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April 12 - The Canadian Corner: NHL Playoffs, Second Round Preview

Before I get on to taking a look at the second round here, I'm going to give some props to Dallas Stars
goalie Marty Turco. Turco basically single-handedly brought Dallas back to the brink of winning this
series, shutting out Vancouver for 165:45. Turco carried Dallas on his back, and got unfortunately left
out to dry. Vancouver got extremely lucky to get past Dallas and Turco. Vancouver handed this series
to Dallas on a silver platter, but got lucky when the offense finally woke up a little. The goaltending
here was absolutely superb, and Turco definitely deserved a better fate. It could just as easily have
been the other way around, with Vancouver and Luongo being the ones eliminated. It was as close to
escaping by the skin of your teeth as you could get. Marty Turco, hold your head up high. You showed
that you are an elite caliber goaltender, and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

Anyways, with that finished with, here's my look at the Semi Final round of the NHL Playoffs.


Eastern Conference

#1 Buffalo Sabres vs #6 New York Rangers

Season Series:
October 14th: Buffalo 7, New York 4
November 5th: Buffalo 4, New York 3 (OT)
November 26th: Buffalo 3, New York 2 (OT)
December 1st: Buffalo 4, New York 3 (Shootout)

If there is one team I discounted in the first round, it was the New York Rangers. I didn't think they
would even come close Atlanta, then alone dismantle them in four straight games. New York is
playing much better now, then they were when they played Buffalo earlier in the season. All four of
Buffalo's wins over New York were earlier in the season, and the last three were all by a single goal.
Buffalo did go over the Islanders in 5, but that was no picnic, and with the way the Rangers
dismantled Atlanta, this should be a much tougher series for Buffalo. Henrik Lundqvist just killed the
high powered Atlanta offense, and ended the series with a 1.50 GAA. Buffalo started slow against the
Islanders, and if they do that again here, they'll be on the golf course. I do think that Buffalo will win
this series, but I think New York will push them to the very brink before Buffalo escapes with the
series win just barely on the way to the Conference finals.

Prediction: Buffalo in 7.


#2 New Jersey Devils vs #4 Ottawa Senators

Season Series:
October 21th: Ottawa 8, New Jersey 1
November 17th: New Jersey 3, Ottawa 2
January 6th: New Jersey 3, Ottawa 2
April 3rd: New Jersey 2, Ottawa 1 (Shootout)

Ottawa very much breezed past Pittsburgh in the first round, just as I had thought they would. This
however, will be the true test of whether or not Ottawa can get to the finals. New Jersey is a much
better team than Pittsburgh, and Martin Brodeur is quite clearly the most seasoned goaltender left. In
the first round, Ottawa had the advantage of a young and untested goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury.
Ottawa will be force to grind it out in this series, and it will not likely be very high scoring. Whether or
not Ottawa can beat New Jersey at their own game is the biggest question mark. Ottawa has long
held a playoff choker label, having come close on many occasions and falling short. Ottawa without
question easily has the more talented of the two teams. However, New Jersey has been where
Ottawa has not. They've won the Cup, and they've been through all the different scenarios one could
think of. I could easily be wrong here, But I think New Jersey shuts Ottawa down, and beats them in a
manner similar to how they advanced in Round one against Tampa Bay.

Prediction: New Jersey in 6


Western Conference

#1 Detroit Red Wings vs #5 San Jose Sharks

Season Series:
October 19th: San Jose 5, Detroit 1
October 25h: Detroit 2, San Jose 1
December 2nd: San Jose 3, Detroit 2
January 4th: San Jose 9, Detroit 4

San Jose may have been the most impressive team in Round 1, taking down the Nashville Predators
in five games, in what many people felt was the toughest of all the first round matchups before the
playoffs began. I did originally picked Detroit in six games to beat Calgary, not thinking they would
actually need that many games, and that they would look better than they did. Detroit did not look
impressive at all. I still do not buy Dominik Hasek as a goalie who can carry a team to a
championship, at least not at this point of his career. Detroit may have more scoring punch, but San
Jose is up and down a far more deep team. I think that depth will prove to be the difference in this
series.

San Jose should be able to handle a sloppily playing Detroit team rather easily, and advance to the
conference finals.

Prediction: San Jose in 5


#2 Anaheim Ducks vs #3 Vancouver Canucks

Season Series:
November 9th: Anaheim 6, Vancouver 0
November 30: Anaheim 2, Vancouver 1
February 20th: Vancouver 3, Anaheim 2 (OT)
March 11th: Anaheim 4, Vancouver 2

This series has storylines galore, with Ducks (and former Canucks GM) Brian Burke going against
former protege Dave Nonis and Vancouver. Vancouver is a team largely built by Burke, but Nonis
pulled off the move you could argue got Vancouver into the playoffs and Round 2, bringing in MVP
Candidate Roberto Luongo. Anaheim is coached by former Manitoba Moose (Canucks minor league
affiliate) Randy Carlyle, whom Burke brought along with him when he went to Anaheim. Anaheim
played only 5 games in the first round, but every one of those was toughly contested against
Minnesota. Vancouver, as I mentioned earlier, nearly handed the series to Dallas, but that was
courtesy of the superb goaltending of Marty Turco. This is different. To me this is dependant on which
Vancouver team shows up. If the team that dominated the second period of Game 7 comes to play,
there is no question that they could win this series. Of course, that is all contingent on Roberto
Luongo continuing to keep pucks out. Anaheim is no slouch either in the goaltender department, as
they have both Ilyz Bryzgalov and J.S. Giguere to play with, which gives them better depth at the
position. Should one of them go down, the other guy could easily pop in. Anaheim has an incredible
defensive duo with Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, and that will make it difficult as Anaheim
will play one or both against Vancouver's top lines at all times. It will make it very difficult for
Vancouver's top players to get it going when they face them. The question for Anaheim is whether or
not they can put enough pressure on Vancouver and Luongo, and force them out of the style they like
to play.

To be honest, I've changed my pick on this series about a thousand times. It's hard, but I just don't
see Vancouver getting any farther, given their opponent. Anaheim should advance on, but I think
Vancouver will push them very hard and make it difficult.

Prediction: Anaheim in 7.

Until next time, this has been the Canadian Corner.