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Second round NHL playoff prognostications


Eastern Conference:


nikolai khabibulin 35 The Canadians are riding a miracle 3 game comeback against the Bruins in the first round. After questionable plays by Ribero and Kovalev, Montreal rebounded with Zednick, Koivu and Kovalev skating circles around a slower Boston defense. Jose Theodore rounded into playoff form and should be a formidable obstacle for the powerful Lightning. Veteran Defenseman Stephane Quintal may be available for the second round.

Saku Koivu leads the playoffs with 2 goals and 8 assists for 10 points. The top-heavy Canadians also have Alexie Kovalev [3G,3A] and Richard Zednick [3G,3A] among the postseason leaders. The Tampa Bay Lightning had 3 of the top 10 regular season point leaders: Martin St Louis [38G,56A], Cory Stillman [25G,55A] and Brad Richards [26G,53A]. Honorable mention goes to Vincent LeCavalier [32G,34A] and Fredrik Modin [29G,28A]

Tampa Bay has one of the deepest offensive lineups in the league with St Louis, Richards, Modin, LeCavalier, and the always dangerous Dave Andreychuk. Darryl Sydor and Pavel Kubina not only move the puck well on the blueline, they are an offensive threat each time they touch the puck. Even if Nikolai Khabibulin steals the series, look for John Grahame to get a start in goal.

Lightning in six.


I picked against Martin Brodeur and the Devils every round last year on their way to a Stanley Cup victory. This year I pick them in the first round and they are almost swept by Philadelphia. The loss of Scott Stevens was not only a blow to to their playoff hopes, but a loss for their entire organization. Not making a trade to replace Stevens now looks like an enormous mistake.

The Flyers were an intimidating team, and then they traded for Alexei Zhamnov and Sean Burke to add even more of an edge. Roenick came back from several facial injuries to form a very successful line with Amonte and Zhamnov. Keith Primeau has to be considered the premiere power forward of the postseason, and Robert Esche carried his strong play into the first round. Philadelphia will outskate and outhit an older Toronto club.

Toronto probably will get Owen Nolan and Mats Sundin back from injury for the second round. They not only need to return to the lineup, they need to sit on Esche and bang in ugly goals. Nieuwendyk [5 goals, +4] and Leetch [4 assists, +3], were two of the best veteran additions in the NHL, but this is almost an all-or-nothing year for Toronto. Is Alexander Mogilny playing injured? Probably. Is he struggling? Yes.

Ed Belfour shut down the Senators in the first round with 3 shutouts, a 1.49 goals against average, and a .951 save percentage. He will need to steal this series if Leaf nation has any chance of advancing. I can rest assured Philly fans will boo Belfour for me.

The Maple Leafs were blown out 6-1 in a game 7 to the Flyers last year. The series will not go that far this year.

Flyers in six.

Western Conference:


Miikka Kiprusoff playoffs San Jose and Calgary

This is the most difficult series for me to predict. After being flown in to shovel snow in Michigan during my youth, it is almost impossible for me to select the Red Wings for anything. Detroit re-enforces my angst by throwing money at then 2nd leading scorer Robert Lang, the most dangerous [and injured] Dallas defenseman Darrian Hatcher, Mathieu Schneider, Curtis Joseph, and Chris Chelios [I still do not know how he could go from Chicago to Detroit]. Who did they have to bribe to draft Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg?

The Rangers and the Avalanche may flex their payroll, but the Wings have added only the cream of the crop, and I still hate them. It may be the Joe Montana effect where if you see something long enough on billboards, tshirts, styrofome burger containers, and eventually it begins to gnaw on your soul from the inside-out. Watching the Wings try to barnstorm their way through the playoffs and lose will be almost, probably more enjoyable, than if the Sharks go all the way.

To break down the game on the ice, Detroit will try to shut down Iginla and the Flames from the blueline with Chelios, Hatcher, Fischer and Lidstrom. Mathieu Schneider will quarterback the power play and make sure the allstar lines in front of him are fed a healthy dose of tape-to-tape passes. Robert Lang [2G,4A] led the attack in the first round on a line with Whitney and Yzerman. The juggling goalie scenario in the Detroit net will end with Curtis Joseph playing well.

The Calgary Flames won the most brutal first round series against Vancouver. Winning in 7 games did take its toll, with Chris Simon [upper-middle-lower body] and defenseman Denis Gauthier [leg] and Toni Lydman [upper-lower body] all going down with injuries. Why not just label them all as having the flu?

Jerome Iginla will play Jonah to the Detroit Red Wings whaleDarryl Sutter will use a strong forecheck, a goal scoring power forward [Iginla], a solid defense, and hot goaltending to try to stifle the Red Wings. Sound familiar Sharks fans? Actually, he is using a Shark goaltender in net as well [Miikka Kiprusoff]. Watching Miikka now in the playoffs, as opposed to his time in San Jose, he looks like a different goalie. Instead of charging the blueline to control loose pucks, instead of coming out 10-15 feet to challenge shooters, Kiprusoff has matured into almost a stay-at -home goalie.

Maybe watching Nabokov and Toskala rubbed off on his style a little. Miikka stays in his net more now, and picks his spots on when to be aggressive. He will still flash his explosive side-to-side speed on breakaways and one-timers. If the Sharks and Flames make it to the next round, he will have an opportunity to pull a Donald Trump [your fired] on the team that let him go. How do you say "your fired" in Finnish?

Everyone and their mother will say the Flames rely too much on Iginla for offense, but it is true. If Iginla has a great series, the Flames will still lose. Ville Nieminen and Marcus Nilson were two of my favorite deadline pickups, and they will torment Detroit up front. Torment and scoring goals are two different things. The Calgary Flames simply lack enough offensive weapons to get by this round.

Wings in six.


David Aebischer

The best series breakdown in the business coming tommorow.

Sharks in six.

Visit Sharkspage links for all the newspapers, fan and official sites for the above mentioned NHL teams.

me Jon Swenson is the writer, photographer, and editorial-staff-of-one behind Sharkspage. He picked against the Devils every round on their road to a Stanley Cup in 2003, was published in the Sacramento Bee comparing the Sacramento Surge team name to a toilet bowl cleaner, and reacted bitterly with an article on to rating comparisons between the NHL and Armadillo Racing.