I usually do these before the first round of the playoffs, but I'm a little late this year. So I decided to do a little something different. Usually I do all the rounds going to the Stanley Cup Finals at once, but now I'm going to do this round and wait for the next round to post those predictions. And away we go.
Pittsburgh vs New York Rangers. Pittsburgh looks like the team to beat. Their superstars Crosby and Malkin are playing great. The deadline deals by Ray Shero to pick up Marion Hossa, Pascal Dupuis, and Hall Gill look like genius moves. Marc-Andre Fleury has been lights-out since coming back from his injury. But we can't count the Rangers out. Jagr has been playing inspired hockey and their veteran leadership of Shannahan, Gomez, and Drury (who I'm a huge fan of) knows how to win when it counts. The Penguins are currently up 2-0, but before the round started I called Penguins in 7. This may be amended to 6, but I'd be surprised if the Rangers rolled over any earlier.
Montreal vs Philadelphia. Before the series started, I would've said Montreal in 5. The Canadiens were the top team in the Eastern Conference, but took seven games to eliminate the Bruins. Philadelphia's goalie Martin Biron has done a good job keeping the Flyers close in every game this playoff season and outright stole Game 2 in Montreal. The Canadiens gave the Flyers fits all season, but Philly has hung tough in both games so far. I'm still picking Montreal in 6 games.
Detroit vs Colorado. Detroit was once again tops in the league, but this time actually look like they can do something in the playoffs. They almost let Game 1 slip away, but manhandled Colorado in Game 2. I haven't seen much of this series, so I'm just basing this on what I know about each team. Detroit in 5.
Dallas vs San Jose. San Jose is another team, like Detroit, that usually has a great season but does nothing come playoff time. They did a little better this year by beating Calgary in 7 games led by veteran Jeremy Roenick. They also have one of the league's top goalies in Evgeni Nabokov and picked up the biggest name defenseman available at the trading deadline in Brian Campbell. Dallas dispatched the defending champ Anaheim Ducks with surprising ease. They've been playing great after slow start to the season and goalie Marty Turco is always dangerous. I think this one will go seven games, but I'm not sure who will come out on top. I'm going to go with San Jose, though.
So, my calls for the conference finals are Pittsburgh vs Montreal in the East and Detroit vs San Jose in the West. Both would be phenomenal match ups.