With the conclusion of some exciting game seven's played last night, it is now time to move on the the conference finals. Here is my preview of the two (West and East).
Western Confernce Finals
Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks
This is an interesting matchup and should be exciting. Hockey in Chicago has been revived thanks to ownership that actually cares now and a solid young group of players. Detroit won four of the six games played between the two this season, including the outdoor game played at Wrigley Field on New Years Day. This is really a tough series to predict. The Red Wings are the defending Stanley Cup champions and the Blackhawks are an up and coming team. Detroit knows what it takes, while Chicago may be getting another lesson in what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. Chicago has the goaltending edge over Detroit for the simple fact that Chris Osgood has been inconsistent and Nikolai (I don't know how to spell his last name) has been playing outstanding so far. Chicago is very talented on the blueline (Brian Campbell) and have three outstanding young forwards (Kane, Toews and Sharp). But Detroit has experience and that could be the x-factor. We all know about them. My pick is Detroit in six.
This is the first time Detroit and Chicago have met in a playoff series since the 1995 Western Conference Finals. Detroit won the series.
Eastern Conference Finals
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Honestly, who would have thought in January or even February that the Pens would be in the Conference Finals? Not too many. But this team is resilient. They have rebounded from so much this season and in the playoffs too. The overall edge goes to the Penguins, because, lets face it, how do you go against Sidney Crosby when he is playing so well? He seems to really be motivated from last seasons loss in the Cup finals. The edge in goaltending has to go to Carolina. Cam Ward already has one Cup and a Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP). Overall I really feel the Penguins are a better team, but Cam Ward is the one man that could change that. Expect a simliar performance like the one Varlamov had in the 2nd round against the Penguins. If Gonchar is healthy that is a plus and of course the Stall brothers will be fun to watch too. It should be a good series. My pick is Penguins in 6.
Carolina is actually the Hartford Whalers. The team moved from Hartford following the 1996-97 season to Carolina. The two teams have never met in the playoffs before.
So there it is. Also on another side note, all games can be watched on the big screen outside Mellon Arena since it doesn't appear NBC will have any games in the series.