Clean slate: Because Round 2 will be much easier to predict, right?

Well, it’s a good thing I don’t rely on my playoff picks for my income because I’d be losing money right about now. I went 3-5 in Round 1, but I don’t think a lot of people were picking Chicago, Anaheim and Los Angeles to lose. Suddenly, there’s a lot of room in the West for a team to make a run. Meanwhile, the East has some interesting matchups as well. Whatever happens, we’re in for some great hockey this round.

So here’s goes nothing…

Eastern Conference

Washington vs. Pittsburgh

This is gonna be a good one. As I write this, game 1 is in overtime and the teams appeared pretty evenly matched throughout the game (the Caps won in OT thanks to T.J. Oshie’s game winner). The Penguins have a deep offensive lineup that allowed them to have all-world center Evgeni Malkin playing on the third line, while the Caps are no slouch themselves with a dangerous collection of forwards including Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and Oshie. The real difference appears to be on defense and in goal, and I have to give Washington the edge because of Braden Holtby in net. Pittsburgh backup Matt Murray has been impressive of late while Marc-Andre Fleury recovers from a concussion, but we’re still talking about a goalie with little playoff experience. Ultimately, it’s Crosby vs. Ovechkin and it’s going to be fun to watch.

Capitals in 7.

NY Islanders vs. Tampa Bay

Captain Clutch John Tavares led the Islanders over the other Florida team in Round 1, winning three overtime games (two of them in double OT, including game 7), while Tampa dispatched the Red Wings in 5. The Lightning created some buzz when captain Steven Stamkos started practicing with the team again after having surgery on April 4 to remove a blood clot near his collarbone. He was originally said to be out for three months, but now there’s some hope he’ll return for the playoffs. The Islanders got off to a quick start in game 1 Wednesday with a 5-3 win, chasing TB starter Ben Bishop from the net early. Still, I feel Tampa has more depth than the Islanders to take the series.

Lightning in 7.

Western Conference

San Jose vs. Nashville

In the West, the perennially disappointing Sharks took out their nemeses the Kings in a decisive five-game rout, while the Preds knocked off the Ducks in 7. Both teams have had stacked teams that fell short over the last several years, so this spring is about redemption. Two really good, veteran-laden squads looking to take advantage of a sudden power vacuum in the West. When it comes down it, San Jose’s offensive and defensive depth wins it, but it won’t be easy given how well Nashville has been playing.

Sharks in 6.

St. Louis vs. Dallas

Another team that hasn’t lived up to expectations over the last decade is the Blues. Knocking off the defending Cup champs was a big step for the bruising, defensive-minded club, but they can’t overlook the offense-first Stars. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza lead a dangerous team, but St. Louis’ size and discipline should get them through to the third round. Now is the time for fine players like Alex Steen and David Backes to lead Ken Hitchcock’s crew to the next level. It will help if Hitch doesn’t keep his biggest offensive threat, Vladimir Tarasenko, chained to the bench. Pressure’s on Blues top keeper Brian Elliott to stay strong against the Dallas attack; in past years, the goaltending has been St. Louis’ weak link, but Elliott appears to have stepped up his game.

Blues in 5.

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