Wednesday, May 9, 2007

NHL Conference Finals Preview

And then there were four.

The 'final four' of professional hockey is upon us, as Anaheim, Detroit, Ottawa and Buffalo contend for Lord Stanley's chalice.

The match-ups:

Western Conference: Detroit vs. Anaheim
Detroit entered the playoffs as the west's #1 seed, though their journey through Calgary and San Jose wasn't without a few set backs. I mentioned in an earlier article that I've been somewhat disappointed by the Red Wings' play. I retain that, and think they're in for a challenge (again) when they face Anaheim. The Ducks are playing very well, and their stars Giguere and Selanne are leading the way. Also carrying the team is Francois Beauchemin (sp?) who the Blue Jackets traded in exchange for Sergei Fedorov.

Anaheim has been a powerhouse all season and they're hungry for the Cup. They came close back in 2003, when they were beaten in the finals by New Jersey. At the time they were coached by none other than Mike Babcock- the current coach of the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wings have been streaky but have found ways to come up with the win when they needed it. I see this series as being a back-and-forth affair, but the Wings have the experience to finish the job. (Heck, Hasek and Chelios have enough experience to start their memoirs.)

My prediction: Red Wings in 7

Eastern Conference: Buffalo vs. Ottawa
Tough call on this game. Buffalo has been the team to watch all season. They've got the talent, skill, and stacked roster to make it happen. The city is behind the team and is desperate for a professional sports championship. They'll be facing off against the Ottawa Senators; a team with which they are developing a bit of a rivalry following the 119 penalty minute brawl earlier this season. Ottawa also has a stacked roster. If they don't make it to the finals this year, fans and hockey afficianados are going to look back on this team in 5 years and say, "what happened?". They've got Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson up front, and they've got two great goaltenders. Emery's been taking the most starts, but Gerber can stand up for himself as well. Gerber played for last year's cup winning Carolina Hurricanes and went to the finals with Anaheim in '03.

This series is going to be a great one to watch, particularly if you're into seeing a high scoring game. Buffalo and Ottawa led the league in goals per game with 3.63 and 3.49, respectively. The drama from the brawl earlier this season will probably come back and make for some pugilism too.

My prediction: Call it bold, but I see Ottawa tightening the screws where it counts and wrapping this one up in 5.

Fun Fact: The Blue Jackets have played and beaten all four remaining teams at least once this season.

Photo Credit: Me. Went to the Hockey Hall of Fame last summer. (awesome.)


sports723 said...

Nice post tyler and you look to be spot on your choices, although I predict a rousing speech from Gordon Bombay to lift Anaheim in seven. I think that fatigue will get to Hasek, especially on the west coast where the puck drop is past his bedtime and he cant watch his reruns of Matlock on the Detroit public access channel.

As for the east, we seem to be masters of the other conference, clearly the best team in that years version of NHL2k(insert year)will represent the east in the Cup finals. But this series has been disappointing. I was looking forward to seeing the high powered offense of Ottawa and the pure speed and depth of Buffalo go tooth and nail to a great series. Well, Buffalo looks about as organized on offense as a Lambda Chi housing corp. meeting and Ryan Miller has stood on his head more than olympic gymnast. Just pure domination on Ottawas part, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper is proud.

sports723 said...

Also, fun fact: The Chicago Blackhawks were dominated by the final four teams. Although we did beat Ottawa in a shootout, so they got that going for them which is nice. I hate Bill Wirtz