(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) Montreal Canadiens
Wow. What an unreal couple weeks, huh? It would seem that, impossibly, the Penguins have a clear path to a third straight Eastern Conference title, what with the Caps, Devils and Sabres pulling off the choke trifecta in the first round. The waters have parted, and a third straight trip to the finals lies, however infeasibly, just ahead...but this is the playoff, so no way is it a walk in the park.
First the Penguins need to get past the Canadiens and suddenly-stellar goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who absolutely slammed the door on Washington's terrifying offense in games 5, 6 and 7 to stun the Caps and take the series. One would have to imagine that the Habs can't possibly have lightning strike twice and steal another series...but if I'd been doing this in 1996 I woulda said the same thing about John Vanbiesbrouck and the Florida Panthers, and we all know how that turned out. If Halak is still human, the Pens should win relatively easy. Penguins in five.
(6) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Philadelphia Flyers
I gotta be honest, I have no feel for this rematch of the Winter Classic, outside of stunned disbelief that it's even happening. If this is a regular season game on NBC on a Sunday afternoon, I probably volunteer to tag along with my wife on a trip to Barnes & Noble...just zero interest. But a playoff matchup is a different story entirely, and you gotta figure we'll see some pretty tight games. In the end, though, I have a nagging feeling that Philly won't be able to overcome injuries to scorers Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, and that Brian Boucher is due for a return to planet Earth. And speaking of goalies and planets, doesn't the name of Boston netminder Tuukka Rask sound like the name of one of those STAR WARS characters that's onscreen for like .002 seconds, but you don't find out his actual name 'til they put out an action figure of him? I'll go with Bruins in seven.
CRASS COMMERCIALISM DEPT: All of the original, hand-drawn art for the Stanley Cup pinup girls is available at my Etsy store...and if you'd like to go the extra mile and get a personalized, one-of-a-kind uni-girl illustration of your very own to your exact specifications, that information can be found here.