In our previous two fearless prognostications, we made a pair of fatal errors. We overestimated the Montreal Canadiens and underestimated the Dallas Stars.
It’s true, as one of our faithful readers suggested, that Carey Price wasn’t quite up to the task in the Eastern semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers, but then again, neither was the Montreal offence.
To their credit, the Flyers did what they did so well back in the mid-1970s when the Broad Street Bullies won a couple of Cups. They banged, crashed and harassed the Habs and made life so difficult around the puck that Montreal had little appetite for the corners or the front of the net.
In the end, Philly won most, if not all, the individual battles and to our embarrassment, we were shocked that the Canadiens were tougher.
Meanwhile, out West, the Stars played five, almost perfect, hockey games to dispose of the San Jose Sharks. When we selected the Sharks to win in seven, we expected the series to be close and hard-fought. We didn’t expect Marty Turco to be a better goaltender than Evgeni Nabokov and we didn’t expect the Stars offence to hold up the way it did, especially in close games.
We were wrong about Dallas and Montreal and as a result, it’s the Stars who are in, the Habs who are out and after watching the second round quite intently, we aren’t disappointed.
The only team worthy of a date with Detroit is Dallas and the only team that can punish the high-scoring Penguins is Philadelphia.
It was a terrific opening month. The first two rounds were fun and the next two weeks could be the most interesting two weeks of the entire Stanley Cup tournament. Let’s take a closer look…
No. 2 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (Eliminated Ottawa in four straight games, eliminated NY Rangers in five games.) vs. No. 6 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (Eliminated Washington in seven games, eliminated Montreal in five games.)
Here’s an amazing statistic: the Pittsburgh Penguins have trailed an NHL-low 62 minutes and 43 seconds of the 547:10 they’ve played in their nine playoff games. The fact they’ve only played nine playoff games in the first two rounds says an awful lot in itself.
The key to this series for the Penguins will, no doubt, be Hart Trophy candidate, Evgeni Malkin. the big Russian star had six goals and nine assists in eight games against the Flyers this season and he’ll certainly be asked to produce once again.
Interestingly, Pittsburgh used three different goalies against Philadelphia this season, but Marc-Andre Fleury was the star. He earned two of the Penguins three victories against Philly and recorded a solid 2.00 goals-against average. He is now 8-1 in the playoffs with a 1.76 goals against average and has stopped 240 of 256 postseason shots.
Here’s another telling stat: Pittsburgh is 5-0 at home in the playoffs.
The Flyers will look to the likes of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Joffrey Lupul, R.J Umberger (who was born in Pittsburgh) and Daniel Briere to carry them against Montreal. Not only did Briere have six goals and 11 points in the opening round series against Washington, but he anchors the No. 2 power play in the league.
And then there is Vinny Prospal, who came from Tampa with a Stanley Cup ring and has made the Flyers playoff ready. The Flyers will also hope that goalie Martin Biron is just as good in Round 3 as he was in Round 1 against the Caps and Round 2 against Montreal.
Here’s another telling statistic: The Flyers haven’t played outside the Eastern time zone since facing the Avalanche in Denver on Dec. 7. The Penguins last did it the following day in Vancouver. It’s something that will probably make a difference if Dallas beats Detroit.
Pittsburgh in seven games.
Penguins vs Rangers Round 2 Highlights below.
No. 1 DETROIT RED WINGS (Eliminated Nashville in six games, eliminated Colorado in four games) vs. No. 5 DALLAS STARS (Eliminated Anaheim in six games, eliminated San Jose in six games.)
Pretty hard not to like Detroit in this series. The Wings are big, fast, skilled and strong with plenty of experience. And now that Chris Osgood is the starter, they have legitimate playoff goaltending, too.
Osgood is 6-0 since taking over for Dominik Hasek during Game 4 of the opening-round series against Nashville. He has a 1.52 goals-against average, allowing only 10 goals on 159 shots. Osgood is just three playoff wins shy of tying Terry Sawchuk’s team mark of 47 career postseason victories. He should pass Sawchuk in this series.
There is little question that Detroit’s Johan (the Mule) Franzen, has been the biggest story of the playoffs. He already has an NHL-high — and Detroit-record — 11 goals in the playoffs. He also broke Gordie Howe’s single-series club record by scoring nine times against Colorado.
On the other side, Stars netminder Marty Turco has never played better, but I still think the Red Wings will win this series — easy — and will win the Cup. Sure, Turco has four shutouts in his past 19 playoff starts, dating to last year’s playoffs, including one this year, but this series won’t come down to goaltending.
Granted, in his three most recent series, Turco has a 1.56 GAA and a .938 save percentage and finished off San Jose with a 61-save effort on Sunday night in Dallas’ 2-1 victory in the fourth overtime of Game 6. He’s been great, but that Detroit offence with Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk leading the way is just too much.
I love Brad Richards, Mike Modano, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, but I think the Red Wings are just too good.
Two telling stats: (1) Marty Turco is 0-7-2 in his last nine games at Joe Louis Arena. (2) The Red Wings clinched their seventh straight Central Division title with 5-3 win against, you guessed it, Dallas on March 13.
We could be underestimating the Stars again, but this time, I don’t think so.
Detroit in four games.
Red Wings vs Avalanche Round 2 Highlights below.