NHL Playoffs in High Gear: Conference Finals Underway
With Game One in the Western Conference Finals out of the way, the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in a rough spot, down 1-0 to the favored, experienced Detroit Red Wings.
As much as I can not stand the Red Wings, I can't see them not making another Stanley Cup Finals appearance. They are just too experienced, too big, and too good to lose out to a young, inexperienced Chicago team that had caught fire in the two previous series they won.
But don't be surprised if it happens.
However, in order for this to happen, Chicago needs a lot more production from its top two lines, something it did not get in Game One. They also just can not leave Nikolai Khabibulin out to dry, else this series is going to be relatively short.
The defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook couldn't handle Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary, or Jiri Hudler, the line that seems to have taken control for the Red Wings in the 2009 Playoffs.
Keith and Seabrook shut down the likes of Jerome Iginla and Mike Cammaleri against the Flames, and also contained the "-din" line very well, keeping the Sedin twins' and Sundin's point totals relatively low in the series against Vancouver. They'll need to do the same against Detroit's line of playoff workhorses in order to keep this series tight.
The good news for Chicago is that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg (save for the empty net goal) have been relatively quiet since the first round, and will probably want it kept that way so that they don't get blown out.
As for the Eastern Conference Finals, I've counted the Carolina Hurricanes out of series one and series two, with no luck of them losing out to either team. However, I can't see the Penguins laying down and allowing the Hurricanes to trample over them.
Scott Walker had better be careful with those sucker punches, because he will sure get a good six game suspension for the slightest touch to any of those pretty-boy Penguins (I'm looking at you, Sidney). Cam Ward may have finally met his match with Marc-Andre Fleury.
Another interesting tidbit about this series is the battle of the Staal Brothers, which is something the NHL has probably waited for ever since they found out there were four Staal brothers waiting to get into the league. Other than that, I see the Penguins taking this series, allowing for a SCF 2008 rematch between the Red Wigns and the Penguins, although I would love for Chicago to ruin that. Carolina, on the other hand, can stay behind either way.
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