05/08/2008 10:10 AM
By Chad Huebner
It’s nice to see some old, familiar faces make it this far in the playoffs, because it’s been a long time for some of them. The Dallas Stars haven’t been in the Conference Finals since the final year of the Clinton administration (the male one, not the semi-female one), even though they’re always in the thick of it (which ticks me off, since this is the first year I finally pick against them, and look what they’re doing, the putzes). The Pens haven’t been here since 2001, while the Flyers have had the shortest wait at four years. Detroit is the sole returning team from a year ago, and it seems that things are more in line for them to win it all than it was last year, when the Anaheim Ducks out-muscled them. This part of the playoffs should take a bit longer than the semis, and it should be the most exciting round of the playoffs so far. So mind your Ps and Ds, and let’s see if I keep ignoring the Flyers and Stars.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (47-27-8) vs. 6. Philadelphia Flyers (42-29-11)
2007-08 Season Series: Flyers 5-3
Last Playoff Clash: 2000, Conference Semifinals, Philly won 4-2
Inter-state, or inter-provincial playoff matchups are always the best, yet come along so rarely these days they should be cherished for every minute played. No problem here, as it won’t be a cakewalk for the Pens. Philly had their number during the regular season, and expect somewhat the same in the playoffs. Granted, the Flyers didn’t have to tangle with Marian Hossa all that much, making the Pens’ offense into a three-headed monster along with Crosby and Malkin, but Philly has shown huge amounts of grit and resolve at times. Then again, so have the Pens, so just expect physical play every waking moment of this series. While I’ve always said that solid goaltending wins you championships, I guess I forgot to mention that goalies that are solid in the right here and now are the most successful. Marc-Andre Fleury is in his second postseason, while Marty Biron is in his first, yet what they’re both doing right now is helping their teams win in tight situations. But the home-ice advantage goes to the Pens, and if everything else is even-steven, then this will be the true decider of a winner. I feel like I’m doing voiceovers for Stanley Cup highlights on “Hockey Night in Canada”, but I can’t help the importance of this series.
My Prediction: Pens in seven, though the state of Pennsylvania degenerates into all-out civil war. Oh wait, that was the Democratic Primary.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
1. Detroit Red Wings (54-21-7) vs. 5. Dallas Stars (45-30-7)
2007-08 Season Series: Red Wings 3-1
Last Playoff Clash: 1998, Conference Finals, Detroit won 4-2
I had zero confidence in them against Anaheim; I had about 6-7% confidence in them against San Jose; and now against Detroit, sorry, I’m back down to a zero confidence level for the Stars. It’s just so hard to believe in a team that constantly comes well short of expectations year after year for nearly going on a decade. Yes, they made it all the way to the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals, but the New Jersey Devils were clearly the class of the league at that time. The Red Wings could achieve that status this year, despite being playoff underachievers as well. Zetterberg and Datsyuk are the focal point of the offense, but it’s been all about Johan Franzen and his scoring tear in every series so far. I guess it takes a second-liner to bring a much-needed spark to his team in terms of not letting their guards down during the entire playoffs. They may not walk all over Dallas like they did Nashville and Colorado, but they’ll be just as physical as they’ve been all postseason, stretching back to last year’s Conference Finals. If it was any other team, in any other given year, I’d give Dallas the nod and finally acknowledge they’re a good playoff team. It’ll be a long series. . . but sorry, Willa Ford, your main man Modano and his team gets the big Rodney Dangerfield from me.
My Prediction: Red Wings in seven, Stars gain a certain amount of grudging respect from the doubters (fans, press, me, et al), but Willa (pretty woman, crummy name) brains me over the head with a guitar.
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