So now that we're down to the Conference Finals in the NHL, it's interesting to note that the four teams remaining are the last four Stanley Cup Champs -- the Penguins in '09, Blackhawks in '10, Bruins in '11 and the Kings last year. So you have your defending champion taking on the President's Trophy winner (most regular season wins) in the Western Conference Final, and you have the Penguins (the team Jerome Iginla spurned the Bruins to play for) matching up against those Bruins in the Eastern Final. And there's always the fact that Matt Cooke ruined the career of former Bruin Captain Marc Savard to add some drama and motivation and edge.
I found it surprising that this is the first time the last four Cup champs were the last four standing since sometime in the '50s. The NHL being a six-team league up until the late '60s, you'd think this would've have happened more often. But I digress.
I believe we have the four best teams in the league remaining and I felt they were the four best when the playoffs started but usually major upsets take out a few of the "best" teams. You have outstanding matchups here in the Conference Finals and you're guaranteed a doozy in the Finals, no matter who matches up -- LA against Boston? Talk about deep and physical teams going at it. LA versus the Penguins? Another deep team in Pittsburgh but one that seems to have unlimited offensive firepower going against the defending champs, plus star power any time the Penguins are involved. How about an Original Six matchup between Chicago and Boston, two of the best sports towns in the country. Or even the Blackhawks against the Penguins? While I feel this is the least interesting matchup from a hockey standpoint (no real good reason for feeling that way, just that one matchup has to be least) but what a great matchup it would be anyway and it would be the matchup with the most marquee star power -- Malkin, Crosby, et al, vs Toews and Kane and company.
So who will match up in the Cup Finals? I hate to say this and never bet against my Bruins but the Bruins are the fourth best team here. I think we'll learn a lot about this series from game one because if the Bruins team that played the Rangers shows up, it'll be a long series. And if the Bruins can exploit Pittsburgh only real weakness, goaltending, then they could pull the upset.
Same proviso regarding the western series -- which Blackhawk team shows up will make a big difference. But even then, they're gonna have to solve Jonathan Quick. Edge to LA.
What do you all think? Hey Brent, how'd you end up with your picks?