The final eight. The West saw some predictable teams advance, with more trouble than predicted. But the East saw the upsets. We've also seen the exit of some of the best goalies in the nHL. Soon-to-be Vezina winner Ryan Miller was ousted, as was Ilya Bryzgalov, and so was 4 time Vezina winner Martin Brodeur.
Four of the Original Six are in the 2nd round. Only 1 "warm weather" team remains. The Sharks are also the only relatively recent expansion team left. Apart from them, every team left has existed since 1970.
A couple of upsets threw the Eastern Conference on its head. You'll also find three of the hottest goalies on this side of the bracket, particularly Jaroslav Halak.
#4 PITTSBURGH vs. #8 MONTREAL
The Canadiens rode Halak past Washington. But they also benefitted from the Capitals (apart from Ovechkin and maybe Backstrom) choking like crazy. Gorges and Gill emerged as a dominating defensive duo, but I'll still attribute Washington's demise to choking, as opposed to Montreal doing anything superlative. Pittsburgh doesn't choke. M.A. Fleury might give away a game, but the Pens will prevail.
Pittsburgh in 6.
#6 BOSTON vs. #7 PHILADELPHIA
When you get the 6th seed, you don't expect to have home ice advantage in any round. The B's last played the Flyers in the postseason in '78. Back then they were perennial playoff adversaries. Brian "Waterboy" Boucher struggled all season, but stunned New Jersey in Philly's 5 game series win. So don't be shocked if the Bruins struggle to score much. Although the B's will have Marc Savard back. Moreover, a much more reliable Tuukka Rask. Look for another close-fought, physical series, like the one with Buffalo.
Bruins in 7.
All the favorites in the West won, except the 4th seeded Coyotes, who had to face a healthy Red Wings side that most people picked to win the series anyway.
#1 SAN JOSE vs. #5 DETROIT RED WINGS
What does San Jose get for having the best record in the West? A 2nd round date with the mighty Red Wings.
Both teams struggled to get into this next round. But I can't help but think of the Sharks as chokers and the Red Wings as winners. Detroit's skaters boast over 1,600 combined playoff games. That's absurd. They're always calm, always professional, rarely make mistakes. And they have a hot young goalie in Jimmy Howard.
Nabokov had an excellent series against Colorado. But Paul Stastny is not Henrik Zetterberg. Then again, Howard hasn't had to face the likes of Marleau or Heatley.
I can't pick against Detroit here. Wings in 7.
#2 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS vs. #3 VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Anticipate a back-and-forth series, as both these teams play excellently on home ice and struggle just a bit on the road (especially Vancouver). The season series was also split 2-2. Two of those games were close, two were blowouts. Antti Niemi has emerged as Chicago's netminder, and he excelled in the series against Nashville (2.15 GAA, .921 SV%). But stifling the Preds is a much lighter task than stopping the Sedins and Canucks. And don't forget Mikael Samuelsson, who scored 7 times in the 6 game series against LA. Then again, Vancouver has an over-the-hill Luongo in the net.
I predict high scoring games, but the Blackhawks riding a hot young goalie into the Conference Finals. Chicago in 6.
CONN SMYTHE WATCH:
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT: 5 goals, 9 assists, +7
Mikael Samuelsson, RW, VAN: 7 goals, 4 assists, +8
Mike Cammalleri, LW, MON: 5 goals, 5 assists
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET: 6 goals, 5 assists, +6
Chris Pronger, D, PHI: 2 G, 3 A, 20 blocks, 29:03 TOI/G
Brian Boucher, G, PHI: 4-1, 1.59 GAA, .940 SV%
Evgeni Nabokov, G, SJ: 4-2, 1.76 GAA, .926 SV%
Antti Niemi, G, CHI: 4-2, 2.15 GAA .921 SV%
Tuukka Rask, G, BOS: 4-2, 2.18 GAA, .927 SV%