Stanley Cup Finals: DBD Preview and Predictions

Brandon and Pat took the Habs in the Conference Finals, while Art and I smarty prognosticated the Flyers in the East. Then, in quite the reversal, Art and I both said the Sharks in the West while Brandon and Pat correctly chose the Hawks. So I guess we're all even on that round.

This has been fun, but all good things must end, and so too must the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I think we're all just thankful for two new franchises to watch this year, even if Marian Hossa must once again be endured. So without further adieu...

(2) Chicago vs (7) Philadelphia

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Art:

Ya know thank goodness the NHL decided to bow to pressure from NBC to put the final on hold until this weekend because that's given me almost enough time to figure out who I want to pick... Almost.

Chicago has impressed the heck out of me over the last two rounds.  Not that their offense or defense was surprising mind you, but Antti Niemi's play has for me been maybe the biggest surprise of all these playoffs.  So picking the Hawks like pretty much all the other experts - along with my DBD co-horts - have done seems like a no-brainer right?

Still I can't shake this feeling that the Hawks haven't yet faced a team in these playoffs that is as "together" with their game as the Flyers are.  The likes of the Predators, Canucks and Sharks can't match the toughness that Philly can bring to this final.  The return of Jeff Carter has been huge for the Flyers, Mike Richards has been a wrecking ball on the ice and I still can't get over how well Simon Gagne has played and how he's upped his physical play.

So for me this thing has been kind of a coin flip type deal...  I want to pick the Hawks, but I can't ignore the Flyers.  But then I remembered one key factor going into this final that clinched my pick.

Proverbial Stanley Cup bridesmaid Hossa plays for the Blackhawks.

Nuff said.  Flyers in 6.

Brandon, Pat and Brad after the jump...

Brandon:

Of course, I'm going to pick the Hawks. In 5. Might as well end the suspense right up front.

But even if I was an objective fan, I'd still pick them for the same reasons Pat mentioned.

We already knew the Hawks were loaded offensively. We already knew they were solid on the blueline.

The question was always in goal. And while Niemi had a slow start to these playoffs (lest we forget, they were down 2-1 to the Predators and surrendered 4 goals in 4 of the first 5 games of that series), he's been clutch the rest of the way and outplayed Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov in the last two series.

Granted Micheal Leighton's no slouch. Afterall, he helped key Philly's 0-3 comeback over Boston.

Speaking of Boston, did the Red Sox sell their souls to the devil back in 2004? Because there's no other explanation for the Bruins already choking away a 3-0 lead and the Celtics being in the process of choking away a 3-0 series themselves.

[Note: My take was before Game 6 was played in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals were played. Obviously, Boston stopped the bleeding and advanced to the NBA Finals, so talk of this soul selling to the devil in Beantown has been put on hold.]

But I digress. Because the Hawks aren't the Bruins.

And Philly will find out firsthand that Chicago possesses none of the warts on their game that New Jersey, Boston, and Montreal did. And thus, the Hawks will bring Chicago it's first Cup in 49 years.

Pat:

Well, I guess you could say I'm a bit disappointed. For two reasons:

1. I'm angry the Flyers made it this far.
2. I wish we had a more difficult finals to predict.

Because honestly, there's no way in heck Chicago doesn't win this series. I've said all year that all Chicago needs is solid goaltending to win a championship. Everything else is in place. Johnathan Toews is playing with a Conn Smythe trophy in mind. Patrick Kane is playing like....well, like he always does. Marian Hossa has been solid. Dustin Byfuglien has suddenly become the very definition of clutch. Brent Seabrook and Duncan "I've Got Teeth Lodged In The Back Of My Throat But Frankly I Don't Give A Damn" Keith are about as reliable a defensive pair as you'll find in the playoffs. And finally (FINALLY) they've found a wall in net in Antii Niemi. Talk about a goalie getting hot at the right time.....Niemi has filled the final piece of the puzzle when the Hawks needed it filled the most.

What about the Flyers, you ask? Well, they've got heart, I'll give them that. They're gritty, they're clutch, they're resilient. They've convinced me that I can't overlook them. So I won't. But I can't ignore their penchant for taking unnecessary and untimely penalties. You can get away with that against an offensively drained Bruins team. You can get away with that against a Canadiens squad that is getting offense from about two players. But you won't get away with that against such a loaded power play like the Hawks. Chicago simply executes when they need too, and Philly tends to make too many mistakes for me to have much hope in them this series.

Hawks in 6. A very tight six, mind you. 

Brad:

I'm clawing and clutching and grabbing, trying to find a Stars connection to this Finals, but there's not much here.

Forget what I think about the outcome. I think Chicago will win, I think they'll do it in about six games. Their sweep of the Sharks was a statement worth listening to, and I think that the Eastern Conference needs to prove some things to me before I would ever think about picking the freaking Flyers, tough as they are and as impressive as they have been.

I'm looking at this thing from the standpoint of "When the puck drops, who am I going to be pulling for?"

My usual stance on these things in any sport is that if it's not my team, then I don't want it to be another team from my conference. I'm the petulant little boy who says "If I can't play with it, nobody (from my conference) can." But the Blackhawks don't present any major rivalry to me or some kind of bothersome presence.

It's true that the Chicago fans who flooded the American Airlines Center this year were obnoxious (and it's interesting, because I've never seen that crowd there before....ever in the history of Dallas hockey. Fans of convenience, no doubt...), but the only thing I wanted to give to them in the end was a condescending pat on the head: "Ah, you're so cute. Your team has been bad forever and now you're all excited. Have fun, little guy."

Then there's the Philadelphia fan. Now, I'm no Cowboy fan, but I know all about these people from Philadelphia. One need only look to the fact that the Vet had a jail in it, and what those guys did to the Montreal writers car last round to see the quality human beings there. (I love characterizing an entire fan-base based on less than 1% of knuckleheads...It's so unfair.)

Add it all up and I'm still confused. I think the only thing that will really make me happy, regardless of the winner, is a long series. So...go whoever is losing!

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