What more could a fan of the game ask for from first round of action in the playoffs? Round one 2014 NHL playoffs was as drama filled and exciting as one could wish for, with story lines such as San Jose’s epic collapse to L.A., Minnesota’s game seven OT winner to upset Colorado, and the deja vu loss of the St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately, the MSF writers playoff picks competition is not as dramatic as the action on the ice. Brook, went 7-for-8, while Shane is keeping it close going 6-for-8. They may just run away with it, as Bobby and I struggled, with me, your (supposed) NHL go-to-guy going 4-for-8, while Bobby is under .500 selecting 3-of-8. Let’s see if Bobby and myself can catch up to Brook and Shane, but for now, here are our picks for round two.
Bruins vs. Canadiens: I think this is going to be a lot tougher series than many casual fans may think. The Habs actually won the season series, and their style of play is built to cause problems for the Bruins. Both teams are evenly matched in goal and on the blueline. I think that the Bruin’s experience, depth up front and overall physical play will take it. Bruins in 7
Penguins vs. Rangers: The Pens got scared straight in Round 1 by a really impressive Blue Jackets team. They’ve learned their lesson, and Bylsma will adjust the game plan slightly to insulate Fleury. Malkin has awoken and he’ll lead the offensive charge. Penguins in 6
Blackhawks vs. Wild: It took two or three games, but after extended layoffs due to injuries, Toews and Kane rounded into form. The Wild were impressive against the ‘fan favourite’ Avs, but Chicago’s experience is in another world compared to Colorado. They’re beat up a bit, I never bet against the Hawks. Blackhawks in 6.
Ducks vs. Kings: Another Battle of California and another slug it out, beat them down fight. I look forward to this series almost as much as Canadiens/Bruins. The Ducks have some question marks with injuries and MAJOR question marks in net. The Kings, after being on their death bed have recovered and are HOT. Quick is back in Conn Smythe form. Kings in 6.
Bruins vs. Canadiens: Hard to say who the favourite team is going into this one. Boston won the President’s Trophy with 113 pts in the regular season, but that counts for zero in the post season. Obviously, this is everyone’s favourite playoff match up, with these two teams meeting for the 34th time. This will be a good one regardless of the outcome. Montreal dominated the Bolts in round one from the balanced scoring and strong goaltending from Carey ‘gold medal in the face’ Price. Boston started slow and it took 2 games to find their scoring touch, but strong play from Tuukka Rask meant that by the Bruins found the back of the net, the series was over. Bruins in 7.
Penguins vs. Rangers: Pittsburgh struggled down the stretch against an overachieving Columbus. Fleury may have had more than his fair share of the criticism in the series, but it’s hard to ignore the near collapse in game 6 and the OT loss in game 4. The Rangers weren’t perfect in their series against the Flyers but were able to secure a game 7 win at home. This one could be a toss up, but I’m going to take the Rangers to win this on the assumption that Crosby is injured and the reality that I don’t like Chris Kunitz in the slightest. King Henrik and the Blue Shirts will pull this one out. Rangers in 6.
Blackhawks vs. Wild: Minnesota managed to pull off the game 7 upset on the road against the Avalanche. Is this the rebirth Illya Bryzgalov? He came up humongous big when it mattered. Chicago put aside a pesky but cursed St. Louis side fairly confidently. It’s hard to pick against the defending champs this early. I’ve looked into my crystal ball and see Chicago taking this series. I recently did some studying and translation and discovered that ‘Patrick Kane’ is actually Latin for ‘money’. Keep that in mind going forward. Blackhawks in 5.
Ducks vs. Kings: The Ducks were only able to get one win on the road against an inferior Dallas side in round 1. Yes, it was the deciding game, but that was a series they should have handled easily. What happened to the Swiss Miss Jonas Hiller? He’s playing like Swiss Cheese. I’m not even sure who this Andersen guy is sharing starts. I’m all sorts of confused about how hockey works in California. The Kings pulled off an upset of historic proportions, becoming only the 4th team to ever come back from 0-3 deficit. History suggests those teams are difficult to beat after finding their momentum (Philly road their streak to the Cup final in 2010). This is a team that struggles with scoring but still has plenty of depth and experience to back up their 2012 Cup victory. Kings in 6
Bruins vs. Canadiens: The Canadiens have something figured out, but I don’t think it’s the Bruins. Bruins in 6
Penguins vs. Rangers: Underdogs roll… Rangers in 7
Blackhawks vs. Wild: I have a funny feeling is all. Wild in 7
Ducks vs. Kings: On the inside, the Ducks have everything the Sharks lack. Ducks in 7
Bruins vs. Canadiens: They may have lost game one to Detroit, but the Bruins followed that up with four straight wins doing what they do best: dominating the opposition with a punishing, relentless forecheck. They’re going to do just that against the Habs. Also, the Bruins PP is scary good (37.5%), while Montreal has the second-worst PK (71.4%). Many have pointed to the Habs winning the season series against Boston as a reason they could win this, but Detroit won the season series vs. the Bruins as well, and how did that work out for them? Bruins in 5
Penguins vs. Rangers: Though it took the seven games to defeat the Flyers, I like what I see with New York. Everyone is contributing, whether that be the top lines catching fire, bottom lines scoring, the defensive unit doing it all at both ends of the ice, and aside from game six, King Henrik has been excellent. I don’t see this all-around team contribution in Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury has been brilliant one night, then terrible the next, and what is wrong with Sidney Crosby? Is he hurt or sick? He looks sluggish and not close to 100%. Evgeni Malkin may be hot, but all Ranger lines are firing on all cylinders. Rangers in 6
Blackhawks vs. Wild: In the last four games of their series with the Blues, the Hawks started to look that squad that dominated last season. Jonathan Toews and Patty Kane are healthy and scoring at will, while their PK has been off the charts (best in the post-season), and effectively killed the Blues, especially in game six. I’m still a little shocked Minnesota defeated Colorado, and though they’re playing a fairly tight defensive game, the Hawks are deeper and more experienced than the Avs. Blackhawks in 5
Ducks vs. Kings: The Kings are a streaky team, it’s something we have seen all season. Their offense is anemic for a stretch, and Johnny Quick is off his game, and all of a sudden they turn it around and score in bunches, while Quick becomes a brick wall, and we saw that against San Jose. While offense has been relatively easy to come by for the Ducks, who starts between the pipes: Hiller or Andersen? Neither have been able to give the Ducks stable goaltending. The Battle of California 2 should be a good one, but I’m giving the edge to the Kings. Kings in 7
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