Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks
The Red Wings fell a goal short in their quest to make history allowing the Sharks to move on and face the Canucks in a series which features the Western Conference’s two best teams during the regular season. After knocking out the pesky Wings, the Sharks will now turn their attention to the Canucks, who have finally are living up to expectations. Both the Sharks and Canucks have underachieved in past years after posting glorious regular season records only to come up empty in the playoffs. But this year both of these teams finally took that next step and now look motivated to hoist the Cup. The Canucks have been led in the playoffs not by their stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin, but by their do it all forward Ryan Kesler. With his combination of size and speed, Kesler terrorized the Predators and almost singlehandedly led his team offensively. He netted 5 goals and 6 assists in the second round alone. With Crosby and Ovechkin out, Kesler could be the best player left in the playoffs right now. He was a matchup nightmare for the Predators and will look to do the same next series. Roberto Luongo, who may have been sent packing had he lost game seven to the Blackhawks, got back on track during the Nashville series. Although not dominating, he did enough to win. If the Canucks are to win this series, they will need the Sedin brothers to step up. San Jose will do a better job of controlling Kesler with their counterpart in Joe Thornton who has the size to shut him down. The Sedins will see second tier defensemen in the series and will have the opportunity to make an impact. On the other side, the Sharks will carry momentum into the next round after they rallied to beat the Red Wings. Anti Niemi was a brick wall at times last series. With a championship last year and the valuable experience that came with it, Niemi is showing why the Sharks why they went out and got him in the offseason. On defense Dan Boyle is the leader for the Sharks. He is a veteran presence with playoff experience who won a ring with the Lightning years ago. Boyle will be matched up with either the Sedin line or the Kesler line. Regardless of which one, he will have his hands full. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture have been on fire throughout the playoffs so far. They have combined for 29 points and led the Sharks attack. Thornton however has done more than that. He has shown why many consider him to be one of the best two way players in the game. While contributing on offense, his defense has been outstanding. With depth and drive, the Sharks will make this series tough for the Canucks. In the end I think that Kesler will be too much for the Sharks to handle.
Prediction: Canucks in 7
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins
After sweeping their opponents almost a week ago, both the Bruins and Lightning will be well rested and excited to get their series underway. The Lighting shocked the world and swept the Washington Capitals by taming Alexander Ovechkin and dominating on the power play. The Bruins knocked out last year’s runner up the Flyers torching their three goalie rotation and earning a trip to the next round. The Lighting are the more exciting and flashy of the two squads. Their offense has been outstanding so far in the playoffs. Veteran all-stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis have been superb. Their contributions have led this squad to where they are right now. With a talent like Stamkos and a contributor like Bergenheim also on their side, this team has the offensive firepower to dominate their opponents. Look for Bergenheim to add to his 7 goals and be an impact player. However, most impressive may be the play of Dwayne Roloson. Roloston has been a game changer in the playoffs so far and has put his team on his back. On the other side, Boston is known for their defense and hard nose style. In net they are led by the NHL’s best goalie, Tim Thomas. He truly is as close to a brick wall as their is in the game right now. He alone can win games for the Bruins and has performed magnificently thus far. In front of him, Zedeno Chara has been a beast. His physical size and presence is remarkable. On offense the Bruins have missed star forward Partrice Bergeron who has been out with a concussion. He will be sidelined to start the series which could be a huge blow to the Bruins. Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci will need to step up in his absence. This series may be considered a toss up and in series like this the team with the best goaltender usually comes out on top. However, I think that this series will be an exception. The Lightning have too much firepower on offense and will be able to get to Thomas.
Lightning in 6