2010 NHL Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview

Two rounds of playoff action are in the books and history has been made. While everything in the Western Conference went according to plan, the Eastern Conference has seen history made repeatedly. As a result, the first vs. second seed matchup in the West is the complete opposite of the East where the seventh and eighth seed faceoff. Two teams are just four wins away from being able to raise a banner to the rafters while one team is just eight wins away from raising Lord Stanley’s Cup. After going nine for twelve in the first two rounds, I try to pick who will play for the Stanley Cup.

Eastern Conference

#7 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens (TV: CBC, Versus)
The tagline for this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs is “History will be made.” Well, I’d say most of the history made in this post-season is from Montreal and Philadelphia. Jaroslav Halak played out of his mind as the Habs ousted both the President’s Trophy champion Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers walked right through the New Jersey Devils but also became the fourth team to come back from 0-3 down to win a playoff series in any major sport. Like in the last two series, the Habs are at a huge disadvantage in the size department. Unlike the Pens and Caps, the Flyers will hit you hard, then his you hard again. The Caps and especially the Pens were soft in physical play. If the Flyers want to win the series, they’ll need to pummel everyone into submission. Mind you, the Flyers somehow keep finding a way to win without their stars. Players just seem to keep stepping up and making big plays. I would say they’re even offensively but the Flyers are a stronger defensive team. Mike Richards is the best defensive forward in the game right now and should be paired against the Cammalleri line. Well matched lines should give a slight offensive edge to the Flyers now that I reconsider. Goaltending will make the difference, though. Who would you rather have right now: Jaroslav Halak or Michael Leighton? That’s what I thought.
Prediction: Montreal in 7

Western Conference

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #2 Chicago Blackhawks (TV: TSN, NBC, Versus)
The whole hockey world is shocked that this is the Western Conference matchup as much as how the East played out. It’s not the fact that it is #1 vs #2. It’s the fact that the #1 seed is the San Jose Sharks. Aren’t they supposed to have imploded, collapse, and choked by now? We thought that they were finished when they were down 2-1 to Colorado. We all thought that Detroit would massacre them. Turns out that they got through on the strength of Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski. The big three have been hit and miss with more hit in the Detroit series than the Colorado one. As for Chicago, they dominated the Canuckleheads. I’d say they had a harder time with the Preds. The Sharks are a better team than Nashville and Vancouver but have far inferior goaltending. Everyone contributed on the attack for Chicago and that will quickly become Evgeni Nabakov’s worst nightmare. And Pavelski’s nightmare will be the tag team of Seabrook and Keith who will likely shut him down. Only the Hossa curse can stop the Hawks now.
Prediction: Chicago in 6


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