You can tell by our loquacious nature this go around that things are ratcheting up, and so are the hot sports opinions. As far last round goes, we picked some winners, but didn't do all that well as a group. Brandon Bibb was the only one that had Sharks in six games over the Avs. I said "Chicago in a close six" and I think I nailed that one on the head. Pat also had Chicago in six.
On to round two, and please make your picks in the comments and tell us why we're wrong...
Art: For me, picking between these two to win a series is like picking between either having to watch Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann. They are both blowhards, I can't stand to look at either one of them and even when either one shows a shred of something I light like, I have to remind myself that they are pure evil and to not fall for their devil tricks.
Both Detroit and San Jose had issues in their first round series but both closed out those series looking like their normal dominant selves so this does seem like kind of a pick-um type deal. I stated a while ago that I thought the issues that the Sharks had with Colorado and the advercity they had to face and overcome could lend itself to a deep playoff run. I'll stick with that...
Sharks in six.
Brandon: Like everyone else, I detest the Wings and Sharks.
Like Art, I detest Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck. But I detest Beck a little less, just like the Sharks.
Jimmy Howard's goaltending gives me a little pause to pick San Jose. But Detroit's offense is firing on all eight cylinders as they head into the second round. So like Pat, I'm forced to pick Detroit in 6.
Pat: I, for one, will not be watching a game of this series. Two reasons: 1) I'd rather gargle boiling water for fifteen minutes than watch either of these teams win a single game in the playoffs, and 2) I always find myself rooting for SOME team in each series, no matter how much I hate them. So I'd like to avoid that temptation altogether.
But that won't stop me from making a pick. And I'm going to go with Detroit here. It took a few games, but you finally get the feeling Detroit is getting into their annual playoff groove again. They're getting key plays from Lidstrom, from Zetterberg and from Datsyuk. Jimmy Howard has played through his first real playoff series, and while he had some moments where he struggled he now has that needed experience going into the second round. The Sharks, on the other hand, could barely beat an overachieving, streaky Colorado team. Joe Thornton is already settled into his usual playoff hibernation, and if not for the heroic Joe Pavelski the Sharks wouldn't be here right now. If they couldn't dominate the Avs, they will get dominated by the Wings.
The Stars fan in me wants this to go seven games with lots of injuries
Brad: Two Detroits and a Sharks...allow me to even this one out. The Sharks have got to be feeling loads better about themselves after the drama of beating an 8 seed. They're better rested, they've been waiting, and they're finally going to win a game 1 at home. Somehow. Which should set them on their merry way...the jerk offs.
Sharks in 7.
(2) Chicago vs (3) Vancouver
Art: The Canucks can't get fooled and humiliated again by the Hawks like they did this time last year... can they? My gut says no, my brain says yes, my ears say do I really have to listen to Jim Hughston waxing poetic about his beloved Canucks while lamely trying to sound somewhat impartial? I'm less convinced than I was before that this is the Canucks year based on how they played against the Kings, but the Blackhawks didn't show me much either in their series with Nashville... And since I told you all to root for the Canucks, why back down now?
Canucks in six.
Brandon: Yeah, I'll admit it. The Hawks got a little lucky in the first round against Nashville.
Why they didn't play keep away instead of playing stupid hockey on that power play late in regulation, I'll never know. But Erat threw a blind pass that deflected off the Chicago net onto the stick of Jonathan Towes and trapped himself and Jason Arnott giving the Hawks a free pass out of the zone and the rest is history.
Speaking of history, Roberto Luongo will be looking to erase some pock marks in his personal history against some of the Hawks players. Namely Patrick Kane, who scored a hat trick in a series clinching Game 6 last year then scored the goal that got the Team USA rally underway in the Gold Medal Game two months ago.
To be sure, the Sedins have gotten Vancouver's offense fired up. Expect a lot of goal scoring in this series.
It wouldn't surprise me if Vancouver won. But alas, I am a Hawks fan and am beholden to pick them in 7.
Pat: I have little doubt the Canucks will win this series. If you watched every game of the Vancouver-Los Angeles series like I did, you saw that over the last two games the Canucks stars started getting heated up. Luongo was magnificent, the Sedins were dazzling and the defense was producing offense at a very nice pace. They've got everything going for them right now.
Meanwhile, the Hawks should be happy they're even this far....Nashville decided to choke away a few games late in that series, and while Niemi was solid at times I'm still not sold on the Hawks' goaltending situation. You've heard that from me all season long, haven't you? Well, unless they can beat the Canucks then I won't be sold.
Canucks in six.
