I only got 50% of the teams moving on to the conference finals correct and I was wasn’t exactly right on either of them. I predicted that the Flyers would beat the Bruins in 6 (not 7) and that the Blackhawks would need 7 (not 6) games to eliminate the Canucks. I thought the Penguins would beat the Canadiens, not be the second team to be eliminated in 7 games by the very determined Montreal team. I’m sure it’s got to be hard for a team that just won the Cup to be as motivated as a team that hasn’t won it since 1993, but that series is still one of the most surprising of the playoffs for me so far. I also thought the Red Wings would beat the Sharks. Instead, the Sharks became the first team to advance, beating the Red Wings in just 5 games. The Sharks have broken through the glass ceiling that’s been in place since the NHL lockout. The last time the Sharks made it to the conference finals was in 2004. The Sharks have never gotten past the Conference Finals into the Stanley Cup Finals. Will this be the year they make it there? I don’t think so, but time will tell. They’re bound to make it eventually.
Normally, the conference finals are a pretty perfect round for hockey lovers. There’s a hockey game every day, but that still leaves time for other things in your life and all the games are nationally televised. I understand having the first two hockey games in the conference finals on the same day. Sunday is a weekend day and the day that NBC has a playoff game. So, there is a game on NBC and a game on Versus. However, having two games for the second day of games in this round is really silly when playoff games could last a lot longer than a typical hockey game, since there is no shootout. Though the games are set three hours apart (7pm and 10pm Eastern), there could be overlap. If there is, fans outside of Chicago and San Jose may not be able to get the full second game of the day. Some television providers may have alternate channels for Versus set up so you can get all of both games, but in order to find out if that will happen and what channel to watch, one must be watching the games live. Those of us who live on the west coast and work 8-5 jobs can’t do that to start and may not be able to get home in time to catch up to live fast enough without missing the beginning of the game. (Besides, some of us prefer not to watch commercials and don’t watch games live until later in the playoffs.) It would be nice if Versus would announce their backup plans for all providers early so those of us who really care and can’t or won’t turn in to the games live have the opportunity to record the extra channel just in case it’s necessary. Thankfully, they didn’t schedule any games at the same time (or a half hour apart) and as of game 3 of this round, things get straightened out and there is a game per day. I’m sure that the schedules of the arenas had something to do with the way this round starts, but it’s still a shame that they couldn’t work things out. Here’s hoping that the eastern conference game 2 doesn’t go into overtime for too long…
Here are my Conference Final predictions.
Flyers vs. Canadiens
Flyers in 7 – This was a very difficult choice for me. Both the Flyers and the Canadiens have the momentum coming into this round. The Flyers won 4 games in a row to do something no hockey team had done in years and beat the Bruins after being down 3-0 in the series to start. The Canadiens won their last three games in a row to come back from being down 3-1 to the Penguins. Clearly, both teams are determined to win and have taken out teams ranked higher than them twice. The Flyers and Canadiens were ranked 7th & 8th in the eastern conference. They’re the teams in the 2010 playoffs tied with the least points of any team that made the playoffs this season. They’re both ranked below Anaheim (who finished 11th in the west) overall. This series should be very exciting no matter who makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals from the East. The part of this equation that may sway things the other way is Halak. He’s been the best goaltender of the playoffs with a save percentage of .933 and is definitely the main reason Canadiens have made it this far, in spite of Cammalleri’s offensive performance. This is definitely the series I’m looking forward to watching more than I have any other series of the 2010 playoffs.
Sharks vs. Blackhawks
Blackhawks in 6 – In contrast to the teams left in the east (the lowest ranked teams in the east and NHL to make the playoffs), San Jose and Chicago are the two highest ranked teams in the western conference (though the 2nd and 3rd ranked in the NHL). I thought Chicago’s goaltending wasn’t strong enough to get them this far when the playoffs started and didn’t see San Jose getting past the first round, let alone the second. Both teams have their weaknesses, but I think the Blackhawks will beat the Sharks. It should be a great series, but the Hawks have the advantage of not being over-rested, the top scorer in the playoffs by points and points/game (Jonathan Toews), the goaltender with the better save percentage (though not by much), the better power play, and the best penalty killing left in the playoffs (the Bruins had a better pk than the Hawks).