Eastern Conference: (3) Boston Bruins vs (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
Prediction: Bruins in 5
For those who have forgot the Eastern Conference Finals will feature two teams that haven’t played in weeks. Both teams managed to sweep their opponents in the last round to get to this point. Despite their commanding wins I don’t see this being a close series and in fact another sweep is a real possibility it will just depend on how disciplined the Boston Bruins manage to play.
The Montreal Canadiens managed to take Boston to 7 games by capitalizing on their PP opportunities and the Lightning have the best PP percentage of any remaining team. They have a total of 12 PP goals and have only scored 38 goals in total. The Bruins are simply deeper on offense and defense and despite the excellent play of Dwayne Roloson the Bruins win the goaltending battle as well in my opinion.
If you are wondering why I am not giving the Lightning a ton of credit or respect heading into this series it has to do with the body of work they have displayed. It took the Bolts 7 games to knock off a Pens team that didn’t have a legitimate goal scorer on their roster. While the Caps should have provided more of a challenge to the Bolts than they did I think we can all agree that Bruins weren’t supposed to roll over the Flyers in 4 either.
The main problem with the Bolts is their lack of depth on offense.. and this is a strength of the Bruins so I expect a tight checking defensive minded team like the Bruins to have no problem shutting down the 3 offensive threats the Bolts do have.
Western Conference: (1) Vancouver Canucks vs (2) San Jose Sharks
Prediction: Sharks in 6
Yet again the Western Conference match-up will surely be the one to watch as it should be a longer series and a more even match-up. It should be fast paced and an offensive battle unlike the Eastern Conference Finals.
On paper I give the edge to the Sharks Forwards, the Canucks Goaltender and the Defense are a wash. Most would assume as a result that this match-up is a toss up; however it couldn’t be further from the truth. You see the problem with analysing this series on paper would indicate that the Sedins will product offensively and I believe that this will be their most difficult series yet. After playing an offensively challenged team like the Preds the Canucks will be facing the deepest offensive team in this years playoffs. Anytime your 3rd line centre is Joe Pavelski you have exceptional depth up front.
I don’t think that Ryan Kesler, clearly the Canucks best forward, will have the time and space he enjoyed against the Preds. If it were me I would have Pavelski on Keslers ass all series long and if you can shut down Kesler you will effectively shut down their offense. If Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau decide to show up this series the Canucks will have more than can handle as young guns Logan Coture and Devin Setogouchi are already flying with Joe Thornton playing his best playoff hockey to date.
Most will look at the comeback the Red Wings mounted and claim that the Sharks are still not ready to take the next step however I view it a little differently. The Sharks have faced adversity and overcome it already.. much like the Canucks did with the Hawks and as a result both teams are going to be entering this series confident… lets just hope they are not too confident.
The only thing that should worry Sharks fans is their netminder who has been brilliant and terrible all at the same time. If uncoordinated and clumsy Niemi then anything is possible.
About the Author
Written by Kirk Butler
Born and raised in Murray Harbour - PEI. Like many Canadians hockey is my religion; as a kid I had the pleasure of playing my minor hockey with Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards of the 2004 Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning. I played competitive hockey until the age of 21 which included stops in the American Prep School System, Canadian Junior Hockey and the CIS. I now get my competitive fix on the golf course as a scratch golfer. More to come: Kirk Butler PEI, Canada