With the NHL Conference Finals starting up tonight, I think this would be an appropriate time for me to predict the winners of the two playoff series. Tonight, the Eastern Conference Finals start with the #3 Boston Bruins facing off against the #5 Tampa Bay Lightning. Tomorrow in the Western Conference Finals, the #1 Vancouver Canucks host the #2 San Jose Sharks. Before we get to my picks for these series, lets look back at the picks I made before the playoffs began. Now, I didn’t post them on this site here, but I did on others, so bare with me.
In the Eastern Conference playoffs, I got every single series right so far. Picking the first round was very easy and since I thought the Bruins were the team to beat once they acquired Tomas Kaberle, they advanced to these finals along with Tampa because the Caps seems to disappoint every single year. So, my pick of the Lightning and Bruins was correct. For the Western Conference playoffs, the only series I got wrong in the first round was picking the Kings over the Sharks, which completely messed up my bracket here since the latter is in the final four. I then had Nashville winning another series by upsetting the Detroit Red Wings, but for seeding purposes, that matchup didn’t even happen. So I had the Canucks against the Preds in the Western Conference. Turns out, my Bruins over Canucks pick can still happen.
The Bruins have had solid goaltending all year with Tim Thomas in net, who set a new league record this year for save percentage in a single season. Their balanced offense and solid blue-line contribute to many wins and their power-play hasn’t even woken up yet, so imagine how dangerous this team could be if that starts to click? Nathan Horton has been so clutch this year and young guns Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have been playing out of their minds. On the other side, Dwayne Roloson has found the fountain of youth after being kicked to the curb by the New York Islanders. They have arguably the most electric (no pun intended) player in the game in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis is still underrated after all these years. A healthy Steve Downie has also been so helpful to a team that has to find secondary offense to keep the opposition honest. Both of these teams benefit from extra rest after both teams swept their semifinals matchups.
In the other series, there are two teams that usually choke in postseason play, so something has to give. San Jose and Vancouver have both been spectacular as of late in the regular season, but once April and May rolls around, both teams hibernate and end up finishing the year on a sour note. Some people are calling this year’s Canucks team the best team in NHL history, which is preposterous. Comparing Ryan Kesler to Mark Messier is wrong on so many levels, although he is a solid two-way forward. Roberto Luongo needs to be steady in goal for this team to reach the promised land for the first time since 1994. The Sedin twins will inevitably be there and Alex Burrows and others have to play smart. For San Jose, their power-play needs to take advantage of opportunities and be more aggressive. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau sort of got rid of a demon by performing well in a Game 7, but there is still work left to be done. Niemi has once again been a rock in the playoffs and the defensemen have done just enough to get by. They’ll need to be even been this series to stop a juggernaut offensive attack north of the border.
So who am I going to pick this round? I’m sticking with my gut and picking the Bruins and Canucks to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup, so one of these teams will either win for the first time, or win and break a long drought. Boston wins their series in 5 games thanks to their team balance and Vancouver wins their series in 6 games. Although the games are overshadowed by the sudden death of New York Rangers’ tough guy Derek Boogaard, who was found dead in his apartment yesterday. Hopefully, the Bruins and Canucks (both home teams) do the right thing and observe a moment of silence for the loss in the NHL family.