Rangers in 7
The Capitals have ousted the defending champs and now they look to oust the top team in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals will need Braden Holby to be even stronger this round as he faces the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist. Both teams are coming off hard fought seven game series and can expect this series to be just as long. The Rangers and Capitals split four games in the regular season and for a while looked to be heading for a first round match up. However, the Caps ended the regular season with a win over the Blue Shirts and earned the seventh seed. The Rangers and Capitals have met recently in the postseason, with the Caps winning both series. However, those Capital teams were better and the Rangers have since improved, as they have gotten an influx of young talent and added Brad Richards a proven postseason player. If the Capitals are to win, Alex Ovechkin must emerge as the big offensive threat, if not the Rangers will survive another seven game battle.
Blues in 7
If you want to see goal scoring this is not going to be the series for you as these are two teams that rely heavily on defense and goaltending to win. For the Kings, Jonathan Quick a Vezina finalist is one of the best goalies in the NHL while the Blues one-two combination of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak had the lowest goals against average in the regular season. The Blue had the better regular season, while the Kings are perhaps the perfect playoff team, led by Quick as they stunned the Canucks in the first round. For the Blues if Andy McDonald can match his first round efforts, they will be tough to beat, as his play on the power play was a key in knocking off the Sharks. In the end the men in the nets will be who decides this series, as goals will be few and far between. All season long the Blues were the best team at home, and with Game 7 in St. Louis and I do see this series going seven games; that will be the difference as the Blues beat the Kings to advance to the Conference Finals.
Devils in 6
The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers have been a heated rivalry from day one, and now they meet in the playoffs again. When the Devils have won a Stanley Cup twice they have had two win big series against the Flyers. In the key matchup of goalies you have to give the major edge to the Devils, as Martin Brodeur, as Ilya Bryzgalov did not play well against the Penguins in the first round, while Brodeur often saved the Devils bacon especially in Game 7 after the Panthers rallied to tie it and force overtime. Of course Bryzgalov did not need to be that good since the Flyers offense was firing on all cylinders led by Claude Giroux who had 14 points in the six game series against the Penguins. However, I just cannot see the Flyers being able to keep up their pace as the Devils defense is much better than the Penguins. The Devils of course will need to be better on the penalty kill. as the Panthers power play nearly buried the Devils. In the end it will be a close series, but it will be the Devils who continue to keep their dreams of another championship alive as Brodeur turns 40 and turns away the Flyers.
Coyotes in 6
In the playoffs a hot goalie is like rocket fuel it can take even the weakest team and lift them to never before seen heights. The Predators though in the second round for the second straight season have never been to a conference finals and neither have the Coyotes who before beating the Blackhawks had not won a series since 1987, when they were the Winnipeg Jets. They for both teams have been the play of their goalies, as Pekka Rinne had a .944 save percentage as the Preds beat the Red Wings, while Mike Smith had a .950 percentage to lead the Coyotes past the Blackhawks. The Coyotes big weakness is their power play, as they were ranked 29th in the regular season. Against a tough defensive team like the Predators they will need to find a way to score when they have the man advantage. In the end just like they did against the Blackhawks, I think the Desert Dogs will get just enough goals, as Mike Smith is red hot and will continue to carry the Coyotes as they win in six games.