Friday, May 15, 2009

Conference Finals Preview

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.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pens Advance To Conference Finals!!!

What a series. What a matchup. Hockey fans couldn't have asked for anything better during the 7 games that the Capitals and Penguins played. The only thing that would have made this better, would have been if the series was the Stanley Cup Finals. Crosby and Ovechkin both showed why they are the two best players in the world. It was simply one of the best series in recent memory. Some are saying that it ranks with some of the best seven game series in hockey history.

Regardless, last night was a little anti-climatic. Pens and Caps fans probably thought going into game seven, that the game would be decided by one goal for sure, perhaps even an overtime or two. This series had every thing except for a blowout and a multiple OT game. We finally did get a little bit of everything. The better team prevailed in this series. The only reason it went seven games was because rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov stole some games and that was what made the difference in the series. If he isnt in net, this would have been a 5 game series easily, maybe even a sweep.

The play of the game last night however, was Fluery's stop of Ovechkin on a breakaway. If Ovie scores on that breakaway, I think we see a totally different game. I still think that the Pens were going to win, but maybe if that shot goes in, its a different game. Fluery made the big save when he needed to. The Pens now wait for the winner of the Boston/Carolina series.

Here is my prediction for tonights game sevens...
Boston/Carolina: Carolina had control of this series. They had a 3-1 series lead. Boston fought back to force a game seven. This doesnt look good for the Hurricanes. Boston is probably one of the best teams in hockey right now. They have a ton of depth. I think Carolina has a goaltending edge however in Cam Ward. The guy is amazing and already has one cup under his belt. But I think it is going to be a collapse for the Canes. Bruins win.
Anaheim/Detroit: Here is another great series. Both teams hate each other. Anaheim apparently is sick of Detroits ways, because at the end of Game 6, they started beating up on Detroits stars literally. This one could go either way. I think Detroit has the edge however. They are a very deep team and the defending champs. As much as I hate them and would love to see them eliminated, I just dont see it happening. Red Wings win.

One more thing.....
Phoenix filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is somthing that Penguins fans know all too well (Pens filed twice in their existence). It looks like the team may be moved but the NHL is saying they are behind the Phoenix area and want it to recover. My bet is the NHL allows the team to move. I think it would be better for everyone in this case. I hate to see it happen, but to me it is only a matter of time until the Coyotes leave town. The team would probably be relocated to Kansas City or to Canada. KC seems likely since they have a new arena in place and wanted the Pens very badly. If the team would move to Canada, its hard to say where it would go. I personally would like to see a team back in Quebec, but that is probably unlikely. Winnipeg I believe lost their team because they couldn't support the franchise. Hamilton seems likely or maybe Toronto could get a second team. I don't think that would be wise, but you can never be to sure until it happens. New York has two teams. Several other cities in other sports have two teams. Who knows.