Guest writer Anthony Paulsen brings you his round 2 NHL playoff predictions

What a great first round of playoff hockey we’ve witnessed this year! I’ll go as far as to say that this is probably the most exciting first round of playoffs that we’ve seen in at least a decade. Nothing is more exciting than a game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs and this year saw four of them. I also feel pretty happy with my first round predictions as I predicted 7 series victors correctly (Chicago came so close!) and 4 series’ on the spot. But, the time to reflect has come to an end and it is time to look forward in this year’s Stanley Cup contenders.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Washington Capitals vs. # 5 Tampa Bay Lightning: I have to start by saying that the Eastern Conference is definitely going to be the tougher one to foresee. As far as this series goes, this will be one of two very good matchups in the East. Washington showed their offensive power against the Rangers but Tampa Bay also saw a good amount of scoring production from their depth. Defensively, both teams stack up about the same with Washington having the advantage on offensive production from their D-men. As tough as this is to call, I’m going to say that Tampa’s advantage in net isn’t enough to hold back the Washington offense. Caps win in 7 games.

#2 Philadelphia Flyer vs. #3 Boston Bruins: A rematch from last year’s second round which saw the Flyers make history by being only the 3rd team to ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. As for this year, the Bruins have the goaltending advantage again, which I believe they would have over any team. The Flyers have more depth on offense but I feel the Bruins have had the fortune of a number of younger players who have stepped up toward the end of the season and in the playoffs, specifically Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly. Defensively, they match up pretty well, both have a big strong defenseman who can shut down opposing scorers as well as good depth on the blue line, but there is one X-factor to this series: Boston coughed up a 3-0 series lead last year. After winning the Winter Classic in overtime against the rival Flyers, the Bruins gave up a 3-0 series lead in the second round of the playoffs in 2010. This loss has definitely continued to fester and you can bet that Boston will be ready to avenge last year’s mishap. Another tough one to call and should be a very exciting series, but I say Boston Bruins in 6 games.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #5 Nashville Predators: The only series victor that I predicted incorrectly, Vancouver, takes on one of my spot on predictions, Nashville. As expected, Vancouver and Chicago kept us on the edge of our seats. As a Colorado Avalanche fan, I hate the division rivals, especially Vancouver, but I try my best to put my biased opinion aside. I give a huge tip of the hat to Chicago for really making that series exciting, but I also feel that Vancouver has really pushed their luck too far. We’ve seen in the past how Vancouver has struggled to get it done in the playoffs and the first round is a pretty good portrayal of Vancouver’s habit of just that. They may have moved on but only by hanging on by the skin of their teeth after nearly having that series swept. But, as the playoffs get deeper, the series’ become tougher. Nashville will, yet again, get great goaltending and also continue their quietly effective style of play. There may not be any big name scorers on the Predators’ roster but they know how to keep the puck out of their own net. Their defensive play will restrict the Canuck offense and Nashville wins in 7.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #3 Detroit Red Wings: San Jose may be the higher seed but I think that there is no questioning this series. Detroit, once again, will be at least as good in the offensive zone, and better in the neutral and defensive zones. The Sharks also experienced shaky goaltending in the first round, which means that Niemi likely hasn’t found enough confidence between the pipes to be able to steal games yet. Even if he has, Detroit is still a very good defensive team who possesses offensive skills at least equal to the league’s best. Also considering that San Jose has earned a reputation as playoff choke artists, I have to say that Detroit wins this series in 5 games.

Now let’s sit back, critique my predictions (always welcomed and encouraged) and watch some more exciting playoff hockey!