My Cup bracket survived the first round fairly intact. There was some interesting hockey played over the past couple of weeks: in fact, much of it was inspiring. All teams with the possible exception of the troubled Tampa Bay Lightning acquitted themselves well. Kudos to the teams who went the full seven games. In sports, a best of seven series is a severe test of stamina and will, especially in hockey, which is one of the most demanding sports, physically and emotionally.
But as Macbeth said, " we are but young in deed. " Three rounds to go and some good hockey lies ahead. Since many of you want to know who will win in advance, I humbly reveal my choices for the second round.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
I didn't think the Rangers would make it past the Flyers, and they nearly didn't. But never underestimate the power of the underdog, home ice, or veteran goaltending. The Rangers have proven to be a gritty and determined team. They deserve respect. As for the Pens, we are waiting for the superstars to show up. Crosby, Malkin et al did their least to survive the first round and it was certainly enough over a hard working Columbus team. I'm guessing that the big guys got their wake up call and will be ready to play now. But the big question, as always, is goaltending. And the Rangers have a decided edge here. Lundqvist outplays Fleury any day of the week. Will it be enough for the Rangers? Not this time. Talent will win out in this round. Penguins will win in 6 or 7 games.
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens
This should be a beauty. Montreal looked great against Tampa and they have been rolling for a while now. The big question is whether the few days off has hurt their momentum. I'm guessing it hasn't simply because they are playing their true rivals, the Boston Bruins. Sorry, Leafs, but it's true, the Habs against Bruins rivalry is more important for both teams. Montreal features fast forwards who have learned how to put great pressure on opposing defences and get quality shots on goal. And their goalie is red-hot. But the Bruins proved that they are ready to go deep in the playoffs too. When they were interested in dominating a plucky Detroit Red Wing squad, they did. Then, they seemed to go into sleep mode and Detroit were able to make a series of it. I'm guessing that there will be no lapses of concentration in the Bruins in this series. All games should be intense and exciting. The edge goes to the team with better goaltending and more ruggedness for playoff hockey and that means Boston wins in seven gruelling games. Buckle up !!
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
The 'Hawks got a tougher than expected series from St. Louis, but the fact that they ground the Blues down in the last four games tells me that what I expected was correct: that the Blues were banged up to begin the series, and even though they jumped out front in the first two games, they didn't have it for the last four. The 'Hawks, on the other hand, remained calm and went about their business, as champions do. Their game is solid all the way around, and they look ready. As for Minnesota, I now refuse to write them off as unknowns. But they may have shot their bolt. I don't think they have enough for Chicago, but, as a sign of respect, I will refer to them as the North Stars instead of the Wild because the old Minnesota North Stars were pretty good playoff teams back in the day. Chicago takes this series in 6 games.
Anaheim Ducks vs Los Angeles Kings
There is always something interesting about a "local" series: bragging rights, turf wars, neighbourhood vs neighbourhood, call it what you will. That's why I will be interested in this series. The Ducks are a good team and they showed some good, hard nosed tough playoff hockey. Getzlaff and Perry took some pounding and kept coming for more. There's a lot of talent on the Ducks. But the Kings proved that they are still a solid playoff team. And Jonathan Quick seems ready to play some spectacular goal again. Logic says that the Ducks should win, but there is always an upset in any round of the playoffs ( except for the final round perhaps ) so my heart says the Kings will win in 6 or 7 tough games.
There you have it. Hopefully, we will continue to enjoy top quality hockey for a good long while yet.