Picks ain't half bad

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:52 PM ET


 There's no need to throw me a life-saver just yet, but you might want to keep one close by.

 Two rounds into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I'm still treading water with a 6-6 record. Of course, a trained chimp could go .500 making sports predictions, but we digress.

 The Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks may have surprised me in the wild NHL West, but I'll take solace in predicting the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay would meet in the East.

 Before we weigh the possibilities of a Tampa Bay/San Jose Cup Final, let's take one, final look back at Round 2 ...

 BEST SERIES: Again, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Flyers may have received most of the hype, but for my money you couldn't beat watching those amazing Flames play the part of David against the Goliaths from Detroit. Common sense says the Flames, officially Canada's team now, can't continue to work this hard for another three or four weeks. But common sense doesn't put on skates.

 CONN SMYTHE UPDATE: Leading playoff scorer Jarome Iginla of Calgary stays at the top of our list, but he's joined this time by Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. The former Jet has been so good -- four shutouts and counting -- you need a microscope to see his goals against average. Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff isn't far behind.

 BEST GOAL: When's the last time we saw someone score by shooting the puck between his legs? Two players did it in the second round, Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier against Montreal and Jonathan Cheechoo of San Jose against Colorado. We'll take Lecavalier's, because it tied Game 3 with 16 seconds left and led to the Lightning's overtime victory. Without it, this series could have turned the Habs' way.

 SADDEST FAREWELL: It would be too bad if Steve Yzerman has to go out the way he did, taking a puck in the eye and sitting on the sidelines instead of leading his team on another Stanley Cup run. Who knows, Yzerman might be back. Ron Francis, on the other hand, is probably done, lockout or no lockout. Seeing the classy vet scratched from the Leafs lineup for their last game proves once again few endings are made in Hollywood.

 WHATEVER HAPPENED TO: Teemu Selanne called it a "nightmare season," and that sums it up nicely. The Finnish Flash became the Finnish Scratch, going goal-less for just the second time in his post-season career, and the first time when his team lasted at least two rounds. Who could have predicted this when he and Paul Kariya made the blockbuster decision to join forces with the Avalanche?

 BEST QUOTE: This one comes from Calgary defenceman Ville Nieminen, after he ran over Detroit goalie Curtis Joseph in the dying seconds of Game 4. "My arm got stuck there..." Nieminen said, part of the wobbliest explanation since Bill Clinton's denial of the Monica Lewinsky affair. You can just imagine Bill saying the same thing about that cigar.

 THIRD-ROUND PREDICTIONS:

 (Record to date: 6-6)

 Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia: After all these years of searching for a goaltender who could take his team to the Promised Land, Flyers GM Bob Clarke may have found one in the unlikeliest of places: at the end of his own bench. But can Robert Esche outplay Khabibulin? No way. Lightning in seven.

 San Jose vs. Calgary: Why stop the Flames train now? They've proven they can outwork a talented offensive team (Vancouver) and out-defence a solid defensive team (Detroit). And what better way to usher in a new NHL era than with an appearance in the Cup final by a small-market, Canadian team? Flames in seven.


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