Once again, I only got one wrong in the previous round. Though that means my success rate was a decent 75% instead of a nice 88%. We saw three Game Sevens, three upsets, and some fantastic hockey between Pittsburgh and Washington.
I gave the Penguins the edge in the round because of their defense and goaltending. Simeon Varlamov was amazing between the pipes for Washington. I thought the rookie might cool down, but you didn't see any chinks in his armor until late game 5 or even game 6. Washington's defense made some bad reads while pinching and their forwards didn't back them up. Pittsburgh also won most of the battles along the boards; fighting their hearts out with more grit and determiniation than the Capitals did. Except for games 4 and 7, every game was a one-goal win and there were three overtime games in the series. It was certainly one for the ages.
Anaheim gave Detroit all they could handle and forced the reigning champs to a game 7. Carolina has continued their hot play and took their series in overtime of game 7 against the top seeded Boston Bruins. In the other upset I called, Chicago took their series with Vancouver in 6.
Western Conference Finals:
(2)Detroit vs (4)Chicago - an Original Six matchup. Both teams have four lines that can score. Both teams have good puck moving defensemen. The teams are ranked 1-2 on the power play in the playoffs. I predict this one is going to be an awesome series. There is already some history there and we might see some rough stuff before too long. The veteran Red Wings took the season series over the young Blackhawks winning 4 of 6 games. I think they'll also take this series and return to the Cup finals. Detroit Red Wings in 7.
Eastern Conference Finals:
(4)Pittsburgh vs (6)Carolina. It's hard to downplay how great Carolina has been playing these past couple months. From March 1st to the end of the season, they were 13-3-2. Cam Ward has been playing like he did during the Hurricanes's Cup run in 2006. On their side, Pittsburgh went 14-2-3 over the same stretch. It's only fitting that the two hottest teams in the league face off in the conference finals. They split the season series 2 wins each. Sidney Crosby has been on fire, taking over the scoring lead during the Capitals series. Watch for the Staal brothers (Eric and Jordan) in this one. The brothers always seem to step their game up when playing against each other. Jordan only has two goals this post season, but they both came in his last three games. Eric has 9 goals and 4 assists to lead the Hurricanes in the playoffs. If Sergei Gonchar doesn't play, that is a huge blow to Pittsburgh. But, they were able to win games 4 and 5 without his services. Jussi Jokinen has been clutch for Carolina, but I don't see them having an answer for Crosby and Malkin. Penguins in 6.
So there you have it. I'm predicting a Stanley Cup Finals rematch between Detroit and Pittsburgh.