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Ring the Bell for Round 2

Tonight marks the beginning of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the matchups are a commissioner's dream:

Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche; with most of the old gang brought out of mothballs for this remake of the best sports rivalry of the 1990's, this has the makings of a real beauty. I like Detroit in a long, hard-fought series (6 or 7 games).

San Jose Sharks vs. Dallas Stars; two of the elite teams for most of the season, these division rivals both have plenty to prove. The Sharks have only advanced past the 2nd round once in their 11 playoff appearances, while the Stars' have gotten bounced out in the first round of each of the last three seasons. Expectations have been high in San Jose all year, and I expect them to win this series, but Dallas will be a very tough out. Goaltending is usually a key component, and I like Marty Turco here better than Evgeni Nabokov. Playing 77 out of 82 games can't possibly leave a guy with much in the tank for a long playoff run.

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins; the folks in the NHL offices must be tap-dancing over this and the Detroit-Colorado matchup and the potential for decent TV ratings. I'll take the young guns of Pittsburgh over the Blueshirts here.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers; both of these teams weathered Game Seven showdowns, where Montreal blew out Boston and Philadelphia slipped past Washington in OT. My youngest son, who has been playing with a magnetic playoff chart I received from the good folks at Versus, is throwing his support behind the Canadiens, so who am I to argue with that?

No matter what happens, these should be four excellent series; my DVR will be working hard while I'm out tonight at a tee-ball game.