Earlier, I posted my NHL first round preview and picked winners in each series. But the most important picks would be the Stanley Cup Champion, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
The Detroit Red Wingsdo have the NHL's top record, but that rarely guarantees success in the playoffs. They also boast one of the oldest rosters in the NHL, but I do think they will get to the conference finals, as they did last year. Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks got hot at the right time, and seem poised to ride that momentum deep into June. They may have to face Minnesota, Dallas, or Anaheim to reach the conference finals, but they are healthy and Evgeni Nabokov could be the difference. In a Sharks-Red Wings conference finals, I'll take the Sharks in six to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup finals.
In the East, things appear a little more wide-open, with any of the top five teams having a legitimate claim to winning the conference title. Will Sidney Crosby lead his team deep in the playoffs? Can Alexander Ovechkin score enough to power the Capitals? In the end, I think the top two seeds will prevail, and Montreal will win in seven epic games.
And so it comes down to the Sharks and the Canadiens for the Stanley Cup. Montreal has an incredible tradition of finding stellar goaltenders, but I believe it will be the play of another team's excellent goaltender that will deny the Habs their 25th Stanley Cup title. Evgeni Nabokov will lead his team to the Stanley Cup, and win the Conn Smythe Trophy.