(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators
I said before the series with the Islanders that it wouldn't be easy for the Penguins, and boy...it wasn't. The Isles were the better team for good stretches of play in the first round, and it really was a whole lot closer than the results will tell you.
Conversely, the Senators dispatched Montreal with relative ease, in a brutal series that was more memorable for bloodshed than goal-scoring. I don't think they're quite as good as the Habs made them look, but they're confident and have a great goaltender in Craig Anderson playing at the top of his game.
I expect to see the Pens manage a return to basics and discipline in the same manner as they did when they lost multiple games, giving up tons of goals in the process, around the season's mid-point. They're better than they played against New York; now it's time to prove it. Pens in six.
(4) Boston Bruins vs. (6) New York Rangers
New York vs. Boston: It's a network executive's dream!
The Rangers relied on stellar goaltending to get past the once-surging Capitals, allowing zero goals in games six and seven to advance. They really struggled to score, however, a trend that plagued them all during the regular season as well.
Boston hung on by their fingernails, taking advantage of an historic collapse by Toronto in the final two minutes of their own Game Seven to move on. Honestly, I still can't figure out how these guys do it. They seem to be getting by on veteran experience alone at times. They're gutsy, though, and seem to be able to take it up a notch when they need it most.
I don't expect the Rangers to start shooting out the lights, but I think Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Co. will find the back of the net often enough to scratch through with a win. Sorry, New Yorkers, but it's the Rangers in seven.
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings
I've been watching hockey for a long time, and I gotta go back all the way to probably 1992 to recall a time when the Red Wings would be the underdog in this playoff matchup. Chicago can take another big step toward the Stanley Cup Finals by beating an old rival that has so often gotten the best of them. It should also be a fitting final act to this classic Original Six rivalry, with Detroit scheduled to move to the Eastern Conference next season. Blackhawks in six.
(5) Los Angeles Kings vs. (6) San Jose Sharks
Both of these team made quick work sweeping their opening round opponents, even if the Kings spotted the Blues a two-game lead before getting down to business. Now they meet for a rare playoff matchup between two California teams, and the stakes are high. For some reason, I think the Sharks will continue their hot streak and stun the favored Kings. It could be selfishness on my part, too, as I'm gonna be in San Francisco in late June and would love a chance to see a Stanley Cup game at the Shark Tank.
Aw, who am I kidding, it's all selfishness. I'm sure I'll regret it, but I'm picking the Sharks in seven.
CRASS COMMERCIALISM DEPT: All of the original, hand-drawn art for this year's Stanley Cup picks will be on sale soon...but all of last year's art is currently available at my Etsy store, and on sale for 25% off through the month of May, when you use the code CUP13 at checkout!
Of course, 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.