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SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

They say the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is the toughest to win.

This much we do know, it was tough to predict.

At least for some of us.

With the parity that has gripped the NHL, there really is no such thing as a staggering upset anymore. Now, say, if Nashville had beaten Detroit it would have been an upset, but not one for the ages. Same with Boston, the eighth seed in the East, and Montreal. It might have been unexpected but not entirely surprising, either.

As it turned out, there weren't any real surprises in the first round. On both sides, the top two teams prevailed, as well as the fifth and sixth seeds.

So, having erred on the side of Washington, Minnesota and the defending champions in the first round, and knowing that predictions are a fool's game, we take a look at the second round.

MONTREAL (1) VS. PHILADELPHIA (6)

It is beginning to look like 1993 all over again for the Canadiens, at least in terms of favourable early matchups. They managed to avoid the Rangers, at least for a round, and get the Flyers, another team they swept during the regular season. There should be some fatigue for the Flyers, who have one fewer day off after their seven-game series.

Although goalie Carey Price had moments when he was a mere mortal, there is no doubt he is the real deal. For the Habs to prevail, the top-ranked offence will have to be just that, meaning the power play has to return to the land of the living. If the Flyers' penalty killing is good and they can control Alex Kovalev the way they did Alex Ovechkin for much of the previous series, this could be a long one.

It will be interesting to see how Daniel Briere, who was good against the Caps, performs. He snubbed the Habs as a free agent.

In the end, the Habs are better in goal and their speed should make a difference.

Prediction: Canadiens in six.

PITTSBURGH (2) VS. N.Y. RANGERS (5)

The burning question is who will Sean Avery annoy the most? Will he be in Sidney Crosby's face, or Evgeni Malkin's, or goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's? Or will he take turns? How long before Gary Roberts, if he is able to play, takes a poke at Avery?

The long layoff may leave a little rust early on the Penguins, but it won't hurt Crosby as he recovers from that high ankle sprain. The Pens were impressive in dismantling Ottawa, with Fleury solid, the defensive play good and the firepower everything you would expect. And they didn't let up.

The Rangers, also well rested, are a more formidable opponent than Ottawa. In Henrik Lundqvist they win the goaltending matchup. Their defensive play is strong and all of a sudden Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr have remembered how to score, meaning the offence has come to life. And Avery does make a difference a lot of nights.

It should be a long, entertaining series, but we like the way the Rangers have looked down the stretch, patient and disciplined and opportunistic, plus we like their experience. If Fleury wins the goaltending battle, it could sway the series in the Pens' favour.

Prediction: Rangers in six.

DETROIT (1) VS. COLORADO (6)

This is the first playoff meeting between the two teams since 2002 and many of the faces remain the same. It has been a retro season for the Avalanche, with Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote returning, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk still playing well, and a revitalized Jose Theodore playing the part of the stalwart francophone goaltender.

The Avs looked good in getting by Minnesota, though they had issues protecting leads and required superb goaltending from Theodore.

Detroit looked okay in quietly getting by Nashville. But that roster is deep and experienced, the defensive play is great and they have a lot of weapons up front. The key will be: Can Chris Osgood have a retro playoff himself? The goaltenders will decide the outcome.

Prediction: Red Wings in seven games.

SAN JOSE (2) VS. DALLAS (5)

Meet two teams that have shrugged monkeys off their backs by surviving the first round.

Dallas had made three consecutive first-round exits. The Stars' win over Anaheim was impressive. Marty Turco was good in goal, they were disciplined and their power play made the Ducks pay for their many transgressions.

The Sharks, meantime, may have lost one monkey, but still have another on their backs because the second round is where they have gone to die the past two springs. So there is still considerable pressure to succeed. They were life and death to beat Calgary, one night looking awesome, the next night uninspired.

Dallas should be a step up from Calgary. All eyes will be on Joe Thornton to lead the way for the Sharks -- they can't rely on Jeremy Roenick every night. The Stars have shown they can play physically, which worked for Calgary, have balanced scoring and Brad Richards was brought in to shine in the spring and didn't disappoint in the first round.

Prediction: Stars in six games.

First-round record: 5-3


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