Eastern Conference Preview: The Battle of Pennsylvania
What can I say about the Eastern Conference. Well for one the winner will come from Pennsylvania. Secondly both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are really good teams coming into the Finals. Philadelphia is the Cinderella team of the playoffs. Pittsburgh on the other hand is a powerhouse only losing 1 of the 9 games played. The only loss came in Game 4 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Both teams have star players that have stepped up in order to get where they are today. Philadelphia has Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell, Mike Richards, Vaclav Prospal, Kimmo Timonen, Derian Hatcher, and Marty Biron. Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa, Petr Sykora, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sergei Gonchar, Daryl Sydor, Jordan Staal, and Pascal Dupuis. The players who have come out of know where for their respective teams are R.J. Umberger for the Flyers, and Evgeni Malkin for the Pens. Now yes Malkin is a great player but he only produced 2 goals and 5 assists against Ottawa.
What more can I say about Pittsburgh except that they are the best team in the playoffs right now. They swept the defending Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa Senators in the First Round and took the #5 seed New York Rangers in 5 games. The acquisition of Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis at the trade deadline was one of the best if not the best trade made. Brad Stuart was a good pick up for the Red Wings, but Hossa and Dupuis have proved that they deserve to be on this team and in the playoffs. Now after sweeping the Senators in Round 1, I know many many hockey fans were looking forward to seeing Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals come to town and have the Pens and Caps square off in Round 2. Unfortunately Philly came in and took the Caps to town. In the Second Round Pittsburgh played the New York Rangers. The Rangers had just come off a 4-1 series win against the New Jersey Devils who have been just terrible in the playoffs. The Devils have not made it past the semifinals since 2003 when they last won the Cup. New York was rolling making some people think that they could be a contender if they can beat the hot Penguins. The Penguins were on fire in Game 1 and 2 and got lucky in Game 3. Game 4 was not so lucky as they were shutout by the Rangers and were up in the series 3-1. Back in Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena, they knew that losing Game 5 would not be good because they did not want the Rangers having that much momentum going back to New York. Luckily for the Pens, Marian Hossa was there to save the day. The Penguins moved on after winning the series 4-1.
Philadelphia face the Washington Capitals in the First Round. They were huge underdogs, at least in my mind. Washington deserved to be in the playoffs as much as everyone wanted Pittsburgh to beat the Senators. Washington proved to be a worthy opponent as this series went to seven games. Joffrey Lupul scored the game winner in overtime in Game 7. Ovechkin played a great series and with that the Capitals kept Bruce Boudreau and will have a great team next year. Look out for Ovechkin and the Caps, as they will be a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Philadelphia looked as if they outplayed Washington the last 2 games but Washington battled hard. In the end Philadelphia moved on to play the Montreal Canadiens, the top seed in the East. Montreal played very well in Game 1 against the Flyers but Montreal couldn't keep up. Philadelphia won the next four games and was on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals winning the series 4-1.
Pittsburgh has the more well rounded team and will definitely beat the Flyers. Philly will put up a good fight and there will be a huge rivalry but in the end the Penguins will take the series in 5 or 6 games. The Cinderella Flyers had a good run but it will end against Pittsburgh. Game 1 starts Friday night at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh on Versus at 7:30. Be prepared to see mostly Pittsburgh fans, but there will be some orange in the crowd. Don't worry Pens fans, Crosby and Hossa will shut them down.
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