Okay, so I'm a little bit late getting these predictions up. Too much researching and writing on the Winnipeg Jets and the upcoming NBA draft lottery.
I went zero for four in Round Two , but really two of the four teams I wanted to win did: Montreal and San Jose. I was indifferent on Boston-Philly, but still, it was nice to see history made in Boston and the fact hardly anyone talked about it due to the little eight seed that could, Montreal.
Yes, my picks are one game late but what happened yesterday won't affect my picks as you'll read below.
Western Conference Finals No. 1 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks
Yes, if I haven't led the San Jose beatdown from day one, I've certainly assisted in it, and for good reason. When you fail as much as they have , until you show us something—as they did for the first two rounds—why should we believe you? Unlike some who discredit their last round win over an "old" Detroit Red Wings team, the fact remains that they did it, and they did it in a relatively short, easy series—five games.
Also, not to be lost in the melee is the fact they finally, finally, finally—did I mention finally—got production from the so-called "big three," the top line of Marleau-Thorton-Heatley, in addition to the always steady Joe Pavelski (pictured above). Taking all this in, its no wonder they won and they will continue to do so in this round all the way up to the Cup, if they can continue this recipe for success despite losing Game One at home.
These Sharks are starting to remind me of the 2008 Boston Celtics. Match one original Shark (Marleau) with the role of Paul Pierce as Original Celt. Mix in two previously loser-outsiders in Heatley and Thorton playing the roles of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and maybe then you will have a recipe for success where all can benefit.
Veteran presence wins championships, if you find the right chemistry of people wanting to all get something done that has alluded them thus far. Just for fun, Pavelski plays the role of Rajon Rondo setting everything up and besides, you get the feeling they go as he goes much like in Boston.
The Sharks don't have my full respect because I still don't trust them but they've at least got my attention because I just don't know what they are going to get out of the big three sloths on their top line each night. Still, all four of these teams are legit when you make it this far, with the weakest one—Philly—being the hottest, so look out.
As for Chicago, they are the more gritty, experienced team with Keith, Sharp, Toews, Kane, and Campbell—built for the playoffs. We aren't as surprised they are here and no one should be surprised if and when they win. Still, the Sharks could make it a long series but it all depends on if their whole team shows up.
Chicago in five.
Eastern Conference Finals No. 8 Montreal vs. No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers
ESPN has really beat this into the ground, losing one of its many appeals: No. 8 vs. No. 7 with No. 7 getting "home ice" as a result. Still, so far, the team that barely made it in—well, they both barely made it in—the Flyers, have defended home ice, dominating in a 6-0 win last night, which saw miracle goalie Halak get pulled.
Still, if he's anything like Luongo—or the last time Halak got pulled for that matter—he'll learn from this and his team will be better for it in the end. This is going to be a long series, easily the better of the two.
Both teams are filled with guys that can get it done and new goalie Michael Leighton, playing on his fourth NHL team (Carolina, Nashville, Chicago) may be even hotter than Halak. I've been pushing Halak hard for two rounds now but he may have found his match, which I didn't see coming. You also have to wonder if, like Halak, this is now his team, based on what he's done in such a short sample time.
Still, if Montreal is to make the Stanley Cup Finals, which they would with a win in this series, all they'd have done is beat the overall No. 1 seed and President's Cup winner in Washington, beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and finally, not to be outdone, beat the hottest team in the league (outside of Montreal themselves). At this point, however, I wouldn't count them out .
Montreal in seven (is there any other number?).