Tampa Bay (1) vs. Philadelphia (3) Lightning (46-22-8-6, 106 pts); Flyers (40-21-15-6; 101 pts) Season Series: 4-0-0 Tampa Bay
The Lightning pounded the Flyers this season. They not only won four out four against them, they outscored them 18-8 in the process. In those four games, Richards and St. Louis each had eight points, Stillman had seven points, Modin had four goals and six points and Lecavalier had four points.
Keys for Tampa Bay: Khabibulin has never been this deep into the playoffs in his professional career, but that shouldn't stop him from providing top-notch quality goaltending. Lecavalier and St. Louis racked up the points against Montreal (although St. Louis didn't score a goal). Both will need to continue on that roll. The Lightning also need to pick up where they left off despite a huge layoff.
Keys for Philadelphia: Simon Gagne found his offensive touch against Toronto with five points in six games along with a +4 rating. Esche will probably need to step up his play even more after allowing 2.21 goals per game versus the Leafs and a .919 save percentage. Philadelphia's penalty killing also needs to continue its dominance, only allowing two goals last round.
Prediction: Philadelphia has had some trouble on the road this season in the playoffs, especially last round against Toronto where their only win came in overtime. It's to Philadelphia's benefit that this series starts in Tampa as they should be able to steal that first game with the Lightning having such a long layoff. From there, it's just a matter of winning at home which they have done so well. Flyers in 7.
San Jose (2) vs. Calgary (6) Sharks (43-21-12-6; 104 pts); Flames (42-30-7-3; 94 pts) Season Series: 2-2-0
Flames hockey is still alive and well as we move deeper into the month of May with only four teams remaining in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. As the season wound down in March, it looked very likely that a Calgary/San Jose match-up was going to happen in the first round of the playoffs. So likely in fact that a March 25 meeting between the two clubs had the look and feel of a playoff encounter, with the Sharks prevailing 3-2 on a goal by Vincent Damphousse with 24 seconds to play. It may have taken a little longer than first thought but here they are now, head to head.
Keys for San Jose: The biggest reason for the Sharks success this playoff season has been the play of Evgeni Nabokov. He's going to need to continue putting up the numbers he has for the Sharks to have a chance. Dimitrakos, Marleau, Damphousse and Cheechoo are the only players putting up any sort of offensive numbers. No other forward had more than a single point last round.
Keys for Calgary: Last round, Martin Gelinas led the way with six points in six games but this round it could be any one of a number of Flames who could step up and be an offensive contributor. Iginla will be keyed on, but also Simon, Donovan, Conroy, Lombardi, Nilson and even Saprykin could be and need to be dangerous. Kiprusoff seems to be getting better as the playoffs progress, with a 1.73 GAA and .941 save percentage last round.
Prediction: Both teams play similar styles, but while the Sharks may have a slight edge in goaltending the Flames did find a way to beat an unbelievable Curtis Joseph near the end of last round. The Flames also have the best all-around player in this series (Iginla) and the best defenceman (Regehr). The Flames will win but it'll be their toughest series yet. Flames in 7.