Well, I went a perfect 4-for-4 in the first round for the Western Conference, including two perfections in the Canucks and Sharks prognostication. Now, the real money is won, lost, or not bet at all-- in the second round.
(1) SAN JOSE SHARKS vs. (5) DETROIT RED WINGS
After a scare, the Sharks got past the first round, but without their usual star power. Guys like Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe lead the way, while the lack of production from Joe Thornton harps back to....well, past playoff spots. Only three assists in six games for Jumbo Joe and really it doesn't seem like he'll ever be playoff ready. In fact, none of the big three of Thornton, Dany Heatley (though he was injured for a game), or Patrick Marleau have done anything close to their regular season production. Only one goal amongst the three and no more than four points for any of them. Luckily, Evgeni Nabokov seemed to have found his game with a 1.76 GAA and .928 save percentage after round one.
There's a quick turnaround for the Wings, who closed out the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Seven on Tuesday only got one day rest before they're back at it. That could effect some of the older souls of the team, but you'll probably see a lot more of Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader in an energy role for the Wings. Although, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg looked really good in the Game Seven win, as did Todd Bertuzzi, who has five points in seven games. Nicklas Lidstrom looked like his usual playoff self, even if he's up there in age. And while Jimmy Howard was good, the protection he got from his defense was stellar. If they can't protect him all the time, it makes you wonder if he could steal a game by himself.
PREDICTION: Sharks in Six. While it's hard to count out a veteran savvy Wings team, the Sharks top three probably will get a sense of urgency now, or you hold they would. Even so, the depth the Sharks have matches that of the Wings and really could be the factor that puts them over the top in the series and get the flop tag off their resume.
(2) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS vs. (3) VANCOUVER CANUCKS
This is a rematch from last year's second round where the Hawks took it to go onto the Western final. Of course, that doesn't mean much-- especially considering the goaltending issues with the Hawks are very much more inflated. While Antii Niemi has looked good at times, he's looked just as bad at times as well. At least the top guys for the Hawks have been continuing their regular season trend and are actually scoring in the post-season. Though the one warning sign could be the lack of production from Duncan Keith, who only has two points and is a minus-4 through the first round. If he can pick up his pace, the Hawks should be in even better hands.
A concern for the Canucks has to be what Roberto Luongo will show up. After the first round, Bobby Lu had a .893 save percentage and 2.92 GAA, which is not his best work. Odds are he will have to be better, especially against a more offensive team like the Hawks are. On the flip side, the Swedish contingent had been taking over, with Mikael Samuelsson putting up 11 points, Daniel Sedin with 10, and Henrik Sedin with 8. The defense has been solid, with pluses all around. They should be tough to beat if they can continue this trend and Luongo can be solid.
PREDICTION: Hawks in Seven. Fatigue could play a factor with Luongo and may be the deciding factor on why the Canucks don't push past the Hawks this year. While the Swedes have been great for Vancouver, the Hawks could just starting to be hitting their stride. The defense should be tighter in Chicago, thus reducing chances for the Sedins and gang. If Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews can continue to be solid, they'll be able to break Luongo's spirit more so.
That's that-- here's hoping I'll be able to go a solid perfection in the second round, much like the first. If not....what more do you want from me?? Pay me if you want accuracy....or something close....or not at all.