Sunday, May 17, 2009
The Final Four
It's mid-May and we're finally down to the final four teams on their quest to be the 2008-09 Stanley Cup champions. This has been one of the best playoffs so far with amazing action and last minute drama. Last round all the series went at least 6 games with two series going the full seven and in those series' weren't decided until the last few minutes and in overtime.
Eastern Conference finals
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (eliminated: Washington and Philadelphia)
6. Carolina Hurricanes (eliminated: Boston and New Jersey)
This is a battle between the Stanley Cup finalist from last year and the Cup champs from 2006. On paper this seems like a first round match-up with the sixth place Hurricanes probably tagged as underdogs. Again if you asked me two weeks ago if I thought Carolina would be a top 4 team, I would have thought it was a joke. In my predictions from the last two rounds I didn't choose Carolina not because I didn't think they had enough talent, but because I doubted their heart and intensity...they obviously disproved my doubts. All the talent they need is in goal with 2006 Conn Smythe winner, Cam Ward performing miracles and his clutch saves at critical moments have given the Hurricanes a chance to win in every game thus far. As I said earlier, if Cam Ward is on, the Hurricanes are on.
The Penguins on the other hand are riding Sidney Crosby's rise, this guy looks like he's on a mission to prove that he's not only the MVP in this league, but also the best player on his own team. Malkin has been kind of up and down so far, but was a more noticeable presence during the Washington series, which helps. It's just that when Crosby plays well, everyone around him plays better, kind of like a player that wore number 99, but I think Crosby's intensity and willingness to battle will rise this team into the finals.
Pittsburgh in 6
Western Conference finals
2. Detroit Red Wings (eliminated Anaheim and Columbus)
4. Chicago Blackhawks (eliminated Vancouver and Calgary)
What can be said about the Wings that hasn't been said already, they are the defending champs and they play like champs. Anaheim provided the Red Wings with their most challenging test this year and last. They took Detroit to seven games only to win in the final minutes with a questionable (but legal) goal that breathed a sigh of relief to Red Wing fans everywhere. I really thought the Ducks matched the Wings shift by shift and deserved a better result. The Ducks could have been the first team in recent memory that have beaten the top two seeds in their conference.
The Hawks were the first team to advance to this round and the upstart Hawks continue to surprise and amaze with their never-quit attitude that has won them many come from behind games in the first two rounds. Though the defence has been shaky at times and Nikolai Khabibulin hasn't had to be spectacular yet, Chicago has found a way to win even when their opponents have tried to intimidate and hit the smaller Hawks. Chicago's best hope is that they don't take too many penalties and they don't trail the Wings early because Detroit will not blow leads like Vancouver did. Goaltending will be key, so Khabby better play like he did against the Wings in the Jet's last season and when he anchored Tampa Bay in their Cup victory. Though my heart is with Chicago, logic says Detroit is just too good to lose...but this year's playoffs have been anything but logical!
Chicago in 7
My series record so far: 9-3