- E.J. Hradek, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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My Game 7 picks for the first round were documented yesterday. The Leafs, Avalanche and Blues got the kiss of death, thanks to some porous prognostication.
Now, in case there's a need to get to Las Vegas (or, in Jaromir Jagr's case, somewhere in the Caribbean) to shore up a retirement nest egg, comes some not-so-sure-fire selections for Round 2 of our favorite playoffs. Remember the track record.
Tampa Bay vs. New Jersey: Take the Devils over the Lightning (you can hear the cheering in Tampa) in six games. After all, if you want to bet against Marty Brodeur, be my guest. Hard to see that as a winning proposition. The Devils looked extremely focused in their first round series victory over the Bruins, who, like the Bolts, are primarily a one-line team. Devils coach Pat Burns will use John Madden and Scott Stevens to lead a five-man unit against Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Prospal. They'll get the job done. And, Burns won't get outcoached like Caps' rookie benchmeister, Bruce Cassidy.
Philadelphia vs. Ottawa: Because of several threats from Philly fans and coach Ken Hitchcock, I'll take the Senators over the Flyers in seven games. Actually, I picked the Senators to win the conference before the season. But, I wasn't impressed with their play against a not-very-good Islanders team in the first round. If the Flyers have enough left in the tank (after a grinding first round series against the Leafs), they could easily win this series, which should feature low scoring games. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will have to pick up his game against the Fly guys.
Anaheim vs. Dallas: The Stars will find a way to get past the Mighty Gigueres of Anaheim. And, they'll do it in six games. The Stars were my pick to win the Cup, so they're fighting an uphill battle. Somehow, they avoided my jinx in the first round (thank you, Tommy Salo). Pierre Turgeon returns from the injured list. Bill Guerin isn't far behind. Overjoyed Ducks fans will be thrilled to know that I almost picked their boys to beat the Wings in the first round. Almost.
Minnesota vs. Vancouver: First, let me apologize to the entire state of Minnesota. I'm truly sorry. I don't mean to hurt anyone, but I'm going to take the Wild over the Canucks in six games. (Vancouver fans: please make out your checks to cash.) This was the hardest series for me to pick. In the end, I'll take wily coach Jacques Lemaire and his two-headed goalie over a more-talented Canucks team. And, wouldn't a Dallas-Minnesota meeting in the Conference finals be fun?
I just hope I didn't jinx it.
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