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The Hockey News 2007-08 NHL Playoff Preview - Round 2

Eight down, seven to go.

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Eight down, seven to go.

Whether it's recent or from seasons long past, each of the four conference semifinal matchups see rivals set to do battle once more.

Detroit and Colorado rejuvenate their history from the '90s, Montreal and Philadelphia were two of the most potent franchises of the '70s, while Pittsburgh-New York and Dallas-San Jose will pick up where they left off from a division-heavy regular season schedule.

While there were upsets in both the West and the East - according to the seeds, anyway - the top two teams from each conference are still alive.

Below you'll find breakdowns on each of the four second round series and, coming off a five-for-eight performance in the opening round, THN.com's picks to move on. (See The Hockey News's Round 1 preview and predictions HERE)

Detroit Red Wings DETROIT RED WINGS vs. COLORADO AVALANCHEColorado Avalanche

NUTS AND BOLTS
Detroit - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries
Colorado - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries

Season Series
Detroit – 4-0-0 (11 GF; 2 GA)
Colorado – 0-0-4 (2 GF, 11 GA)

Leading Scorers vs. Opponent
Detroit - Pavel Datsyuk, 6 (1G, 5A); Henrik Zetterberg 3 (3G); Valtteri Filppula 3 (3G)
Colorado - Cody McLeod 1 (1G); Marek Svatos 1 (1G); Jeff Finger 1 (1A)

First Round MVP
Detroit - Nicklas Lidstrom. One power play goal, one shorthanded goal, one game-winner and lots and lots of ice time.
Colorado - Jose Theodore. Don’t laugh. Theodore was as good down the regular season stretch and in the first round as he was in his Hart Trophy season. 

Special Teams
The Wings were 3-for-26 (9th) on the power play and didn’t allow a shorthanded goal; gave up two power play goals on 23 chances (2nd) and countered with one shorthanded tally. Colorado was respectable, too, allowing three shorthanded goals while playing shorthanded 21 times (6th) and scoring six goals on 30 power play chances (9th). Edge: Detroit

Forwards
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg came through as expected in Round 1; Jiri Hudler was a pleasant surprise with two goals and five points. The Wings' veteran Grind Line will have their hands full. Big surprise, Joe Sakic led the Avs in scoring in the first round with the ultra-consistent Andrew Brunette right behind him. Edge: Colorado

Defense
12 goals against in six playoff games is good by any standard and as long as Niklas Kronwall remains healthy, Detroit should have an edge in defense against any opponent it faces. Veterans Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei have made their mark, but will be under a lot of pressure against the speedy Wings forwards. Edge: Detroit

Goaltending
As expected, goaltending was a question mark for the Red Wings in the first round, but Chris Osgood looked solid in replacing Dominik Hasek. Keep in mind, Osgood has won a Stanley Cup. Funny, Colorado was shutout in three of four meetings between the two teams this season, but still THN likes the Avs. Theodore is the real deal and has given his team a chance to win every night. Edge: Colorado

Coaching
Detroit's Mike Babcock had his hands full against Nashville’s Barry Trotz and survived. Colorado's Joel Quenneville is a legitimate coach of the year candidate who finally has an NHL roster to work with. Edge: Detroit

X-Factor
While many will talk about the great battles these teams have waged in the past, it really comes down to newcomers like Paul Stastny of Colorado – who did not play well in the first round – and Jiri Hudler of the Wings – who did – to make the difference.

Prediction
This will not be the physical war we have seen these teams engage in previously, but will be a hard-fought battle nonetheless. One of two old-timers – Lidstrom or Sakic – will be the difference maker. Colorado in seven.

San Jose SharksSAN JOSE SHARKS vs. DALLAS STARSDallas Stars

NUTS AND BOLTS
San Jose - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries
Dallas - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries

Season Series
San Jose – 4-4-0 (21 GF; 24 GA)
Dallas – 4-2-2 (24 GF; 21 GA)

Leading Scorers vs. Opponent
San Jose – Joe Thornton, 10 (4G, 6A); Milan Michalek, 5 (1G, 4A); Patrick Marleau, 5 (3G, 2A)
Dallas – Mike Modano, 11 (5G, 6A); Brenden Morrow, 9 (3G, 6A); Mike Ribeiro, 7 (2G, 5A)

First Round MVP
San Jose - Joe Pavelski. the 23-year-old had three goals - including two game-winners - and seven points against the Flames.
Dallas - Marty Turco. The oft-criticized good guy has been a virtual brick wall for both this season and last season's first round.

