former Sharks, Shark prospects, and prospects the Sharks should draft playing in the WC:

Teemu Selanne - Finland
Patrick Marleau - Canada
Jim Fahey - USA
Niko Dimitrakos - USA
Christian Ehrhoff - Germany
Marcel Goc - Germany
Thomas Vanek - Austria


Selanne opts out of Sharks contract
Teemu Selanne

Teemu Selanne declined a player option for $6.5 million with the San Jose Sharks and became a free agent Monday. Anaheim's first round success against Detroit may suggest another stint in purple is in order for Selanne next season.

Teemu recently left to play in the World Championships in Finland.

Vincent Damphousse has until June 30th to exercise his $4 million option with SJ.


Playoff Preview [updated]
Time to go out on a limb and make my first round playoff predictions.

Eastern Conference
[1] Ottawa vs [8] NY Islanders
Preview: New York is searching for any kind of emotion as they back into the playoffs. The Sens high powered offense [3rd in the NHL] will roll unless the Fishsticks resurrect the mariner logo, and turn the series into a fight with hockey played on the side. New Senators Vaclav Varada, and Rob Ray will be tested early.
Bottom line: Ottawa in 6.

[2] New Jersey vs [7] Boston
Preview: Boston roared out of the gate to start the season, then hit 2 mid-season losing streaks [5 games each] to shock them back to reality. Normally getting production from the bottom half of the roster pushes a team over the top, but in this series I am going to focus solely on one match up; Joe Thornton [36G,65A - 3rd] vs Martin Brodeur [2.02 GAA - 4th]. Brodeur wins that confrontation, but since Boston has not won a Cup since 5 months before I was born, I am going with the B's.
Bottom line: Boson in 7.

[3] Tampa Bay vs [6] Washington
Preview: I have no opinion whatsoever on this pairing, so I will turn to the tried and true hockey clich�s to sum up the series. Their best players need to be their best players, you never score on a shot not taken, and a 2 goal lead is the hardest lead to keep in hockey. Not sure if that helps, but Nikolai Khabibulin and Tampa Bay deserve props for their first division title.
Bottom line: Tampa Bay in 6.

[4] Philadelphia vs [5] Toronto
Preview: This series will provide flashbacks to the physical Leafs vs Islanders campaign last year in the playoffs. Both teams have known for some time that they would face each other, and they stocked up on players accordingly. The Leafs added Nolan, Gilmour, Wesley, and Housley. The Flyers added Kapanen, Yuskevich, Amonte, Lapointe, and Ragnarsson. Not that I am biased, but I will be watching this series from Owen Nolan's bar in San Jose. If emotions boil over, Toronto can implode at any minute on the ice.
Bottom line: Toronto in 7.

Western Conference
[1] Dallas vs [8] Edmonton
Edmonton made the most puzzling trade deadline deals of any team in the NHL. Unfortunately, small market teams often trade with an eye on the bottom line instead of with an eye on the playoffs. Trading Carter and Niinimaa for Isbister, Dvorak, Torres, and Cross stopped the late season Oiler freefall, but the salary dump will result in a first round blowout for the Oil. Turco finished out the season for Dallas with an amazing 1.72 GAA and is the odds on favorite for the Vezina. Dallas will miss Pierre Turgeon and Bill Guerin because of injuries.
Bottom line: Dallas in 5.

[2] Detroit vs [7] Anaheim
Preview: Detroit simply has too many offensive weapons for the Mighty Ducks to handle with veterans Hull, Shanahan, Federov, defenseman Lidstrom and Schneider, and young Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Joseph has not been Hasek-like [GAA-19th, sv%-16th], but Anaheim will have to jump on Detroit early and try to hold on in order to have a shot. Vancouver took the first two games against Detroit last year in the first round, but the Wings recovered and powered their way to a Stanley Cup. If Giguere gets hot, and Kariya and Sykora stike early, Anaheim still has no chance to advance.
Bottom line: Detroit in 5.

[3] Colorado vs [6] Minnesota
Preview: Colorado against Minnesota is classic offense vs defense. Minnesota is 1st in the league with a team SV% of .924, and is 4th in the league on the penalty kill. Colorado will counter with Forsberg [29G,77A], Hedjuk [50G,48A], Tanguay [26G,41A], and Sakic [26G,32A]. To make it worse: Morris, Blake, Foote, de Vries, Marchment and Skoula is the best blend of in-your-face and offense for any blueline in the NHL. Coach Jacques Lemaire has his work cut out for him.
Bottom line: Colorado in 6.

[4] Vancouver vs [5] St Louis
Preview: It is nice to see Chris Pronger return after a horrible wrist injury. He will only have a few games under his belt before the playoffs start, but having him in the lineup will be an emotional boost for the Blues. St Louis will have to shut down Vancouver's pair of 40 goals scorers, Marcus Naslund [48G,56A] and Todd Bertuzzi [46G,51A]. Goalie Dan Cloutier excelled in the postseason, but will now have to prove himself in the playoffs.
Bottom line: Vancouver in 7.