While I was watching the Winter Classic on New Year's Day and Detroit and Chicago played that beautifully executed up-tempo back and forth hockey game, all I could think was wouldn't this make a great Western Final. Well, spring has come and here we are.
The Bruins couldn't manage to beat what I can only say is a mediocre-looking Carolina team. The Bruins looked nervous last night. They were a couple of defencemen shy and couldn't seem to put the Hurricanes away.
Carolina got a great series out of Cam Ward, and Eric Staal. Chad Larose, Seidenberg and Joe Corvo were all strong. There didn't seem to be much else in that line-up worth talking about.
Mr. Cheapshot managed to get himself a game-winning goal. Hopefully, that takes the edge off for him. It's unfortunate that this Bruins team couldn't have played better. They seemed to deserve a better fate.
This has been one of the better sets of playoff series that I've seen in recent years. Hopefully this continues into the next round.
Western Final: Chicago Blackhawks vs Detroit Red Wings
This Original Six match up looks to be a great one. Detroit beat Chicago four games to two in the regular season, losing the last games, a back-to-back series in April.
The Red Wings have Kopecky out. Rafalski is just back from injury. Lilja is still nursing a concussion. Chicago has come through healthy, and they've had an easier path then Detroit.
Chris Osgood had some scary moments in last night's game seven. He is the worst statistical goalie left in the playoffs by far. Chicago's deep and mobile offence could highlight his weakness.
The Red Wings managed to win their tough series with Anaheim with Osgood between the pipes.
It's a little like winning a fight with one arm tied behind your back. Detroit is so good and so responsible defensively they could afford the handicap. Khabibulin is much better in nets then Osgood.
Chicago doesn't have the overwhelming talent of a Getzlaf to break down the Detroit defence. They're going to depend on an attack in depth to do that.
If Rafalski is really healthy then Detroit has their big three back and they're ready to roll defensively. Stuart has been solid for them.
Their offense has struggled with some players shut down but Detroit like Chicago has that talented depth. When Datsyuk isn't hitting, Franzen picks it up.
I believe this is the series where Chicago's youth finally begins to count against them. This Detroit team has won Cups and knows what it takes.
I'm hoping this series goes seven and is one for the decade. There are tons of talent on both sides.
Chicago's slightly higher risk defence is balanced by their superior goaltending. In the end it comes down to experience and I'm taking Detroit in seven.
DETROIT IN 7
Eastern Final: Carolina Hurricanes vs Pittsburgh Penguins
From the beginning of the playoffs, I thought the Eastern final would have the winner of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series finishing off Boston.
Well, I ran with Philadelphia and now Boston is gone too, but I still think the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia winner makes it to the Stanley Cup.
Carolina has superior goaltending, their defence has been steady, and Eric Staal has been unbelievable.
Unfortunately, one line teams tend to get bounced in the playoffs. Usually, it happens much earlier then this.
Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke will sit on Eric all series. No one else on Carolina has shown any inclination to score. Pittsburgh has two strong scoring lines lead by two of the best players left in the playoffs, Crosby and Malkin.
An injured Gonchar and Letang are still better on the point then one Joe Corvo. Boucher is a nice veteran presence to be able to substitute in.
Marc-Andre' Fleury after looking like he had his game together is again starting to self destruct as the games get more important. He's wired too tight for the playoffs.
The goal he gave up in the game seven blow-out was incomprehensible. It only gets worse from here.
Fleury may make it close but I don't believe this Carolina team can score with Pittsburgh and even if they manage to, they won't stop Crosby and Malkin.
Pittsburgh in 6
Record so far:
1st round: 6-2
2nd Round: 3-1
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