#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Could Montreal become the latest number 8 seed to put on a surprise run to the Finals? (the Edmonton Oilers did it in '06) They have a good formula for it- a cadre of quick, underrated forwards and two goalies capable of stealing a game if not a round. But I'm not going to bet on it. Pittsburgh didn't look great taking care of Ottawa but they still have the best trio of centers in the game in Crosby, Malkin and Staal and the experience to get it done when they need to. Plus, Montreal should come back down to earth: Halak isn't going to have a save percentage over .970 forever (he posted marks of .974, .981 and .976 in the last three games).
#6 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers
I called the Philly upset of New Jersey (but not the Boston upset of Buffalo). However, this match-up isn't nearly as good for the Flyers. They aren't going to push the B's around. The Bruins will match them hit for hit and bruise for bruise. Plus, Philly just doesn't have the guns up front with three forwards missing- including Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne. On the other end, Boston has a huge goaltending advantage. And yes, at this point in their respective careers, Tuukka Rask is better than Martin Brodeur (who the Flyers dispatched in the first round).
#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
A lot of people are picking my beloved Wings to win this one, but I'm going to go with my head over my heart and pick the Sharks. I'd love to be wrong, of course. However, San Jose showed great resolve in their series against Colorado. Everyone expected them to fold after everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the first three games (especially the overtime own-goal) but San Jose came out and took the next three games by a combined score of 12-3. They're also getting a lot more secondary scoring than the Wings. All that being said: Go Wings!
#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks
These are two very similar teams. They have two high-end scoring lines featuring superstars like the Sedin brothers, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. And then they have two lines full of pluggers. The big difference is on the back end. Chicago has great defense but suspect goaltending. Vancouver has suspect defense but great goaltending (and yes, despite the occasional playoff stinker in the past, Luongo is a great goaltender). Normally, I'd give the edge to the great goalie in that situation. But I'm afraid the Blackhawks will make me look bad again (I picked against another Chicago team, the White Sox, every round the year they won the World Series) so I'm picking the worse result for a Wings fan again and hoping I'm wrong both times.
I didn't have time to post my predictions for the Conference Finals but that was a blessing in disguise: I would have been 0 for 2. However, for the Finals, I'll pick the Blackhawks. The improbable runs to the Final are great, but the team usually falls just short of the Cup.