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NHL CONFERENCE FINALS

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Who Do You Think Will Win The Stanley Cup?

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Total Votes : 1

NHL CONFERENCE FINALS

Post  Mad Clint on 2009-05-17, 01:56

This has been one hell of a playoff, with all four quarter finals going the distance the Conference Finals predicts some great hockey.
Here are the match ups-

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Pittsburgh Penguins

VS

Carolina Hurricanes

Game Times:
1 Monday, May 18, 7pm et
2 Thursday, May 21, 7pm et
3 Saturday, May 23, 7:30pm et
4 Tuesday, May 26, 7:30pm et
*5 Friday, May 29, 7:30pm et
*6 Sunday, May 31, 7:30pm et
*7 Tuesday, June 2, 7:30pm et

MATCH UP

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
The star-studded battle between the Penguins and Capitals will be a tough act to follow. After a see-saw battle that saw the series go the distance, Crosby and Co. came out victorious with a stunning Game 7 rout. The high-flying series had at least five goals scored in all seven games. 2003 was the last time an NHL playoff series went a full seven games with five-or-more goals scored in each game (Minnesota's victory over Vancouver in the second round). In the first round, the Penguins captured home-ice advantage over the rival Flyers on the final day of the regular season and it proved to be a crucial result. For the second straight season, Pittsburgh ended the playoff hopes of their cross-state rivals. The surprise was the relative ease by which it was achieved.
The Penguins were just shy of capturing their third Stanley Cup in franchise history last year and nothing short of finishing the job this spring will be acceptable. Those high hopes are remarkable considering that just a couple of months ago, pundits were wondering if this team would even make the playoffs. With new coach Dan Bylsma at the helm and Evgeni Malkin making his case for the Hart Trophy (finishing first in league scoring and leading all Penguins players in scoring for the second consecutive season), Pittsburgh is back in the contenders' conversation.
While trade deadline acquisitions Chris Kunitz and veteran winger Bill Guerin don't have the same level of talent that Marian Hossa brought last year, they do add plenty of grit and experience while filling the scoring void on the wing that the club needed most of the season. The Penguins also have solid character players like Pascal Dupuis and Maxime Talbot, who are always ready to provide energy and support for the blueliners. The club had to give up a good offensive defenceman in Ryan Whitney, but have enough depth with the return of power play specialist Sergei Gonchar and the emergence of young Kris Letang. Goaltending is everything in the postseason, and Marc-Andre Fleury should be solid in goal if he builds on last spring's postseason run.



CAROLINA HURRICANES
The Hurricanes responded to a Game 1 loss at the hands of the Bruins with three straight wins, and eventually the winner in Game 7, to send them to the Eastern Conference final. The Canes were in a similar situation in the first round where they faced a Game 7 against New Jersey and prevailed. Centre Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward were outstanding in Carolina's series win over the Devils and the efforts continued in the second round, Staal collecting four goals, six points and a minus-1 rating in seven games. Ward surrendered eight goals in games five and six, but stood on his head in the deciding game to help his club advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
Carolina was a great story when they won the Cup in 2006, but everything went downhill from there as the club missed the postseason for the next two years. But with head coach Paul Maurice returning behind the bench, the Hurricanes were one of the hottest teams down the final stretch and look like a contender in the wide-open Eastern Conference.
A bust in Edmonton with 27 points in 63 games, Erik Cole returned to Carolina in a trade deadline deal and brought back instant chemistry. Reunited with Eric Staal on the top line, Cole should be one of several big weapons up front. In net, Cam Ward is also on his game, breaking the franchise record with 39 victories this season and finishing 14-4-2 over the last 20 games. A Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2006, Ward has been a workhorse in goal, building a 10-1-2 record in March and finishing the season with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. Up front, Eric Staal led all Hurricanes in goals (40) while Tuomo Ruutu set a career high with 26 goals. On the blueline, Joe Corvo led all Hurricanes defenceman in points (38 ) while Anton Babchuk had a career season, posting 16 goals (best among all 'Canes blueliners) and 19 assists with a plus- 13 rating.





