Rose seems determined to make up for her 2-6 record of first-round predictions. She spent the day reading newspapers and rifling through her box of holiday cards. Then she pulled out a crystal ball. An actual crystal ball. Where did she come from?
Moscow (No.1 seed, defeated Stockholm 4-0) vs. Copenhagen (No. 6 seed, defeated Edinburgh 4-3)
Commissioner: Moscow has had a lot of time to rest up after beating Stockholm in 4 games while Copenhagen went through a grueling series with Edinburgh. That’s one of many advantages Moscow has in the series. Home ice is another. Yet another is this guy from Slovenia. Anze Kopitar is at the top of his game and scored two points per game in the first round. I am looking for a big series from the defense pairing of Andrei Markov and Kevin Dallman. They are both excellent players and both were very quiet against Stockholm. If you believe the numbers tend to average out, and I do, then look for Dallman and Markov to play important roles over the next 4 to 7 games. It’s not hard to pick Moscow to win a series and I’ll do that now. Moscow in 6 games is my prediction.
Rose: Moscow goes into the series with Dustin Brown injured. So all they’re missing is their captain and a guy who in the regular season scored 37 goals, 86 points, 340 shots, had 100 hits, 125 takeaways while being a plus 23. Instead, Spartak will have Brandon Bochenski in the lineup. It will be tough for Moscow to play without a healthy Brownie. That reminds me, I’ll have to make some more brownies because the commissioner ate all the ones I made last night. (Editor’s note: The commissioner only ate two and there are only two people in the office.) Copenhagen has some confidence in Brian Elliott now and I think he also has faith in himself. I think he can steal a game. The Tridents have four strong defensive centers who I see stifling Spartak’s attack and I love Shea Weber, Alex Goligoski and Dion Phaneuf back on defense. And I just checked and confirmed that Moscow GM Mike Banker has never sent me a holiday card. Maybe he doesn’t know how a stamp works, but I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt. Copenhagen will shock the hockey world and former Spartak winger Alexander Ovechkin will be smiling in the end.
Belfast (No. 2 seed, defeated Helsinki 4-1) vs. Minsk (No. 4 seed, defeated Gothenburg 4-2)
Commissioner: This is a tough series to pick. It features two well-built, but young teams. It could come down to which team makes the most risky passes and gives up the puck more. Belfast did a little better than Minsk did in the regular season, and a little better than Minsk did in the first round, so I will pick them to do a little better in this series. Looking at the weapons on the Giants’ first three forward lines is mesmerizing and to think they are young and could be together for a long time is incredible. I see a slight deficiency defensively on the wings of the Hussars’ second line and I think Belfast has the players to exploit that, whether it’s James Neal and Nazem Kadri, or Ondrej Palat and Nathan MacKinnon. Carey Price wasn’t Carey Price in the first round and I have a hard time believing the Minsk goalie can turn around his mediocre play (85.8 save percentage) that quickly. Belfast to win in 6 games.
Rose: Hard-charging Minsk can take a team off its game and get on a roll. I am looking into a crystal ball I got from my gypsy aunt and I see Maxim Chudinov harassing the bejesus out of Joe Pavelski and Milan Lucic plastering Sidney Crosby up against the boards. There’s Zac Rinaldo and Matt Martin challenging the entire Giants bench. Oh look, now I see Belfast coach Lindy Ruff winking at me while play is going on. Keep your eyes on the game, coach, because you’re not getting any of this sweet candy. During the regular season, each team was 1-1 at home against the other and I don’t see home ice as being a big factor. Also during the season, Minsk averaged more shots on goal, fewer shots against and fewer penalty minutes than the Giants. I expect more this series out of Price, Lucic, Jakub Voracek and Nicklas Backstrom and I see the Hussars advancing with a 4-2 series win.
Paris (No. 1 seed, defeated Madrid 4-1) vs. Zurich (No. 4 seed, defeated Bern 4-1)
Commssioner: I learned last season that Paris players, especially Corey Perry, can be taken off their game with a little goonery. But I also learned that they are just too talented to beat. This season, they are another year wise and shouldn’t be distracted as easily as they were in the past. Their strength is offense, leading all teams in scoring during the regular season. Zurich is also offensive-minded and talented up front, but Paris is one of the few teams with even more talented forwards than Zurich has. The Rouge Eiffels scored 4.16 goals per game this season and Zurich scored 3.6. I feel sorry for Tuuka Rask, Paris’ goalie, and Roberto Luongo at the other end of the rink. Rask had a slightly better save percentage this season but both will be tired after a few games of this track meet of a series. Paris will win it, probably in 5 games.
Rose: The Lions looked really good in Round 1 against a good and experienced Bern squad. I think the line of Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Kane and Ilya Kovalchuk is ready to explode and I think they will carry the Lions into the next round. Bergeron has scored 30 or more goals every season and narrowly missed hitting the 100-point plateau a couple of times. We should all be talking a lot more about how good he is, but he’s been overshadowed by players like Steven Stamkos, Evgeny Malkin and Ryan Kesler. Not after this series, I predict. Kovalchuk led the league in goals with 49 and both he and Kane are on an obvious upswing in their stats. If Luongo in goal can steal a game, I think Bergeron’s line can win a couple more and then one solid team effort by Zurich can give them the upset. Zurich wins in 7 games.
Berlin (No. 2 seed, defeated Frankfurt 4-3) vs. Athens (No. 3 seed, defeated Bratislava 4-1)
Commissioner: I see this as being a very close series. During the regular season, Athens scored 297 goals and Berlin scored the exact same number. Athens allowed 223 goals and Berlin allowed just 2 more than that. They were separated in the standings by one slim point. Athens had the better special teams, but they spent more time in the penalty box. I think Athens has better depth throughout their lineup, but the Smurfs can be sneaky. Matt Read … he’ll pop out of no where and ruin your evening. Nathan Horton too. Both scored more than 50 points this season. Patrik Hornqvist scored more than 60. David Krejci topped 80 points. None of those guys plays on the first line. It seems a safe bet this series will go 7 games. Almost as safe a bet as betting that Jason Pominville of Athens and Nikolai Kulemin of Berlin won’t get whistled for a single penalty in the series. Both teams experienced wild swings in momentum this season and it looks to me like the Smurfs are on the upswing. I’m saying Berlin wins in 7.
Rose: Sorry, what? I was trying to determine what to make of Guybrush Threepwood and his Hairless Monkey. I think they opened for The Rolling Stones in a concert I attended during my hippie days. God, I wish short shorts would make a comeback. (Editor’s note: God, please no!). Athens is my team this year. That Terry Moutafis is always considerate and he sends me baklava. I like baklava’s blend of sweetness and texture and I like Athens’s blend of size, toughness, speed and skill. Ian White is underrated, in my book. He has scored 50 points or more and was at least plus 25 in each of the last two seasons. He and Dustin Byfuglien make a good pairing. You aren’t going to beat White to a loose puck and if you beat Byfuglien to one, God help you. He’s a strong man. David Backes is a fantastic guy, a great leader and he scores more than a point per game. Only seven players have scored more points than he has in his EURO career. Logan Couture will not be able to contain him for long in this series. Athens to win in 5 games.