It was especially a good time to be a lower seed in the Western Conference, where the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings upended the Anaheim Ducks, the six-seeded San Jose Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks, and the fifth-seeded L.A. Kings beat the St. Louis Blues.
The Eastern Conference saw its share of upsets too with the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators taking down the Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Islanders edging out the Washington Capitals.
Will the upsets continue as we forge ahead into the second round of the 2013 NHL Playoffs? So far it looks like the favorites are on top, though we’re only one game into each series. Every matchup is still anybody’s game, so let’s discuss who has a good shot of prevailing in the Conference Semifinals.
#1 Seed Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Seed Ottawa Senators (Pens lead 1-0) – The Penguins survived a closer than expected series against the New York Islanders. Seeing as how Ottawa can skate just as well as New York, this figures to be a pretty tough matchup too. The Senators feature the best scoring defender in Erik Karlsson and one of the league’s top goalies in Craig Anderson.
However, Pittsburgh boasts six of the top seven scorers in the playoffs and has a habit of overwhelming opposing goaltenders. If the Pens can continue getting production from multiple players outside of Sidney Crosby, they should be able to score on Anderson enough to win this matchup.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins the series 4-2.
#4 Seed Boston Bruins vs. #6 Seed New York Rangers (Bruins lead 1-0) – It almost looked like Boston wouldn’t be in this position after nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Toronto Maples Leafs. Even on their home ice, they were down 4-1 in Game 7 and appeared destined to collapse. However, the Bruins stormed back thanks to a pair of goals by Patrice Bergeron.
As for the Rangers, their offense was pretty sporadic, but goalie Henrik Lundqvist was there to bail New York out. He’ll have to be even better against Boston because the Bruins should have little trouble shutting down New York’s struggling offensive leaders in Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. Boston will need to win this series quick though to avoid the fatigue factor from their grueling Toronto series.
Prediction: Boston wins the series 4-2
#1 Seed Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Seed Detroit Red Wings (Hawks lead 1-0) – A few years ago, the seeding would’ve been reversed in this matchup as the Red Wings were dominant throughout the late 90’s and into the late 2000’s. However, times are far different today and Chicago was the regular season’s best club. But it’s also worth mentioning that Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk still have plenty left in the tank, as they proved in their upset of Anaheim.
This Original Six matchup could come down to who’s got the fresher legs, and Chicago definitely has the edge here. They dispatched Minnesota in just five games and goalie Corey Crawford looked magnificent. Detroit should give Crawford a little more trouble since they have guys who can score on every line. But the Blackhawks have even more depth and should cruise in this matchup, provided Patrick Kane can get going in this round.
Prediction: Chicago wins the series 4-1
#5 Seed Los Angeles Kings vs. #6 Seed San Jose Sharks (Kings lead 1-0) – There was no championship hangover for the Kings since they were able to beat St. Louis in six games. San Jose was even more impressive after they pulled out the brooms in a sweep of Vancouver. San Jose held the Sedin brothers scoreless in four games, while overwhelming Canucks’ goalie Cory Schneider on the other end.
As for Los Angeles, goalie Jonathan Quick struggled throughout most of the regular season, but has pulled things together in the playoffs. The key here will be if he can continue showing the same dominance that he showed in last year’s postseason. Look for frontliners Jeff Carter and Dwight King to have been games against San Jose in this series too.
Prediction: L.A. wins the series 4-2