Special Teams
The Sharks’ performance at killing penalties was abysmal in the first round, as reflected by their 16th-ranked penalty kill (72.7 percent). Their power play wasn’t much better, coming in at 10th overall (19.4 percent). The Stars also struggled when they were down a man (79.2 percent penalty kill efficiency), but their power play was stellar (26.3 percent, good for 2nd overall in the first round). Edge: Dallas

Forwards
The Sharks’ forwards have a clear size advantage over their counterparts in Dallas. Both teams have greybeards they’ll be leaning on for some offense, but San Jose’s top-end talent is simply better and deeper than the Stars’. Edge: San Jose

Defense
If Sergei Zubov does the expected and returns to action this round, he’ll give the Stars a big edge. If not, it’s nearly a toss-up – although the experience of Dallas veterans such as Mattias Norstrom, Philippe Boucher and surprising first-round offense machine Stephane Robidas could be the difference. Edge: Dallas

Goaltending
Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov, eh? That’s a choice many GMs in the league would love to make. Both backstoppers had phenomenal regular seasons, but Turco was arguably the best goalie in the first round. Nabokov (and his .895 playoff save percentage) clearly was not. Edge: Dallas

Coaching
Dave Tippett and Ron Wilson, two of the league’s longer-tenured bench bosses, will match wits here. And again, there’s not much difference between the two. Tippett is less of an authoritarian type than Wilson, but in the playoffs, authoritarian coaches (e.g. John Tortorella, Bob Hartley, Randy Carlyle) tend to win championships. Edge: San Jose

X-Factor
Each franchise has an American-born hockey legend (Jeremy Roenick in San Jose, Mike
Modano in Dallas) on its roster, and whichever one steps up and contributes some timely offense – the way Roenick did in Game 7 of Round 1 against Calgary – could push them and their teammates into the conference final.

Prediction
The Stars looked focused and determined in eliminating Anaheim, while the Sharks were more than a little inconsistent against a tough Flames team. However, home ice advantage could again be a mitigating factor in favor of San Jose, which faces just as much pressure to win in the second round as it did in the first. They responded well against Calgary, and could easily – ok, maybe not easily – do it again. San Jose in six.

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MONTREAL CANADIENSMONTREAL CANADIENS vs. PHILADELPHIA FLYERSPHILADELPHIA FLYERS

NUTS AND BOLTS
Montreal - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries
Philadelphia - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries

Season Series
Montreal – 4-0-0  (15 GF; 6 GA)
Philadelphia – 0-4-0 (6 GF; 15 GA)

Leading Scorers vs. Opponent
Montreal– Alex Kovalev, 6 (2G, 4A); Andrei Markov, 6 (0G, 6A)
Philadelphia – Vaclav Prospal, 6 (4G, 2A); Mike Richards, 3 (2G, 1A); five players with 2

First Round MVP
Montreal – Carey Price. Rebounded from giving up 10 goals over Games 5 and 6 to earn his second shutout of the series in Game 7 versus the Bruins.
Philadelphia – Daniel Briere. Put an average regular season behind him by blowing up with six goals and 11 points in seven games against the Caps. The man who spurned Montreal’s free agent offer last summer is about to be peppered with boos.

Special Teams
Montreal had the league’s best power play in the regular season, Philadelphia the second best. The Flyers maintained their man-advantage excellence in the opening round, while the Habs went 3-for-32 against Boston. Edge: Philadelphia

Forwards
The Flyers are deep up front and feature a good mix of skill and grit. Losing Mike Knuble to a hamstring injury hurts, but it’s nothing Philly can’t overcome with Briere, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter doing their thing. Edge: Philadelphia

Defense
There’s heavy speculation the Canadiens’ top blueliner, Andrei Markov, is hurting. The Flyers will get after him hard and make sure he isn’t feeling better anytime soon. Mike Komisarek and Roman Hamrlik have to keep pounding. Edge: Montreal

Goaltending
Carey Price had the better numbers in Round 1, but he wasn’t facing Alex Ovechkin bullets. Both goalies have just seven games of playoff experience, but the 30-year-old Martin Biron must have a few more tricks stuffed in those veteran pads. Edge: Philadelphia

Coaching
Neither Guy Carbonneau nor John Stevens is very experienced at the NHL level, but Stevens won an AHL championship with some of the same players he has now. Carbonneau played a winning hunch in uniting Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev in Game 7. The Habs sophomore bench boss likely has a couple others in his gut. Edge: Montreal

X-Factor
The Canadiens’ power play carried them all season, but they still managed to beat the Bruins when it went stone cold in Round 1. Montreal really missed Koivu through its first five games and if he can get the man advantage turned around, the Canadiens could start to chug offensively against a team that won’t be as tight as the Bruins.

