Philly Reign Staff
Holy playoff hockey, Batman! Last round we witnessed yet another nearly historical comeback by the Red Wings. Pekka Rinne, Joel Ward, and the rest of the Nashville Predators put themselves on the map by putting forth a hard-fought, blue collar effort against the Canucks. The Flyers, seemingly the favorites in the East, literally got their asses handed to them by the Bruins who satiated their need for revenge. Alex Ovechkin continues to feel playoff frustration as his Caps are swept by division-rival Tampa Bay.
For the record, Joe was once again tops in predictions with two out of four correct picks (Canucks, Lightning). Myself and Tim went one for four; I picked the Lightning, Tim the Bruins (that jerk!). And Mike? Well, Mike picked the Preds, Wings, Flyers, and Caps--all teams that were eliminated last round. Better luck this time around, buddy!
So what awaits us in the Conference Finals? Check it out!
Eastern Conference Finals: 3 Boston Bruins v. 5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Joe: Vezina favorite Tim Thomas has been off for a month it seems since ousting the Flyers in 4. Tampa’s stars have really shined in the first two rounds. Look for much of the same. If Seidenberg doesn't step up for the Bruins it could be a short series. I expect Chara to play close to 30 minutes per game and I expect Rollie the goalie to let in some bad goals. Thomas will be fighting for the Prince of Wales Trophy. The big question: will Chara touch the trophy when they win it? Bruins in 6.
Ty: On paper, the Boston Bruins look like clear favorites. After all, defense and goaltending win championships. But this is also a team I can’t get a lock on. They were taken to OT of Game 7 by the much smaller Canadiens, but easily handled the powerful Flyers. Another two huge variables to consider: Guy Boucher and the 1-3-1 trap. I expect the trap to frustrate Boston’s weaker offense. At the end of the day, look for Vinny Lecavalier to hoist the Prince of Wales Trophy. Lightning in 7.
Tim: How do you hide your weakness of a sub-par blue line group? Play amazing team defense. Tampa with their 1-3-1 system have been locking down opponents all year. And they have the fire power to score goals as well. St. Louis, Stamkos, and a rejuvenated Lecavalier have been stepping up all playoffs long. With secondary scoring from Downie and others, this team is scary good. Guy Boucher will lead his team to victory in this ECF. Mostly for spite, I’m picking Tampa. Lightning in 6.
Mike: What right in the world do I have to make any predictions? Seriously, I had each of these teams out in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Hell, I had the Caps sweeping the Bolts, and if that's enough for you to stop reading right now then I don't blame you in the least. Could I be just as nuts to think that Boston will take Tampa in 5? I congratulate the Lightning for getting this far, but Thomas and his yellow crew are gonna blow the Bay’s high hopes right outta the sky. Bruins in 5.
Western Conference Finals: 1 Vancouver Canucks v. 2 San Jose Sharks
Joe: A team that has never been to the Finals against a team that hasn't been there since Pavel Bure was in the League. Luongo has quieted the "playoff choke" talk and Joe Thornton has done the same for his squad. The Sedins need to perform in this series and not force Ryan Kesler to carry his team solely to the finals. Vancouver is my favorite to win the Cup so it would be funny to see Daniel and Henrik try to fight over who gets to lift the Cup first. Canucks in 6.
Ty: I’ve been hating on the Canucks for too long. This team has proven its resiliency and scoring depth by quelling a nearly historic comeback by playoff-rivals the Blackhawks and taking down a hard-working blue-collar Predators squad, all without much assistance from the Sedins and Kesler. The Sharks, meanwhile, have proven that they are no joke. Will Niemi tap into championship form, or will Luongo finally prove that he can carry his team to the Finals? Canucks in 7.
Tim: The perennial chokers have managed to ride the wave of momentum into the WCF this year. Vancouver hasn’t been to a WCF since 1994. Both of these teams are playing some stellar hockey. I think this will be an exciting series to watch. Thornton, Marleau, Setoguchi, and Boyle played one of the best playoff games of their career in Game 7 as San Jose slain the dragon, galvanizing them into true playoff warriors. Look for them to emerge from a hard fought series. Sharks in 7.
Mike: The Canucks have proven that their game can be slowed down and altered by great goaltending from the likes of Pikke Rinne. But the question is: Can Antti Niemi keep his undefeated playoff series record going with more brilliant performances in net? I believe so. We all thought this was just another year that the Fins would choke in the water in which they dwell. But after securing a win in Game 7 versus the Red Wings, I believe their strongest opposition is behind them. Sharks in 7.
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