So I did pretty well in my first round predictions, but I was only 50% on my second round predictions. Let’s hope I can get back on track with this next round. Because the goal of predictions is to um, you know… predict the actual outcome.
So what do we have for match ups? In the West we’ve got the first seed Canucks against the third seed Sharks, and in the East we’ve got the third seed Bruins versus the fifth seed Lightning. One thing is for sure… we’re in for two highly entertaining series that could both go either way. With that being said, let’s get to my predictions!
Clarence S Campbell Bowl (Western Conference)
1. Vancouver Canucks vs 3. San Jose Sharks
Both of these teams have finally made it back to the conference finals after years of regular season success and playoff disappointments. Unfortunately for one of these teams, the disappointment will continue after this round. Which team will be moving on? Vancouver had the best record in the NHL this season, and for good reason. They had great goaltending from Roberto Luongo, as well as impressive numbers from backup goalie Corey Schneider. They had the Sedin twins’ magic. They had Ryan Kesler’s breakout season. They had incredible depth defense, even with a nasty rash of injuries. And perhaps most importantly, they had depth. The Sharks have finished either first or second in their division for six straight seasons, and they have been accumulating incredible amounts of playoff experience. What has made them such an elite team? Firepower. Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, rookie Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe. They have solid goaltending from the young Antti Niemi who won the Stanley Cup last year with the Chicago Blackhawks. However, I don’t think the Sharks have the depth that the Canucks have. The Sharks have two great forward lines, but not much after that. The Canucks have a deep well of defensemen to draw from, and head coach Alain Vigneault preaches team defense to everyone, including his forwards. The Sharks defense is also lacking in depth, especially when compared to Vancouver. These are two extremely talented teams, but I think the Canucks can pull off the victory. I think it will go to a Game 7, and the Rogers Arena crowd will will their team to victory as they have done the entire season. The Canucks led the NHL with the best home record with an incredible 27-9-5 performance.
VANCOUVER IN 7
Prince Of Wales Trophy (Eastern Confernce)
3. Boston Bruins vs 5. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Boston Bruins are in the conference finals facing off against…wait, what? How the hell did the Tampa Bay Lightning get here? They finished 15th, 14th, and 12th in the East in the past three seasons. Talk about an incredible turnaround. Did I mention they’re also on a roll right now? They just swept–yes, swept–the Washington Capitals. How did they do it? Team defense. Incredible goaltending. The Big Three (Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos). Team defense. Sean Bergenheim (who?). An incredible power play and impressive penalty killing. And a coach who preaches, wait for it… Team defense. The Bruins have been on the rise for the past four seasons, and it’s come from a number of reasons. First and foremost, Zdeno Chara. A leader, a giant, a defenseman. Next, goaltending. Tim Thomas has been unbelievable. As in, I cannot believe that Tim Thomas has played as well has he has played this season and playoffs. What else? Toughness. Chara. Milan Lucic. Shawn Thornton. Nathan Horton. Dennis Seidenberg. It’s not fun skating against those guys. And finally, scoring prowess from Horton, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Chris Kelly. So who takes this series? I’m going to say Tampa. Why? Special teams. Tampa Bay’s power play is rolling, and Boston’s has fizzled. I also think Tampa’s offense is deeper, although I honestly can’t explain it. It will be a goaltending duel between two veteran (read: aging) goalies who are both playing inspired hockey. And the big difference? Coaching. Claude Julien has led the Bruins to three disappointing playoff exits with a talented team at his disposal. On the other hand, Guy Boucher has completely turned this Tampa Bay Lightning team around in one season. Everyone has bought into his system and is executing brilliantly.
TAMPA BAY IN 6.