Prediction
Philly had to be at its best throughout the series to beat the Caps, while the Habs survived a scare. Montreal, playing a team it didn’t lose to all year for the second straight round, is just now finding its legs. The betting is the Canadiens will gain some traction after their slip and start to more closely resemble the fast, confident team that scored the most goals in the NHL during the regular season. Montreal in seven

PITTSBURGH PENGUINSPITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs. NEW YORK RANGERSNew York Rangers

NUTS AND BOLTS
Pittsburgh - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries
New York - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries

Season Series
NY Rangers – 5-3-0 (21 GF; 16 GA)
Pittsburgh – 3-3-2 (16 GF; 21 GA)

Leading Scorers vs. Opponent
Rangers – Scott Gomez, 7 (3G, 4A); Michal Rozsival, 7 (3G, 4A); Jaromir Jagr, 7 (2G, 5A)
Pittsburgh – Sidney Crosby, 8 (1G, 7A); Evgeni Malkin, 7 (5G, 2A); Marian Hossa, 6 (4G, 2A), Sergei Gonchar, 6 (2G, 4A)

First Round MVP
Rangers – Scott Gomez. Linemate Sean Avery was terribly effective, but Gomez killed his former team. He tied for the team lead in goals, logged more ice time than any other Ranger forward and led the team at plus-5.
Pittsburgh – Marc-Andre Fleury. The goaltender answered his critics in a big way and while he had plenty of offensive support, he still posted a 1.26 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage.

Special Teams
The Penguins were terrific on both sides of the special teams in the first round, but, after all, they were playing the Senators. The Rangers' power play was much better in the first round than it was during the regular season and their penalty killing was worse. Edge: Pittsburgh

Forwards

Both teams are very deep and talented down the middle, particularly with Brandon Dubinsky emerging as a go-to player on the Rangers top line with Martin Straka and Jaromir Jagr. The Penguins have more talent in their top two lines, but the Rangers have better third and fourth lines. Edge: Even

Defense

Defense is a team concept with the Rangers, who are the last bastion of boring hockey remaining in this year’s playoffs. Their defense corps has turned out to be far better than originally advertised and the top tandem of Michal Rozsival and Marc Staal will have to be at their best to shut down the Penguins forwards. Edge: Pittsburgh

Goaltending

A case could be made that Fleury was the best goalie for the entire first round and appears to have shed his reputation as a goalie who cannot be counted upon in the clutch. Henrik Lundqvist was good for the Rangers, but was not forced to be great in the first round. He’ll have to be at the top of his game against the Penguins, who averaged 40.2 shots per game in the first round. Edge: Pittsburgh

Coaching

Michel Therrien of the Penguins has come a long way as a tactician, but he’s still not in the same league as Tom Renney, who has coached in everything from a gold medal game in the Olympics to the Memorial Cup to the NHL playoffs. Renney has a strong staff led by assistant coach Perry Pearn, who is recognized as one of the best assistant coaches in the league. Edge: Rangers

X-Factor

It will be interesting to watch the faceoffs in this series since both teams are putrid in the faceoff circle, each with a winning percentage less than 50. Sean Avery pretty much had his way in the first round with the Devils, but count on him getting some serious pushback from Georges Laraque and Gary Roberts if Roberts is healthy enough to play. The Rangers won both overtime games against the Penguins this season.

Prediction
Of all the teams left in the playoffs, none had an easier time in the first round than the Penguins and Rangers and both have had long layoffs. It will be interesting to see how each of them reacts to the inevitable adversity both will face in the second round. The Rangers have been very effective, but the Penguins offense will simply be too much for the Rangers to handle. Pittsburgh in six.

Enter THN’s Free Playoff Challenge for your chance to win a 2008 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special Motorcycle. Contest closes at the start of the third round.

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