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Eastern Conference: Round Two

The Stanley Cup Quarter Finals have come to an end and now we anxiously await the start of round two. When we first began, Courtney and I broke down each conference and then each remaining team once the post season began. I laugh when I look at my breakdown now seeing as none of those match-ups actually came true. I had New Jersey beating my Pens in the Conference Final, and the Devils were one of two surprise eliminations.

When all was said and done and each team knew who their opponent would be, we broke it down again. This time I was a bit better at making predictions. I called Boston in six and Pittsburgh, but I thought they would do it in five. I even called Montreal in seven, which in the beginning was really just wishful thinking on my part. New Jersey was my only surprise, but lets be honest, it surprised everyone. So now that we have reached round two. Where does each team go from here??

The schedules have been set, match-ups decided and we are ready to begin round two. We begin Friday in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins have earned home ice advantage for as long as they stay in the running and then Saturday in Boston where the Bruins will host the Flyers. In my “expert” opinion (yes that joke will never get old for me) here is how the teams match up, what they need to do for a win, and what they can’t do if they don’t want to lose.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins– The Pens got a run for their money in round one. The Senators were not about to go down without a fight, and let’s face it, the match-up between the number four and five seeds are always tight no matter which team is favored. Going into round two, they have some good things going for them. Twelve of their players contributed in goals against Ottawa, not just their well known superstars. And with the exception of defenseman Brooks Orpik, every player that played all six games contributed in some way on the stats board. Those who did not were either scratched healthy or do to injury, or not a whole lot of consistent playing time, but more than likely helped out in other ways.

They need to not underestimate this Montreal team, yes I know this is a given. As much as anyone today is probably arguing that the Capitals failed to show up in their first round exit against the Habs, there were a lot of things that the Habs did right. Goaltending, for one, is on a hot streak over there. Jaroslav Halak is playing with the ability to make some question why Carey Price got the start at the beginning of the season in the first place. Over in Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury is not showing us Stanley Cup worthy goaltending, is playing nothing like he did this time last season. The Pens lead the league in blocked shots in the regular season, this would be a good time to step that up and give their goaltender some much needed help. Evgeni Malkin, though produced four goals and four assists needs to take it to the next level. It is great that the entire team is a force to be reckoned with but key role players need to give it more than their all or we may see another surprise exit.

#8 Montreal Canadiens- The first mistake the Canadiens can make when taking on the defending cup champions is thinking that it is going to be easy. We took out the Capitals, why not the Penguins. The Caps may have huge fire power up front, but the Pens have it all around. Keep your adrenaline high you have off of last nights win, but don’t go in unprepared. Big defensemen like Hal Gill should not be paired up against Sidney Crosby like he was against Alex Ovechkin. Gill is huge, but Crosby is small and quick and given the chance could possibly skate circles around him. Putting him up against someone like Malkin who is more his size would be the better match up. The Habs fell three out of four times to the Penguins in the regular season, but we all need to remember that this is a completely different season now that the playoffs are in full swing.

Halak has proven he is the man for the job so far, but forwards like Ovechkin try to do it all on their own, especially when they are down. Halak needs to have the mind set that the Pens are going to be coming at them from every angle, and anticipate it. Like the Penguins, almost everyone on their active roster is participating points wise. Mike Cammalleri is playing like Sid and Geno, Tomas Plekanec not far behind. Lets just hope they don’t go booing our nations anthem, no one wants to see that.

#6 Boston Bruins- Giving rookie goaltender Tukka Rask could be one of the best things the Bruin’s coaching staff has done all season. A fresh non-experienced presence in the net is not supposed to beat the “great” Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres, but he did. And now it is on to the Flyers, in a rematch of this years Winter Classic, however these games won’t be played at Fenway and there will be more than one big meeting. The Bruins are 2-2 against the Flyers, and two of those four games headed into extra periods, so we’ve got a pretty even match up. The Bruins need to play their game and not take stupid penalties like we all know the Flyers are known to do. If the Flyers can’t stay in line and are sent to the box, the power play is where the Bruins need to capitalize.

Marc Savard has been cleared and is ready to go, but should the Bruins use him? It’s a toss up. If they had been matched against the Penguins, I would probably have said no, why add that extra stress on your team, but against the physical Flyers it could be a no-go as well. It’s the playoffs and we have seen guys play on an injury before, but this is a concussion. If he is not 110% sure he is 100%, do you really risk getting him injured again? Maybe if you’re down in the series and you need his scoring touch, but in his absence players like Mark Recchi and Miro Satan have brought their game up a notch.

The Bruins can’t forget that this Philadelphia team took out the high seeded Devils, anymore then the Pens can’t forget the Habs took out the league leader in the Caps. Anticipate a tight contest, much like what we saw New Years Day at Fenway, well the last few minutes of regulation and over time at least.

#7 Philadelphia Flyers- Round one is over and no one expected the Flyers to even make the post season, let alone take out the New Jersey Devils. But they did, and its on to the Boston Bruins. One thing I will say about Philly, that I say over and over again is STAY OUT OF THE EFFING BOX! The physicality is an important part of the game, but here comes a time when Dan Carcillo does not need 18 penalty minutes in five games.

The Flyers are strong on their point head by veteran defensemen Chris Pronger, which was another great move in the hockey world. Pronger is up top with forwards Mike Richards and Claude Giroux on the leader board, as he was for most of the regular season. The key to win for the Flyers would be to use those forces to get into Rask’s head. This kid is a great goaltender, but he does not have the greatest record against the Flyers. In their 4 contests, Tim Thomas was in goal for both Flyers losses, not Rask who was in between the pipes both times the Flyers sprung to the top. They have beat him before, and beaten him bad, but lets remember what I said earlier about the playoffs being a new season. Do you think Rask hasn’t stepped it up just like the rest of them??

Sara’s Second Round Picks::

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens: Pittsburgh in 6

Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers: Boston in 5

Categories: NHL
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