Ducks the lone Cinderella

The big dogs in the WCHL playoffs certainly were barking loud in round one. Only two teams, which didn't have home-ice advantage, advanced to round two, both in the Western Conference.
The Detroit Red Wings did the trick, but as the fifth seed and last years Western Conference Champions, knocking off the surprising Edmonton Oilers, who were back in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and just six points ahead of the red Wings in the regular season, it was hardly a shocker.
What was was the Anaheim Ducks. Coming in as the seventh seed, the Ducks finished 30 points behind the Calgary Flames in the regular season, the same Flames who were one of only four teams to win 50 games in regulation in the regular season. No problem for the Ducks, who sent the Flames flying home in five games, including two overtime victories. That matched the number of victories in extra time the Ducks had all season.
But now the Ducks are faced with trying to be the Cinderella story for the rest of the post-season, not an easy fact to face when every other team in the playoffs but the Atlanta Thrashers had at least 100 points in the regular season.
Here's a look at my predictions for round two in the WCHL:
Western Conference
(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Anaheim Ducks
The Sharks were once again the model of consistency in the regular season, racking up 134 points to easily claim the President's Cup. They weren't the model of consistency in the playoffs, however, as the Dallas Stars pushed them to a hard-fought six game victory, including two overtime games which were split between the two teams. San Jose also got no help from starting netminder Cam Ward, who posted a.852 save percentage.

The Ducks meanwhile took hold of their series early against the Flames and, after a game two loss, rattled off three straight victories to earn a dance in round two. This is the second straight year the Ducks have struggled mightily for the first 50 games of the season, only to turn it on down the stretch and into the playoffs. In their last 27 games, including the playoffs, the Ducks are 19-6-2.
The Ducks were stopped last year by the Dallas Stars in round two, so expect Anaheim to be ready to ward off any post-season meltdown this time around, while San Jose is trying to get back to playoff glory after several strong regular seasons have faded away with early exits from the post-season.
The key to this series will likely be Cam Ward. A .852 save percentage won't fly against Crosby and Co.
Prediction: Anaheim in six.
(2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
Colorado is the poster child of playoff disappointments in the Western Conference. Year after year of great regular seasons have faded away under playoff scrutiny, and this year could be the same unless the Avs knock off the Red Wings and move on to round three.
Cody Mccormick Cody McCormick #11 of the Colorado Avalanche fights Darren McCarty #25 of the Detroit Red Wings during game two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 26, 2008 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
No easy task to achieve though. The Red Wings looked like easy cannon fodder last year, only to defeat the Flames, Avalanche and Dallas Stars before finally being dropped in seven games by the Pittsburgh penguins in the cup finals. The Red Wings are off to a good start this year as well, having bounced the Oilers in six games.
If the Avalanche can get a realistic return from their stars, they will win this series, but hasn't that been the case for the past several seasons?
Prediction: Colorado in seven.
Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers vs. (4) New York Islanders
Two teams who not only share a geographical area but also a level of talent few others have achieved finally square off in one of the longest overdue match-ups in the playoffs.
The Rangers once again dominated the regular season and the first round, but now they need to see that carry over to the second round after being bounced last season by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers will do just that if Henrik Lundqvist and his lights out .950 save percentage continue.
The Islanders meanwhile are working hard to erase the joke of a season they had last year when they failed to even make the playoffs for the first time in WCHL history. Sneaking past the Bruins in seven games after trailing 3-2 in the series is a good step, but the Rangers are on a whole other level. Jerome Iginla's six goals in seven games will need to continue to see the rebound season move along to round three.
Prediction: New York rangers in six games.
(2) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (3) Pittsburgh Penguins
With rumours swirling around of their eventual relocation, the Thrashers looked dead in the water against the Flyers in the opening round, suffering two straight home defeats to open the series. Wondering if they would ever play in Atlanta again, the Thrashers showed they have plenty of moxie in the tank, winning four straight games after that, three in Philadelphia, to make it to round two and a date with the Penguins.
Johan Hedberg Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is backed into by Johan Hedberg #1 of the Atlanta Thrashers at the Mellon Arena March 17, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Thrashers 6-2.
Pittsburgh may not have home ice advantage this round, but the Thrashers can only thank a very weak division for that. Pittsburgh actually posted 25 more regular season points than the Thrashers and is the defending WCHL Cup champs. Knocking off the Flyers is nothing compared to taking down the Penguins, who are trying to become just the second team in WCHL history to win back-to-back WCHL Cup titles. Of note, not only has no team other than the Sharks won back-to-back titles, no other has won more than one WCHL title period, so that is something working in Atlanta's favor.  
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six games.

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