Second round matchups set in NHL playoffs
After a thrilling first round that featured three seven-game series, the matchups are set for the second phase of the NHL playoffs, with CBC's Hockey Night in Canada providing coverage of both Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Montreal Canadiens are Canada's only remaining franchise in the post-season after dispatching the pesky Boston Bruins in seven games.
Saku Koivu and Carey Price will lead the Canadiens against a deep and balanced Philadelphia Flyers team that leads the Stanley Cup playoffs in goals (23) after its opening series win over the Washington Capitals.
Montreal survived a roller-coaster first-round against Boston to advance. Injuries and inconsistency prevented the East's top seed from getting through the first round quickly but solid Game 7 performances from Koivu, Alex Kovalev and rookie goaltender Price helped the team advance with a 5-0 victory.
Philadelphia won its close seven-game set with Washington after Joffrey Lupul's first NHL playoff goal of the season clinched the series for the Flyers in overtime on Tuesday.
Playoff scoring leader Daniel Briere (11 points) and starting goaltender Martin Biron are both coming off strong series versus Washington and the Quebec natives will look for that to continue against the Canadiens.
The Canadiens-Flyers series can be seen on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and will be available both live and on demand at CBCSports.ca starting on Thursday (7 p.m. ET).
Exclusive Mandarin-language webcasts of the Montreal-Philadelphia series will be available, as well, live and on demand at CBCSports.ca.
Penguins draw Rangers in round two
Hockey Night in Canada will also provide coverage of the Pittsburgh Penguins as they meet the New York Rangers in the second round starting on Friday (7 p.m. ET).
Led by the dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins earned the only sweep of the first round by knocking out the Ottawa Senators in impressive fashion.
The Penguins have been waiting for their second round opponent for more than a week, meaning their high-octane offence (four goals per game in round one) should be well-rested.
Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was also sharp in his second career playoff series, boasting a 1.26 goals against average after allowing just five goals to the Senators in round one.
But the Penguins will face a much stiffer test against the Rangers, who easily disposed of the New Jersey Devils in five games.
The Rangers also boast a potent offence (averaging 3.8 goals per game) led by Jaromir Jagr (eight points) and Scott Gomez (seven points) but they can also back it up with a solid defensive game.
As Devils' goaltender Martin Brodeur can attest, the Rangers might also have the ultimate x-factor in Sean Avery who had a big impact in the first round.
New York also has a strong goaltender of its own in Henrik Lunqvist. The Vezina Trophy candidate was sharp throughout the first round (4-1, 2.36 GAA, .917 save percentage).
Red Wings renew rivalry
Nicklas Lidstrom and the Detroit Red Wings will renew playoff hostilities with the Colorado Avalanche in the first Western Conference semifinal, which begins on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET).
After knocking off the Minnesota Wild in six games, the Avalanche will try to solve the Wings, a team they failed to beat in four tries during the regular season.
But with goaltender Jose Theodore suddenly regaining his form, the Avalanche looked very tough in the first round. Colorado also received substantial contributions in the first round from its veteran core including Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Andrew Brunette and Adam Foote.
That group will need to be at their best against the top-seeded Red Wings, who didn't necessarily boast their 'A' game against the Nashville Predators in the first round, but still managed to take the series in six games.
Despite facing the strong goaltending of Nashville's Dan Ellis, the Red Wings used timely goals from big guns like Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom but also saw contributions from depth players like Johan Franzen, who contributed Game 5's overtime winner.
Detroit had the luxury of switching its starting-calibre goaltenders midway through the series and the move to Chris Osgood (2-0, 0.39 GAA) paid dividends. The Red Wings will face a much stronger Avalanche offence in round two which should be a bigger test for Osgood and their vaunted defence.
Sharks face Stars
After surviving a punishing seven-game series against the Calgary Flames, the San Jose Sharks will face a second consecutive physical test in the Dallas Stars, beginning on Friday (10 p.m. ET).
The Sharks have advanced to the conference semis for the third consecutive season and will look to finally break through to the West final for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
Joe Thornton (two goals, five assists), Patrick Marleau (two goals, four assists) and Jonathan Cheechoo (three goals, two assists) have looked playoff-ready, but the tank for these Sharks has shown surprising depth.
Winger Ryan Clowe (four goals, four assists) leads the team in scoring through one round while young centre Joe Pavelski isn't far behind (three goals, four assists).
That depth might be necessary against a Stars team that punched its ticket to the second round for the first time since 2003 with a solid-all around game.
Dallas can also boast a bevy of players who can get on the scoresheet, as five players had at least six points in round one. The Stars were particularly effective on the power play against the Ducks, striking 10 times in 38 opportunities in the first round.
Stephane Robidas was a spark for a short-handed defence corps that performed admirably in the absence of Sergei Zubov and Phillippe Boucher.
That made things much easier for veteran netminder Marty Turco, who allowed just 13 goals in the first round.
Fans can also enhance their playoff experience at CBCSports.ca.
Live and on-demand video streaming of all of CBC's playoff coverage will be accessible, as will the debut of Playoff Tracker — an enhanced interactive viewing environment where users can join in live chats during games, get instant updates from other games, and participate in live polling and gaming.
CBCSports.ca will continue to be a source of comprehensive coverage throughout the playoffs, featuring weekly columns from HNIC personalities, breaking news, in-depth reports and broadcast schedules.
Fans can also tune in to Hockey Night in Canada Radio, broadcast on SIRIUS satellite Channel 122, Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. ET (with an encore presentation from 6 to 8 p.m. ET). Covering the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, Hockey Night in Canada Radio is also available live on CBCSports.ca, Monday to Friday from 3 to 4 p.m. ET. Host Jeff Marek is joined by HNIC personalities and other guests throughout the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs.