Previewing the NHL Conference Semifinals

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Previewing the NHL Conference Semifinals
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins (1) vs. (6) Carolina Hurricanes

The Boston Bruins have proved all season to be one of the sports' elite teams.  A Vezina Trophy nominee in net, the Captain nominated for the Norris Trophy and finally got the monkey off of their backs in the form of a sweep of the Montreal Canadiens, a team they haven't beaten in a post-season series in over a decade.

The Carolina Hurricanes came into the playoffs without home ice and facing a red-hot Devils team.

The Hurricanes proved in their series with New Jersey that nothing is over until the final horn.  In Game seven of their series, the Devils were up 3-2 with 1:20 seconds left in the third period. 

New Jersey fans were getting ready to buy tickets for round two when tragedy struck the "Swamp".  Jussi Jokinen scored a goal to tie the hockey game to send this thriller into extra time---time the Canes did not need.

48 seconds after the game was tied, superstar Eric Staal rushed up the ice and sniped a shot past Devils keeper (and future HOF'er) Martin Brodeur, sending the 2006 Cup Champions into a frenzy.

"What a finish. It's hard to believe right now just because we were down 3-2 with only two minutes to go. How quickly things can change. That's why you never give up and play until the final buzzer." said Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward.

Now, the Hurricanes will tangle with another powerful team in Boston.

The thing to look for in this series should be the wear and tear of the Canes after a tough back-and-forth first round against a well-rested and confident Bruins team.  Who will win?  Domination or grit and determination.  This could be a classic.

Season Series: Boston 4-0

Game One is on May 1 at 7 pm in Boston.

 

Washington Capitals (2) vs.(4) Pittsburgh Penguins

Every marketing outlet will be on this series from beginning to end and for good reason.  After the lockout, two elite superstars emerged from the smoke as rookies and took the NHL by storm: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

Since then, not much has changed.  Both have been compared to each other and to other veterans such as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

This will be the first post-season meeting between the two players and went through a lot to be in this position.

The Caps came back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Rangers as the Pens defeated their state rivals in six games.  The Flyers did not have an answer when Pittsburgh poured out five unanswered goals to defeat the Broadstreet Bullies 5-3 and clinch the series.

Ovie and Sid have told various media outlets in the past that they don't like each other but that isn't the only story.  Both teams have many different weapons to use in this series if the hatred gets out of hand for the two young leaders.

Young guns including Evgeni Malkin, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner as well as Dupuis, Talbot and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury have proved to give teams fits and with the addition of veterans Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, this Penguins team looks set to repeat as the Eastern Conference representatives in the Final.

They will have to answer to Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green with rookie Simeon Varlamov, who has been backstopping the Caps since Game one of these playoffs.

As stated above, this series is one of the most star-studded in years and for the winner to face either the powerhouse Bruins or the "Cinderella" Hurricanes, this will shape up to be a great series.

Season Series: Washington 3-0-1

Game One is on May 2 at 1 pm in Washington.

 

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. (8) Anaheim Ducks

The Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks are in the semi-finals and are the last two teams to lift Stanley's mug.

Detroit broke the curse by sweeping the Jackets and the Ducks upset the Sharks, a team that had high hopes after winning the President's Trophy.

Both teams are loaded with experience and aren't strangers to each other, meeting each other four times in the post-season in the past, each winning two series, most recently in the 2007 Western Conference Final when the Ducks knocked off Detroit in six to advance and win the Stanley Cup over the Ottawa Senators.

Another notable series was in the 2003 Quarter-Finals, a series also known as "Giguere's Breakout Party."  The Ducks swept the Red Wings and went on to the Finals and even though the Devils were champions, Giguere's play earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy, the last person (to date) to win the award and not the Cup.

This year is a little different.  Jonas Hiller has emerged as a star for the Duck franchise and brought his team to a date with the Wings, though Giguere may get the start in Game one.

Season Series: Detroit 3-0-1.

Game One is on May 1 at 7 pm in Detroit.

 

Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. (4) Chicago Blackhawks

Compared to the history between the other three match-ups, this series could prove to be a sleeper but don't let it fool you.

The Canucks are loaded with talent from top to bottom.  They performed a sweep of the Blues and the Blackhawks are looking to take out a second Canadian team in a row after defeating Calgary in round one.

The Canucks have done great things to their roster since the beginning of the season.  They made Luongo a captain, signed Mats Sundin, the Sedin twins made an impact on the scoreboard and have done everything possible to make the city of Vancouver look good before they host the world in the 2010 Olympics.

The Hawks are resurfacing as a threat.  Great drafting and signing has built this franchise and the fans have come out in bunches to support their team.  Toews, Kane, Keith, Havlat, Sharp, the list goes on but shows one message: the Blackhawks are coming.

Though these teams have shown guts and think they know what it takes to win it all, they know it's going to be a tough road to travel and may do it virtually alone.

Combined, the teams have three Stanley Cup rings, all within Chicago. (Andrew Ladd, Pahlson, Khabibulin).

Season Series: Tied 2-2

Game One is on April 30 at 9 pm in Vancouver.

 

Predictions

  • Boston in six; Pittsburgh in six
  • Anaheim in seven; Vancouver in seven
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