As for the pool, I typically picked the second highest point-getter on each team, except for Shea Weber who was a few behind leaders Legwand and Erat, Doan who was well behind Lombardi with the injury, but Drew Doughty was the top point producer for the Kings, and Stastny and Yip were tied in playoff pool points. Alfredsson was just behind Cullen, Vanek was just behind Pominville by an assist, Parise in back of Kovalchuk, and Backstrom behind Ovechkin by a goal. So all in all, not half bad, finished the first round with 111 points, thanks to both Luongo and Fleury getting through the first round (hopefully further).
Anyway, on to the Grip Picks...
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Well I was dead wrong about the Habs picking the Caps to roll over them in 5, but I knew Halak would be the key to stealing games from Washington. I just thought it would be one game and not four. But the Pens have been here as recently as last year, and they seemed to dispense Ottawa effortlessly. I expect Halak to give them trouble, but I think the Pens will solve him to head on to the Conference Finals. Grip Pick: Pens in 6.
#6 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers
Once again, I severely underestimated the Flyers, who appeared to be limping into a postseason against the #2 seeded Devils. The Devils were worthless, and the Flyers played strong, passioned playoff hockey. It took the postseason for them to turn into the team everyone thought they would be this season. The Sabres/Bruins matchup was the closest series to call I think, and it could have easily gone either way. I think Vanek's injury dented Buffalo's chances early on, but I don't know if he and Miller would have been able to beat the Bruins alone. The Bruins on the other hand, looked like the team from last year, playing good but not great. They got it done against the Sabres, but I think the Flyers have the fire lit right now. They've had the longest layoff, so it could start slow for them. Grip Pick: Flyers in 7.
#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
This will be the most overanalyzed series to date. San Jose, the playoff joke, against Detroit, the playoff machine. I wrote earlier about how the Sharks were sputtering like we've come to expect against the Avalanche, but there was a switch that flicked after that Game 5, or maybe even after Dan Boyle's OT winner for the Avs. The Olympic line underproduced, and it was the second line upstarts led by noted mouthbreather Joe Pavelski that got it done. Detroit is a team that knows how to get it done, but had a handful for about five of the seven games against inexperienced Phoenix. The Wings showed some age midway through the series, and then hit the gas like only they can in Game 7, I don't know if they have enough left in the tank. I'm going to once again step in the obvious pitfall and go with the Sharks. I think that Thornton and Marleau are going to turn it on, even though Heatley is injured, and Clowe/Pavelski/Setoguchi are going to continue rolling. I think Zetterberg is injured despite playing ridiculously well, Franzen is not 100%, and Holmstrom is just not cutting it, Mitchell and Blake are going to move his ass out of there. To rely on Datsyuk, Filppula, and the Detroit defense, not to mention a peppered Jimmy Howard, is going to be too much. Watch me eat my words. Grip Pick: Sharks in 6.
#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks
Next to falling in the trap of the Shark, this is probably the hardest series to pick. Vancouver and Chicago are very evenly matched for this second round rematch from last year. The last one was brutal, no one expects this one to be any friendlier. Chicago had some trouble handling Trotz and his pesky Preds, but they eventually put them down. The same goes for Vancouver who had to work to get past a very young, and promising Kings team. The difference in Chicago... For the good, they have Hossa, is a proven playoff performer if not a Cup curse. For the bad, they don't have Khabby, they have Niemi who's played well but has holes, and Huet, who has holes. Their lineup is virtually unchanged, with the exception of Cam Barker swapped for an injured Kim Johnsson. The difference in Vancouver... For the good, they have a much more solid forward core, with the Sedin's having career bests, and improved second line scoring from Kesler and Burrows. The bad... Luongo's been shaky, but rebounded, and the defense is severely beaten up missing key personnel like Willie Mitchell, and even Brad Lukowich. It has felt all year that the Hawks were owed this shot at the Cup, instead of putting in the work to earn it. Maybe it was too much fun, and making it look to easy winning made it appear that way. I just think Vancouver is going to be better prepared to handle Chicago, having first hand experience playing them last year, warming up with Los Angeles, a very similar team to Chicago, and I think Luongo is moving in right direction in terms of great and awful. I expect the Vancouver offence to pick apart, and probably chase Niemi. Of course, it could just be that I picked the Canucks to go all the way at the beginning of the year, and I'm sticking to my guns. Grip Pick: Nucks in 7.
So that's it, the predictions for the second round. I feel a lot less confident with this batch than the first round, but that's normal considering the competition gets stiffer. For the pool, I've still got my goalies, Patty Kane, Johan Franzen, Patty Marleau, Zdeno Chara, Andrei Markov, and Jeff Carter's out with an injury, for who knows how long.
Round Two. Fight!