WESTERN CONFERENCE

Detroit Red Wings

VS

Chicago Blackhawks

Game Times:
1 Sunday, May 17, 2:30pm et
2 Tuesday, May 19, 7pm et
3 Friday, May 22, 8pm et
4 Sunday, May 24, 3pm et
*5 Wednesday, May 27, 7:30pm et
*6 Saturday, May 30, 8pm et
*7 Monday, June 1, 7:30pm et

MATCH UP

DETROIT RED WINGS
The Red Wings played their first Game 7 since 2002 when they hammered the Avalanche 7-0, defeating the Ducks to advance to the Western Conference final. They played with the same urgency that saw them dominate Game 5 of the series, when they rolled four lines and forced the Ducks to stay in their own end. The Winged Wheel took care of business in the first round by rudely welcoming the Columbus Blue Jackets to the post-season party with a four game sweep.
No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since…well, the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. Virtually every member of the team owns a Stanley Cup ring, the exceptions being off-season acquisitions Marian Hossa and Ty Conklin. Ironically, both played for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and were on hand to watch the Wings celebrate their Stanley Cup title. If the Wings do end up winning it all again, will the ageless Chris Chelios retire? (Doubtful).
By this point you know what you are going to get with Detroit. They are a disciplined, well coached, fundamentally sound team that can roll four lines. They sacrifice individual glory for what is best for the team, which speaks to the professionalism of those inside the organization. Thanks to their victory last year, the Wings - more than any other team - know what it takes to win. Their veteran core of Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Rafalski, Holmstrom and Osgood all have multiple Stanley Cup rings. Head coach Mike Babcock has done a fantastic job keeping his team focused this season when there could have been a serious Stanley Cup hangover. The Wings’ forwards are as good a group as you will find in the league with no fewer than five 20 goal scorers. That scoring depth was on display in the first round as it was generally the role players who provided the offence against the Blue Jackets. What truly separates Detroit from the pack is their defensive unit. Led by perennial Norris Trophy candidate Nicklas Lidstrom, the Wings blueline is absolutely stacked with a nice mix of puck movers and bangers. They are also battle tested thanks to last year’s championship run. Heading into the playoffs it appeared as goaltending was the Wings’ one weak link; however Chris Osgood answered his critics by out dueling star rookie Steve Mason in Round 1. There has to be a great deal of personal satisfaction for Osgood who repaid Babcock’s loyalty to him. If Ozzie is back to championship form than the Wings are an odds-on bet to repeat.



CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
The Blackhawks earned their first trip to the Conference Finals since 1995 when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the Western Conference semis. This comes on the heels of their first playoff series win in 13 years when they took out the Flames, 4-2, in the first round. Durinig the Canucks series, the Hawks found ways to win without their stars producing. Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews had just one assist between them in the first three games but combined for five goals in Game 6. This might not be an option against the Red Wings, who have the best skill and experience in the league.
The re-emergence of hockey as a major sporting presence in the past year in the Windy City has been nothing short of stunning. The once apathetic fan base has become re-vitalized, thanks in large part to John McDonough and Rocky Wirtz. In addition, the Hawks are an exciting young team that loves to attack with a pair of charismatic superstars in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
The transformation of the Blackhawks organization over the past year has been remarkable. The once cavernous United Centre is now packed to the rafters with rabid fans who have waited patiently for their team to return to respectability. The team on the ice has not disappointed, earning their first playoff berth in seven seasons. The Blackhawks can throw out a plethora of scoring options as Kane, Toews, Martin Havlat, Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg all broke the 20-goal barrier. Chicago gets plenty of offensive contributions from their blue line, thanks to the offensive instincts of Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith, Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien. Also working in the Hawks' favour is the fact that they have a playoff-tested goaltender in Nikolai Khabibulin, who captured the Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. While the Blackhawks' youth movement is extremely talented, they are not exactly battle tested. The majority of their key players have little or no NHL playoff experience. The trade with the Ducks that saw Chicago acquire Sammy Pahlsson was a masterstroke as his valuable experience gained in Anaheim's Stanley Cup run will be crucial for the green Hawks. This does not appear to be a team that is ready to lift Lord Stanley's chalice, but they could be a very tough out.
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Mad Clint
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