You know what sucks? There isn't hockey on every single night any more. That's the real magic of the first two rounds. Sure the on ice product and story lines are compelling and exciting. Sure there's rivalries and hatred and history. But the real greatness of it all, is that all the rest of that garbage aside: There's hockey on tv every night.
Not any more.
Call me crazy, but I'm a quantity over quality kind of guy when it comes to sports on tv. This Sharks/Hawks series better be all that it's cracked up to be.
Last round two of us picked San Jose, two picked Detroit. Only the resident Chicago fan (B-Bibb) picked them to best the Canucks. (Happy to be wrong there...) Kudos go to Pat for not only picking the Habs, but picking them in seven games. Fortune favors the bold, I guess.
None of us picked the Flyers. So let's try to improve upon some pretty gawd awful percentages...
(7) Philadelphia vs (8) Montreal
Art: The Habs have already been through two very tough seven game series so far and history has shown that it doesn't matter what seed you are, if you get caught playing that many games in the first half of the playoffs, you won't stick around very long in the second half.
Philly is here because they just pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in all of pro sports... Or was it a case of the Bruins choking it away? Probably both, but give credit to the Flyers who quickly found their game and if it wasn't for the Habs would be the most inspiring underdog story of these playoffs.
I forget, did the underdog Rocky ever have to box someone that was more of an underdog than him? That's what we have here. I wanna go with Halak and the Habs, but I think the clock has hit midnight for them.
Flyers in 6
Pat: Well, well. If you claim you expected this conference final matchup from the beginning, you're a damn liar. In picking this series, I'm torn between hockey logic and the magical 'it' factor.
Hockey logic tells me that the Flyers will win this series because they are a larger, more physical, grind-it-out team. Those kind of teams generally have success in the playoffs, and it's certainly helped Philly this year. The Habs are quick, but diminutive, and outside of Hal Gill they will undoubtedly be outmatched along the boards.
But my gut tells me Montreal will find a way to win this series. They play smart, guerrila warfare hockey: mercilessly attack the opposing zone in short bursts and race back to prevent the inevitable odd-man rush. That kind of hockey will win if you have a great goaltender. Meet Jaroslav Halak. They've killed penalties magnificently. They get the most timely goals you will ever see. Deficits are nothing, you always get the feeling Montreal will stage a comeback before the game is anywhere near over. They have that 'it' factor that only comes along once every playoffs.
Give me the Habs in 6.
We continue with this series and pick the west after the jump...
Brad: The seven seed has home ice in the conference finals? Can we PLEASE move to the East? Please?
This seems to me a case of two Cinderellas that have overstayed their welcome at the ball. Both have had way too much to drink and they're going to be staring down each other, waiting for the other to keel over first.
I, like Art, want to pick the Habs, but I just don't think I can. Winning three series on the road as an eight seed is too unlikely, and the Flyers momentum after four straight wins is huge.
I like this series to be a seven game, special teams chess match that sees the Canadiens finally lose a game 7. Winning two in one year is already too much, you greedy Canadien fans. Plus, the arson and the raucous partying...bad form. Give me the Flyers in seven.
Brandon: Silly me for thinking the defending Champs would spell the end of the Habs magnificent run. Just goes to show what terrific goaltending and timely goalscoring will do for ya. On a related note, I've been a closeted Mike Cammalleri fan for many years, so I might as well come out.
[insert uncomfortable silence]
Ahem, I see no reason why Cammalleri and Brian Gionta can't continue to provide the timely offense that Montreal will need in the Eastern Conference Finals. And why Halak can't continue to play at a high level.
Except for one.
Right now, the Flyers have it. And while I'd caution anyone to call their comeback from down 0-3 against Boston the greatest in sports history (for my money, it's the 2004 ALCS that gets my vote), you can't deny their place in sports history when you consider this was just the fourth time in sports history that any team has overcome an 0-3 deficit. And the first time since 1975 when the New York Islanders did the trick against Pittsburgh.
I really think this series will be coin flip. But I also said the other day that those who underestimate Montreal do so at their own peril.
So, Montreal in 7, again.
(1) San Jose vs (2) Chicago
Art: I said in the first series Chicago didn't really wow me, but did that ever change in the second! Now granted part of that was due to the fact that Vancouver did their annual implosion but let's give credit to Neimi who is really starting to find a groove in these playoffs.
Pat: The only thing ever holding me back from picking Chicago were two things: Goaltending and consistency. They helped soothe my doubts last series, as Niemi was very solid down the stretch in eliminating Vancouver. I don't really have a reason to believe his performance will be any different this round. San Jose's offensive weapons are nowhere near that of Vancouver. Outside of Marleau, Pavelski, Thornton and Heatley, the Sharks don't have a lot of scoring depth.
Meanwhile, Chicago boasts dangerous forwards and an impressive defensive core. Advantage Chicago.....but only if they decide to show up for every single game. The Hawks have had a bad tendency to take games off in playoff series, but if they can focus themselves consistently expect Chicago to advance to the Finals.
Hawks in 5.
Brad: Antti Niemi out duels Roberto Luongo. The Hawks score on half a dozen breakaways in game six to take down the Canucks... Does this sound like a sustainable game plan to you? Gosh I hope it is. I really, really do.
The Sharks seem to be rolling along just fine after taking out a Wings team that was the hottest in the league entering post-season play. They got lucky they had Colorado in the first round. I'll maintain that without wavering. They had their typical nervousness. They had their typical, jittery swoon, but they also had the Avalanche: Average age - 19 years old. So, having got past themselves in the first round, I don't see anything slowing them down much from here on out.
Except the Capitals or the Penguins. Whoops. (Is this the SCF right here in May?)
Sharks in six, says me. Though, once again, I hope I'm wrong.
Brandon: First of all, I respect Art and Brad's selections. For the first time in many playoff seasons, San Jose has given it's fans reason to believe that this year won't be like previous seasons. And ergo, the NHL has reason to fear them now.
I have to admit, it took a few games into the Detroit series to sway me. But when they overcame a 3-1 third period deficit in Detroit to win that game in OT, I was convinced.
No longer does the mere mention of Joe Thornton's name elicit thoughts of choking. And oh yeah, for the general hockey public that doesn't get to watch Sharks games because they're located in the Pacific Division, Joe Pavelski is pleased to meet your acquaintance.
But like Pat said, the Hawks have scoring depth. And they've got a fully engaged Dustin Byfuglien. In a series where Chicago can take a Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa to match the fire power of Pavelski, Thornton, Marleau, and Heatley, it might be Buff, and even a forgotten grinder like Troy Brouwer, that could prove to be the deciding factor in this series.
In a Western Conference Finals that I haven't looked forward to the most since the days of Stars-Avs, give me Chicago in 7.