A pair of game seven showdowns were needed to finalize both participants in the Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, both the Penguins and Bruins have been patiently waiting as they dispatched their second round opponents in relative ease. These two conference finals match four of the most impressive teams from the regular season who also happen to be the last four Stanley Cup champions.
Much like in previous years, my first round prowess was followed by little success in the second round. I hit two of my four picks in the second round and hopefully I’m at least able to ace the Conference Finals to save some face for my picks this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins
The Penguins enter this series with the title of pre-playoff favorite to win the Cup. After they called upon Tomas Vokoun to carry their playoff hopes in net, the Penguin juggernaut has maintained their impressive offensive output in both series against the Islanders and Senators.
Boston will likely benefit the most from the long layoff between the series as they were running a MASH unit along their blueline during their five-game triumph over the Rangers. While the Bruins won’t get all of their injured players back, it is safe to assume that the extra days off will benefit them in the long run.
Why the Penguins will win
Pittsburgh seems like a team of destiny. They have two incredibly potent scoring lines and that doesn’t even cover all of the scary offensive talent they possess. The Pens have also gotten strong contributions from Kris Letang and Paul Martin on defense and Vokoun has been more than serviceable in net. The key for Pittsburgh will be to simply score goals. If they get into tight checking games with the Bruins they will be in deep trouble. I think the Pittsburgh power play and their incredible depth will simply be too much to handle in the end.
Why the Bruins will win
Boston doesn’t have the same type of firepower the Penguins do but they do have the ability to line up a physical lineup that should be capable of taking the Penguins away from their game. While Pittsburgh isn’t some sort of weak sister when it comes to the physical side of things, the Bruins have been cast from a power forward factory. If they’re able to impose their physical will they will be successful in this series. I also think the key to a Bruins victory will lie with the ability of David Krejci’sd line to play effective two-way hockey against Pittsburgh’s top unit while finding a checking line to neutralize the other potent Penguins line.
Outcome: Penguins in six
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings
This is a series that strikes me as having two potential makeups. One could be a firewagon series that sees the Blackhawks open the game up and let their big guns fly. The other is one in which the Kings are able to buckle things down defensively and hash out a stifled, low scoring series. Hopefully we see a little more offense than in the Kings and Sharks series, but I’m not too hopeful that will be the case.
Why the Blackhawks will win
Like the Penguins, Chicago has the ability to ice a top six forward set that is nearly unparalleled across the league. While Jonathan Toews has been quiet this post season, his linemates (Hossa and Saad at times) are potent scorers who are well complimented by Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and others.
Corey Crawford is one of those goalies that just makes me a little nervous at times. He has had a great postseason and has proven to be capable of carrying a team through each round of the playoffs. What I’m curious to see is how he handles the crash and bang style of the Kings. If Crawford continues to stand tall I like the Blackhawks chances.
Why the Kings will win
The Kings are very well suited to shutting down the Blackhawks simply because they’ve done it twice already this postseason. After snuffing out the Canucks Wonder Twin attack the defending champs were able to keep the numerous big guns on the Sharks roster quiet in their seven-game triumph. While Los Angeles isn’t running a system in which they will score eight goals each night, they have the weapons to do so.
What they need to determine is if they’re capable of winning a road game and if they have the capability to outscore a team that will most certainly be generating chances. Their X-factor is Jonathan Quick. The longer this series goes, the more it favors Quick and the Kings.
Outcome: Blackhawks in six