Tampa Bay (1) vs. Montreal (7) Lightning (46-22-8-6, 106 pts); Canadiens (41-30-7-4; 93 pts) Season Series: 2-2-0
As expected the Tampa Bay Lightning made relatively quick work of the New York Islanders in the first series, but few expected the Montreal Canadiens to be in this position after slipping to a 3-1 hole in the Boston series. The Habs turned a series killing blunder by Alexei Kovalev into a rallying point and upset the Bruins in seven.
Keys for Tampa Bay: The Lightning were able to solve their goaltending confusion when Nikolai Khabibulin stepped up and dominated the series - that needs to continue. That coupled with a young arsenal of offensive talent and a fiery head coach has the Lightning primed to move through the playoffs.
Keys for Montreal: Heart and soul. The Canadiens willed their way past the Bruins and are on a three game unbeaten streak. The Habs will need a great series from goaltender Jose Theodore and a continuation to their timely scoring.
Prediction: Montreal has really come together as a group, and the Lightning are still somewhat new to the whole playoff thing, despite entering their fourth series in two years. Canadiens in 6.
Philadelphia (3) vs. Toronto (4) Flyers (40-21-15-6; 101 pts); Maple Leafs (45-24-10-3; 103 pts) Season Series: 3-1-0 Philadelphia
The war continues. The Flyers and Leafs played a messy series in the first round of the playoffs last season and are back at it again in the second round this year. The Flyers are well rested having shocked the champion Devils in five games, while the Leafs are a banged up group without their captain Mats Sundin.
Keys for Philadelphia: Robert Esche. Esche has stepped on a time honoured tradition of Philly goaltenders soiling themselves in the playoffs by actually being the difference in the first round win. The Flyers are solid at all skating positions, so continued strong play from Esche will put them in good shape.
Keys for Toronto: Age and injuries. The Leafs are hobbled with some of their key players either out, or playing with a myriad of injuries. The Flyers aren't the huge team they once were, but they still play the body meaning the Leafs may be pushed to the limit with their old bones.
Prediction: Rested club that's due faces battered club that isn't. Flyers in 5.
Detroit (1) vs. Calgary (6) Red Wings (48-21-11-2, 109 pts); Flames (42-30-7-3; 94 pts) Season Series: 3-1-0 Detroit
Despite all those flowering comments coming from the Red Wing's dressing room, the whole Detroit organization must be licking their collective lips in anticipation of a 2nd round match up with the Flames. They avoid the red hot Colorado Avalanche and receive an opponent that could very well be physically and emotionally spent.
Keys for Detroit: Matching the work ethic of the Flames. The Flames, injured or not, will bring it in this series. The Wings can win this series going away if they are willing to crawl into the muck and mix it up with Calgary, as their skill should rise to the top.
Keys for Calgary: Calgary's two star players; Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff have to be excellent. They have been so far in these playoffs, but they almost need to find another gear. The Flames biggest advantages can be found in their physical game and their speed. The longer they take this series the better their chances of wearing the Wings down and gaining the upper hand.
Prediction: With two of their top four or five defencemen missing in action the Flames will be unable to hold the high powered Wings at bay. Red Wings in 5.
San Jose (2) vs. Colorado (4) Sharks (43-21-12-6; 104 pts); Avalanche (40-22-13-7; 100 pts) Season Series: 2-1-1 Colorado
This series will quite likely be the classic of the four matchups in the second round this spring. Both clubs were dominant in their first round five game victories and bring a great blend of skill and playoff grit.
Keys for San Jose: The Sharks should have an edge in goal with Evgeni Nabokov having a little more playoff experience than David Aebischer. Other than that, the Sharks strength on home ice and ability to roll four lines could play a factor.
Keys for Colorado: The Avalanche have the higher end star power with two super centers in Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic, plus additional sure bet scoring threats like Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk. They need their best to be the best.
Prediction: Playoffs are about teamwork, coaching, and which team wants it the most. The Sharks have the Avalanche on all three. Sharks in 7.