Wow! What a second round that was. All the series played out great and so far, this has been the best playoffs I’ve ever seen. Kudos to the NHL… now if only we could get the referee’s to be as good. Overall, their performance and blown calls runs similar to Tim Thomas and rebounds – get it fixed before it becomes more costly. Sorry Bruins fans, but you knew Thomas’ weak rebound control was going to be a factor sooner or later.
Before we get to SC.net’s third round predictions, a quick note on the Carolina Hurricanes for their amazing run. They remind me a lot of the Montreal Canadiens who won the Stanley Cup in 1993 – no current superstars, other than an amazing goaltender but played so well together. It’s also validating for Paul Maurice, less than a year after being exiled from Toronto. He’s been to the finals before and has a shot at it again this year.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Carolina Hurricanes
Burgundy: Penguins in 6 games; seeing Sidney Crosby vs Eric Staal should be quite the match up, but I think Sid is on another level after being pitted against Alex Ovechkin in the series of the year. The Canes are a fast team, but I think Pittsburgh’s grit and equally good defense (if not better) will wear down Carolina. I expect Malkin to have a huge series, as Crosby will targetted heavily. As with my Western prediction, this series will show Pittsburgh’s depth, helping them win.
Fantana: Penguins in 6 games; Staal’s a great leader for the Hurricanes but after watching Crosby pick up the Penguins and lead them to victory over Washington, how do you bet against Sid the Kid? Crosby will find a way to score on Cam Ward and I’m thinking that Malkin will finally break through this series. See ya Cardiac ‘Canes… it’s been fun.
Mantooth: Penguins in 6 games; If Fleury can keep in the net and stop trying to puck handle, and the Pens offense can figure out Ward. I give this one to Pittsburgh. Even though I have discounted the Canes in both round 1 and 2, I think that Sid is going to be too much for them.
Tambland: Penguins in 5 games; Oh man, who do you think they are cheering for in Thunder Bay for this one. I bet there’s a line that’s been drawn down the middle of the living room in the Staal household. On the one side, Red and White uphoulstry. On the other side, Black and Gold. But I think it’s the younger Staal’s turn and Stanley. Eric already has it, and should be practicing for the 2010 Olympics. The Penguins have proven me wrong for the last time (see first round predictions and Conference Semi-Finals Game 7 predictions.
Baxter: Penguins in 7 games; Gonchar needs to get healthy. Fast. Or else it doesn’t even matter how many hat tricks Crosby fires. This is really about whether a talented Pittsburgh offence go beat a hot goalie more times than an average Carolina offence can beat an average goalie.
Detroit Red Wings vs Chicago Blackhawks
Burgundy: Red Wings in 7 games; this series will be close, but I believe Detroit’s experience will hold up against the young Hawks. My only concerns are the Red Wings defense core: is Bryan Rafalski and Nik Kronvall healthy? And will Dustin Byfuglien get under the Wing’s feathers enough? Detroit’s forwards are slightly stronger in this series and should prove the difference.
Fantana: Red Wings in 7 games; I want a re-match of last year’s Stanley Cup Final! I think Detroit faced a really tough Ducks team that pushed them harder than they’ve been pushed in a long time… the Wings will build off this victory and will over-match the young Hawks.
Mantooth: Blackhawks in 7 games; It’s hard to go against the Wings, but seeing the fight that the Ducks put up, goes to show that they too have their weaknesses. I am putting my hope in the Hawks to take this one one pure youth alone. Plus I need Toews and Havlat to put up some decent numbers for my pool.
Tambland: Blackhawks in 7 games; Again, this is a coming of age story. The NHL is going to have wet dreams all summer long when Sid the Kid meets the young Blackhawks in the Finals. As much as I’d love to see Hossa lose the Stanley Cup to the team he snubbed in the off-season, the Wings won’t be able to handle the speedy young Hawks squad. Watching goaltending become an issue here again.
Baxter: Hawks in 6 games; Ok, I’m getting tired of second-guessing this pesky Chicago team. Can’t beat these kids. And now they’re well rested. Detroit may have exhausted themselves trying to get by Anaheim.
It’s interesting to note that three of the four goalies remaining in this year’s NHL playoffs are previous Stanley Cup winners within the last 4 seasons, and the fourth goalie – Marc-Andre Fleury was last year’s runner up.
Stay classy, conference finals.