Keys for Tampa Bay: Vincent Lecavalier, Cory Stillman, Dave Andreychuk. Tampa's 2nd line did not register a point in the first round and will face a much tougher goaltender in Jose Theodore. Tampa also needs to open strong at home and end this series early.
Keys for Montreal: Win a couple games without Theodore's help. The star goaltender is likely to steal a game or two, but he'll need help from his offense, especially the very hot Saku Koivu & Alexei Kovolev.
Prediction: Tampa's offense was the 3rd best in the NHL this season, while Khabibulin is the top goaltender so far in the playoffs – they're just too strong not to beat the Habs. Lightning in 6.
Philadelphia (3) vs. Toronto (4)
Keys for Philadelphia: Be physical. The Flyers are a younger, healthier team and need to punish the Leafs defense at every opportunity. This will create scoring chances and should wear down the Leafs as the series progresses.
Keys for Toronto: A balanced attack. Sundin & Nieuwendyk are hurting, so Toronto needs some production from the likes of Tucker, Mogilny, Antropov, and Reichel, none of whom have a goal so far in the playoffs.
Prediction: This will be a long series, and I think Belfour and the Leafs will put up a great fight. But Philadelphia is a deeper squad and I'll say Flyers in 7.
Detroit (1) vs. Calgary (6)
Keys for Detroit: Score early / make it a short series. The Red Wings are the whole package: great offense, excellent defense, and solid goaltending. They have the experience and the talent to win the Cup, but are also significantly older and slower than Flames. This will benefit Calgary later in games and later in the series… therefore, the Wings will want to score early in games, a tactic that helped them beat Nashville.
Keys for Calgary: Star power / Sutter power. It's a given that Iginla and Kiprusoff have to continue to be their best players for the Flames – the Flames won't win without them. If Calgary is to beat Detroit, they'll have to play the Sutter system for 60 minutes a game: tight defense, low shots against, and aggressive play deep in the offensive zone. Calgary's depth is also a concern. There are no more defensemen after Steve Montador and there's little offensive help to be found in the press box either.
Prediction: Kiprusoff & Iginla are good enough to win a couple games on their own, but the Red Wings are too deep, too talented, and too experienced to lose to a hurting #6 seed. Red Wings in 6.
San Jose (2) vs. Colorado (4)
Keys for San Jose: Make it a defensive series. The Sharks are a well-coached, conservative team that will win the majority of close games that they play. If they can shut down Colorado's star performers, they'll have a great chance to advance.
Keys for Colorado: Make it an offensive series. The Avalanche have three lines that can score on a consistent basis and have two of the best players in the game in Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. They've already torn up the best defensive team in the West with 19 goals in 5 games and need to keep scoring to beat the Sharks.
Prediction: Hockey logic dictates that a good defensive will beat a good offensive. Joe Sakic & Peter Forsberg will disagree. Colorado will score a ton of goals against Nabakov and the Avalanche will win in 6.