SECOND ROUND PICKS
Going 5-3 this year isn't great, but I matched all seven experts on ESPN, so I don't feel too bad... or do I?
Anyway, here are the picks for the second round (and yes I know it actually started last night with San Jose taking Game 1 against Detroit. It doesn't matter.)
4. Pittsburgh vs. 8. Montreal - Um, anyone disagree with me about Mike Green now?
Granted, he wasn't alone in messing the Capitals' bed, but he was brutal - on both ends of the ice. Ditto Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin, Joe Corvo and the rest of the Capitals (I'd be surprised to see Bruce Boudreau back behind the bench next year.... the Caps could use a little dose of Ken Hitchcock.)
But enough about the Caps. They're done. Jaroslav Halak was a hero for the Canadiens, and as such may have made Carey Price available via trade to the highest bidder (could be the Flyers). But the Canadiens also got some fine efforts from their four tiny forwards - Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec.
Yet, as nice a story as they were in Round 1, they advanced more because of Washington's implosion than their own resurgence. That won't happen against Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby will continue to prove why he's the MVP of the league and the Pens will cruise past the Canadiens into the Conference Finals - again.
Penguins in Five
No. 6 Boston vs. No. 7 Flyers
This will be an interesting series and will likely be determined by how disciplined the Flyers can play. In 5-on-5 situations, the Flyers should dominate the Bruins. It's on the special teams that Boston thrives.
If the Flyers can avoid the box with greater regularity than they did against New Jersey, it should be an easier series, even without Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere.
If, however, the Flyers are regular visitors to the sin bin, the series will come down to a penalty kill minus it's best shot blocker and the Flyers ability to clear Boston traffic from in front of Brian Boucher.
The B's have an advantage in goal, despite how well Boucher has played, as Tuukka Rask was sensational in the opening series, but the Bruins don't score too often, which could mean a god matchup for the Flyers.
It will be a longer series, but the better team will prevail.
Flyers in Six.
1. San Jose vs. 5. Detroit
Yes. San Jose won Game 1. Yes, they'll win a couple more. Yes, this is the best series of the second round.
But I still believe in Detroit.
They're a team that knows how to win in the playoffs. They're a team that knows how to respond with their backs up against the wall.
They are very-well coached. They are disciplined within their system. They have two dangerous scoring lines and two really good lines of pluggers. Jimmy Howard hasn't been great in the playoffs so far, but neither has Evgeni Nabokov for the Sharks. In this series, goaltending won't be a difference maker. Both just have to survive. The one that outlasts the other will win. It's pretty simple.
As evenly matched as these two teams are (although if Patrick Marleau is out an extended period, the edge goes to Detroit on talent too) I'll take a team that knows how to win over a team still trying to figure it out.
Detroit in 7
2. Chicago vs. 3. Vancouver
Another fine matchup of two like-minded teams that are pretty even across the board. Chicago has a better defensive corps, but the nod in goal goes to the Canucks, so it's a wash. Offensively, the two teams are nearly identical - they both rely heavily on one big scoring line and then get nice secondary support from the rest of the forwards.
I thought Vancouver would be upset in the opening round, but they showed some resolve, even though the Kings pushed them pretty hard. It was an impressive showing.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have been my choice to win the West since October, so I can't change now. Still, it'll be a great series.
Call it Chicago in 7
One final note on the voting of Christian Ehrhoff over Mike Green (for fifth place) in my Norris ballot.
I'm not a huge fan of using statistics to measure a guy's worth, but since all my detractors threw stats at me about Green, I thought I'd offer up these comparisons:
Goals allowed by team per 60 minutes player is on ice:
Goals allowed by team per 60 minutes player is on the bench:
That means the Caps allow .33 more goals per 60 minutes when Green is on the ice than when he's not while the Canucks give up .62 fewer goals while Ehrhoff is on the ice, meaning Ehrhoff has better defensive numbers.
Goals scored by opposition while player is on the ice
Green - 50 (worst per game average on Caps)
Ehrhoff - 41 (2nd best on Vancouver)
Oh, and Green was on the ice for 1170 faceoffs for the Caps this season, only 296 in his own zone, an average of 3.6 per game - his own coaches don't even trust him enough to have him on the ice for key defensive zone draws.
And not that it mattered for the voting, but...
Green was on the ice for 7 of the 10 even strength goals scored by Montreal in the opening round series.
I'm just saying...