California hockey fans must be loving life! Two teams in the state are still in the hunt for Lord Stanley's Hardware and both have good chances to advance again. San Jose pretty much dominated a very good Nashville team and the Minnesota/Anaheim series wasn't even close. Could there be an all state conference final? That's my prediction, but first let's take a look at the first round results and my previous predictions.
In the east I predicted that Buffalo, New Jersey, Ottawa, and Atlanta would be advancing. All those teams won their respective series except for Atlanta, who looked absolutely pitiful while being swept by the Rangers. Are the Rangers really that good? I don't think so, I just think the Thrasher goaltending was inconsistent and the rest of the team didn't have the character to over-come it. The Rangers take on the mighty Sabres in the next round and I look for Buffalo to dominate this one. Sabres in 6.
New Jersey played well against Tampa Bay but have a tougher series coming up against Ottawa. The Sens had a fairly easy time with the young, inexperienced Penguins, but the Devils won't be so easy. You can flip a coin, this one could go either way but I predict that the Devils pull it out on the back of Marty Brodeur. New Jersey in 7.
In the west, San Jose looks like the team to beat in my opinion. I predicted that they would get by the Preds who looked as if they were sputtering the past month or so. I also predicted wins for the Canucks and the Red Wings which were also fruitful predictions. I couldn't have been more wrong about Anaheim being upset by the Wild. That makes a total of 6 winners and 2 losers for me, not a bad record so far! Too bad I gave up gambling.
Both of these upcoming Western Conference series will be excellent ones. I just think that the Sharks are too loaded and they will take down the mighty Red Wings in 6. The Canucks look worn out to me and had a tougher time than I thought they would have against the Stars. The Ducks will take them in this series in 7.
All has been quiet on the Hurricane front recently. I have been waiting for some news about signing Scott Walker, but obviously things are going slower than fans had hoped for on that. Maybe Scott is considering waiting until July 1st to test the free agent market? You can't blame him if he decides to do that but it sure would be nice to see Walker in Raleigh again next year. Maybe the Predators are making some behind the scenes overtures to re-acquire him? They sure could have used him in the series against the Sharks and they may very well want him back in Nashville.
Peter Laviolette will be in the Versus studio to provide some in-depth analysis of the second round games. It will be interesting to see the coach's insight. Finally, in a very surprising move Team USA added Andrew Hutchinson to their roster for the upcoming world championships. I like Andrew, but it surprises me that a defenseman who can't be a starter on his own team would be considered good enough to represent the whole country. In any event, good luck Hutch and good luck Team USA! We'll be watching!
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