Brad: Color me unimpressed as well. The Hawks showed real resiliency in that sixth game, but is it enough? Should we be talking about goaltending problems for a team that had two shutouts in the first round? I will be rooting for them to somehow stop that Vancouver machine that's rolling right now, but my head tells me Vancouver.
Canucks in six.
(4) Pittsburgh vs (8) Montreal
Art: Can the Canadiens do it again? They just shut down the most dynamic offensive team in the league and proved that they can win in a tough road environment so just imagine what they can do against a team not as offensively charged as the Capitals and in a rink like the Igloo will that will be as tough as the Verizon Center was but not nearly as loud.
Can the Habs do it again? In a word: No. Pens showed last round they have plenty of heart and find ways to win in all situations - be it in games where their offense is firing on all cylinders or in games where goals are very tough to come by.
Penguins in five.
Brandon: Just when you think the rest of the Eastern Conference has caught and surpassed them, we sit here on the dawn of second round and the defending Cup Champs are the highest seed remaining in these playoffs.
They have a championship pedigree that Washington did not. And while I expect Jaroslav Halak to continue his high level play, I just can't pick against the defending Champs until another team gives me a reason not to do so.
Pens in 6
Pat: I'm so tempted to take the Habs here. You have no idea. The way they dominated the Caps on the penalty kill impressed me quite a bit, and I don't really think of the Pens as a great power play team anyways. Halak is my new favorite non-Stars goalie (at least for the playoffs), and if he can tap into that greatness again........who knows? The Habs have mojo now, too.
But I'm going to take the Penguins. I think. Should I? Should I depend on past year's performances? Was I that impressed by their series with the Senators? Do I trust Marc-Andre Fleury? Can Crosby carry the team again? Should I take experience over the hotter hand?
You know what? Habs in seven. Yeah. I went there.
Brad: I pick Washington.
The four seed playing the eight seed is the highest East matchup. Well, the East has been disappointing me all season long with their poor play against teams I don't like, so why stop now, right?
At some point, experience has got to come into play (Pittsburgh has that) and Halak has got to be a little human.
Give me Pittsburgh in six, and a very quiet Bell Center.
(6) Boston vs (7) Philadelphia
Art: I won't lie, this is the series I am most excited to see because I think (hope?) it'll be all kinds of nasty! Pronger, Carcillo, Hartnell on one side... Boychuk, Lucic and Krejci on the other... Gentlemen, start your engines! And by engines I mean constant high sticks, post-whistle facewashes and cheap slashes on the back of legs!
Philly is a little banged up injury wise while the Bruins get a bit healthier with the return of Marc Savard, and Tukka Rask just outplayed a Vezina candidate and real American Olympic hero so I gotta go with them. This may be a short (but again I request: nasty, pretty please?) series.
Bruins in five.
Brandon: If the NHL gave out a Jekyll and Hyde Team award, the Flyers would certainly win it. Early in the year, they struggled and it cost John Stevens his job. Then they got on a hot streak through the middle of the season and appeared to be solidifying their playoff positioning, only to back slide nearly out of the playoff picture, needing a shootout win over the Rangers on the last day of the regular season to clinch a spot.
So what do they do?
Completely dominate the Sharks of the East, the New Jersey Devils. Or maybe that title belongs to the Caps. I don't know.
They'll go up against another team that's had a bit of an up and down year in the Boston Bruins. And that makes this series a toss up in my mind.
Time for the early and late season Flyers to show up, I'm afraid.
Bruins in 6.
Pat: It's The Thugs vs. The Bruisers. This series will get scrappy incredibly quickly, and I'm almost giddy thinking about Zdeno Chara flattening Dan Carcillo to the ice while Scott Hartnell takes a few Andrew Ference punches to the face.
Can you tell I hate the Flyers?
My bias aside, I really don't know what to think of this series, mostly because I didn't expect either team to make it past the first round. So I'll break it down by offense, defense and goaltending. Basic, cheap but hey, it gets the job done. On offense, I like the Flyers. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne can get things going quickly in the offensive zone. On defense, I'll take the Bruins. That Buffalo series was a low-scoring affair, and I'll bet the Bruins' D makes it that way again. So it comes down to goaltending, and there's no way I'm not taking Tuukka Rask. The kid has been brilliant.
Bruins in 6.
Brad: They dispatched New Jersey, so this should be no problem right? Naa. It's like Art said, one team is getting healthier and the other is going the other way. Add home ice and it goes to Boston in six games.
But let's see some of that classic Philadelphia nastiness (from the fans, I mean) along the way. Just for fun.