2008 NHL Conference Final Preview and Predictions

Matthew HoganAnalyst IMay 4, 2008

Eastern Conference: (2) Pittsburgh Penguins Vs. (6) Philadelphia Flyers – Look’s like we have the battle of Pennsylvania. The Penguins surely looked like they were headed to this point from the first game of the playoffs, but nobody thought the Flyers would make it this far. Thanks to a strong effort from ex-Sabres Daniel Briere and Marty Biron, the Flyers find themselves just four wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals. Philadelphia crushed the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in the second round. After exploding for nine points in the first round series against the Washington Capitals, Briere has slowed his pace. He finished with just three points (2 G, 1 A) in the second round against the Canadiens, but did he ever make those points count. Briere’s two goals were both game-winners, one of which came with just over three minutes left in game four. Biron played well enough in net for the Flyers, stopping at least 30 shots in all five second round games. But beating the likes of Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev are much different than beating Sidney Crosby and MVP candidate Evgeni Malkin.

            In their second round series against the New York Rangers, Crosby and Malkin combined for 13 points in just five games. The only game where neither one of them registered a point, they lost. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been one of the best goalies this postseason and continued to show why in the second round. Though his numbers declined slightly against the Rangers, it isn’t anything to worry about. Fleury still had a .924 save percentage and a 2.16 goals against average in the second round. Overall he has a .937 save percentage and a 1.76 save percentage. Pittsburgh is the hottest team left in the playoffs and they show no signs of cooling. They’ve shown that they can come from behind and they don’t make too many mistakes. Series Prediction: Pittsburgh 4-1

            Western Conference: (1) Detroit Red Wings Vs (5) Dallas Stars – The Detroit Red Wings skated circles around the Colorado Avalanche in four games, while it took the Dallas Stars six games and quite a few overtime periods to beat the San Jose Sharks. Detroit is rested. Dallas is tired. But let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s no secret; the Red Wings are a good team. Johan Franzan has 11 goals and 14 points already this postseason. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each have 13 points respectively. Also, five of the top six players in the league in terms of plus/minus wear a Detroit uniform. Oh, and their current starting goaltender, Chris Osgood, is 6-0 with a .937 save percentage and a 1.52 goals against average. All of these facts contribute to a pretty intimidating resume; so Dallas should just mail the series in, right? Well, maybe, but let’s give the Stars a chance to rebuttal.

             Mike Ribeiro has been a devastating force this year for the Stars and has continued his rampage into the postseason. He currently has 14 points (3 G, 11 A). Captain Brendan Morrow showed exactly why he is captain when he scored the quadruple-overtime series-winner against the San Jose Sharks in the second round. He also had 63 hits including an amazing 19 in the last game of the series against the Sharks. Morrow and former Conn Smythe-winner Brad Richards each have 11 points respectively.  Dallas’ goaltender Marty Turco currently has a .916 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average. In his most recent game he stopped 61 shots in four overtimes and picked up the win in the process. Dallas has the players to match up with Detroit. Dallas has the talent to match up with Detroit. Dallas has the goaltending to match up with Detroit. But Dallas has played a lot more hockey than Detroit and they are tired. I’m not saying Dallas won’t win this series, but the Red Wings are in the zone right now. Series Prediction: Detroit 4-2