Wednesday, May 7, 2008

2008 Playoffs: Conference Finals Predictions

The chase for Lord Stanley's Cup is down to four teams as the NHL Conference Finals get underway tomorrow night in Detroit. Both series should be very entertaining and hard fought. Much is being made of the physical aspect of the Flyers/Pens series in particular, but I think the Western Conference Final has the potential to get a bit nasty as well. In any case, on to the predictions!

Western Conference Final

(1) Detroit vs. (5) Dallas
Breakdown: Dallas has had arguably the toughest road to the third round of any of the four remaining teams, and I think that will help them against Detroit. By comparison, the Wings had a cakewalk series against Colorado and haven't really been tested since games 3 & 4 against Nashville. I think the Stars can walk away from this series victorious, but I really think they need to at least split the first two games in Detroit. I think Dallas is the better team here, but not so much better that they can afford to go down 2-0 in the series and expect to win 4 out of 5 games against the Red Wings.
Player to Watch: Marty Turco (DAL) - Playing in Detroit has never been kind to Turco, as his 0-7-2 record at "The Joe" will attest. Turco is going to have to forget about that and focus on the now if the Stars are going to return to the Stanley Cup Finals. If Turco can continue to play at the level he has in the first two rounds, then I really like the Stars' chances to move on.
Prediction: Stars in 6

Eastern Conference Final

(2) Pittsburgh vs. (6) Philadelphia
Breakdown: They invented the phrase "no love lost" just for a series like this one. These teams really don't like each other and this could turn out to be the most physical series of the entire post-season. That in turn could lead to a lot of odd-man situations, which favors Pittsburgh. The Pens' power play has been great in the playoffs, but their penalty kill has quietly been their strongest asset thus far. If the Pens can continue to dominate special teams play, get scoring from the third and fourth lines, and keep getting clutch goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury they will make short work of the Flyers.
Player to Watch: Jarkko Ruutu (PIT) - Ruutu is one of those guys who is always trying to stir up trouble. If he can get under the Flyers' skin without crossing the line (to much) and ending up in the box then he could really help tilt the special teams battle in Pens' favor. Plus he is one of those guys for Pittsburgh who has the ability to chip in with a very timely goal.
Prediction: Pens in 5

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