Sunday, May 16, 2010

Conference Finals Predictions

It has been one hell of a postseason so far. I went 2/4 in the second round but could have just as easily gone 4/4 (or 0/4 for that matter). We have a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed in the west and a No. 7 and a No. 8 in the east. If what has happened so far is any indication, these two series should be anything but boring.

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #2 Chicago Blackhawks
Season Series: 3-1 Chicago

The Sharks disposed of last year's Western Conference champions, the Detroit Red Wings, in five fairly easy games. They were getting scoring from both Joes (Pavelski and Thorton) and Evgeni Nabokov has been solid in net. They've had a long layoff between games and it remains to be seen if it will hurt them early in the series like it hurt the Flyers last round. The Sharks are running on all cylinders right now and look like a team different from the ones who have failed to live up to expectations in previous years.

The Hawks stumbled early in their second round match-up against Vancouver, but rebounded nicely and ended the Canucks season in six games. Chicago was one of the top teams in the west all year because of their balanced scoring--they had six players with at least 20 goals. And throughout the series against Vancouver, they had nine different forwards score their 23 goals. Antti Niemi and the defense in front of him had--with the exception of game 1--a very good series. The Sharks have never been to a Stanley Cup Final and the last time the Blackhawks were there was in 1992 where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games. Chicago hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1961 and are looking to end the longest Stanley Cup drought of all the Original Six teams, can they do it?
Prediction: San Jose wins the series in 7

#7 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Season Series: Tied 2-2

There's really not much more that can be said about the Flyers that hasn't been said already. They did something that only three other teams have ever done in professional sports history (twice in the NHL)--They came back from a three games to none series deficit. But not only did they do the impossible in that comeback, they came back from three goals down in a game seven to win (only two other teams have ever done that). What Philadelphia did was truly remarkable. The Flyers didn't lose a game to the Bruins after Simon Gagne returned to the lineup and they were getting huge contributions from their big boys. Danny Briere had 10 points (5G, 5A) against Boston and the Mike Richards line, although they were constantly playing against the Bruins' top D-men, was playing very well. Michael Leighton has come in to replace Brian Boucher and aside from a shaky first 15 minutes of game 7, has been solid.

This is the first ever match-up between a seventh and eighth seed in the conference finals. And the biggest reason the Montreal Canadiens are going to be at the Wachovia Center Sunday night is because of their goaltender Jaroslav Halak. He has been nothing but spectacular so far in the postseason. He has made the routine saves look like nothing and the great saves look routine. Mike Cammalleri has been the offensive MVP for the Habs with 12 goals and 18 points.

Hall Gill and Chris Pronger are both showing why they have Stanley Cup rings and have both been great veteran presences for their respective teams. Sadly, one of these two Cinderella stories will come to an end. Whose will it be?
Prediction: Philadelphia wins the series in 6

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