Best, worst of Round 1

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:15 PM ET


 We told you this was going to be dangerous. One round into the Stanley Cup playoffs, our heads are still above water -- barely.

 Of the eight, first-round matchups, we nailed four series winners -- Toronto, San Jose, Detroit and Tampa Bay.

 The rest, well, who could have foreseen Calgary's dramatic, seven-game victory over the heavily favoured Vancouver Canucks?

 And admit it, there's no way you expected the defending champion Devils to bow out so meekly against the Flyers.

 Here's a look back at the best and worst of the playoffs to date, and our fearful look at Round 2.

 BEST FIRST-ROUND SERIES: Forget the hype from Ontario, this one goes to the Canucks and Flames, a seven-gamer which had everything you could want in a playoff series, including overtime in the final game.

 CONN SMYTHE CANDIDATE: A tie between Carman's Eddie Belfour in the Leafs net and Calgary power forward and Hart Trophy finalist Jarome Iginla. We knew Belfour could be a clutch performer, but this was Iginla's first real playoff test, and he aced it.

 HUMAN HIGHLIGHT REEL: Tampa Bay's little Martin St. Louis, another Hart nominee, continues to be one of the most entertaining players in the game. Pound for pound, the best return on the price of a ticket.

 BEST GOAL: Detroit's Robert Lang fighting off a check to beat Nashville's Thomas Vokoun in a 3-1 Red Wings victory in Game 1 was impressive. The overtime slapper by St. Louis to eliminate the Islanders was a beauty, too. But I'll take Marian Hossa leaping over a charging Belfour to ice Ottawa's 4-2 win over the Leafs in their series opener.

 BIGGEST SURPRISE: With two goals in 17 previous games, former Jets enigma Alexei Zhamnov hasn't exactly been known as a playoff performer. So he goes out and gets a team-leading eight points in Philly's five-game win over New Jersey. Go figure.

 MOST PREDICTABLE: Keith Tkachuk led St. Louis with 33 goals and 71 points during the season, but when it was time to play for keeps, Keith went back to playing the Blues, going goal-less against San Jose. In his last two playoffs, Tkachuk has one goal in 12 games.

 MOST BIZARRE PLAY: Hands-down, it was Alex Kovalev quitting on the play and running into teammate Sheldon Souray to give Boston the winning goal and 3-1 series lead against the Habs. Kovalev's subsequent play in Montreal's win also qualifies as the comeback of the first round.

 LIKE A KID AGAIN: The sight of Vancouver's Ed Jovanovski jumping up and down and pounding on the glass in the penalty box when his team sent Game 7 into overtime was priceless. So were a wide-eyed Craig Conroy's rambling post-game comments after the Flames had pulled off the upset.

 CANADA'S HOPE: With the elimination of the Canucks, this country's best Cup hopes now lie, believe it or not, with the Maple Leafs. Calgary is up against it in the West, but if Toronto can get past the Flyers, we could have a Canadian team in the final.

 SECOND-ROUND PREDICTIONS:

 (first-round record: 4-4)

 TAMPA BAY VS MONTREAL: Lots of speed and great goaltending on both sides. This could be fun. Lightning in six.

 PHILADELPHIA VS TORONTO: Again, the Leafs big edge should be in goal. Or will it? Flyers goalie Robert Esche hasn't looked like a playoff neophyte. Or like Patrick Lalime, for that matter. Flyers in seven.

 DETROIT VS CALGARY: The Flames have already exceeded expectations. Not that they won't continue to work their butts off, but ... Red Wings in six.

 SAN JOSE VS COLORADO: The high-scoring Avalanche appear to have found their stride just in time to set up a juicy conference final against arch-rival Detroit. Avalanche in six.


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