We are down to just 4 teams left in the NHL playoffs and at the start of the season I don’t think anyone would have even predicted 2 of these teams to be in the conference finals let alone all four. So here is how I see the conference finals playing out:
Edmonton vs Anaheim
Regular Season Series:
October 10: Edmonton 4 at Anaheim 2
January 25: Edmonton 6 at Anaheim 3
February 6: Anaheim 5 at Edmonton 6 (SO)
April 13: Anaheim 1 at Edmonton 2
Edmonton pretty much controlled the season series winning all 4 games, of of which was in a shoot out. I have been a bit surprised at how Anaheim has played so far in the playoffs. It’s not that they don’t have the talent, but they have a lot of inexperience on their team and that is often just asking for trouble come playoff time. But so far so good. The Niedermayers, Selanne and Marchant are going to have to continue to exert their veterent leadership if Anahein is to continue its success. Edmonton has defeated 2 very strong teams in Detroit and San Jose to get to the conference finals and has done it by utilizing a very balanced team with 3+ solid forward lines, a group of 6 solid defensemen and excellent goaltending. The Oilers have 7 players with 3 or more goals compared to Anaheims to and that depth combined with a better mix of veterens and youth will take them to the Cup finals. Edmonton in 6.
Buffalo at Carolina
November 9: Carolina 5 at Buffalo 3
February 12: Buffalo 3 at Carolina 4 ( SO)
March 22: Carolina 4 at Buffalo 3
April 18: Buffalo 4 at Carolina 0
These are two of the more streaky teams in the NHL this year. Buffalo has had winning streaks of 8, 7 and 5 games (twice) this year and a 6 game losing streak and 6 losses in 7 games. Carolina has had a couple of 9 game winning streaks as well as a 7 game winning streak in these playoffs and though that have avoided any lengthy losing streaks have been somewhat mediocre outside of those winning streaks. Both teams are playing very good hockey heading into this series but the streakiness nature of how these teams have played means it has the potential to be a short series should one team faulter early on. In fact, I could see this series play out similar to the Buffalo series. The first game will be an up tempo game with both teams trying to establish their offense and hopefully knock some confidence out of the opposing teams rookie goalies. The winner of the first game could gain some valuable momentum while the loser loses a bit of their confendence just as Ottawa seemed to do in their series. This would be especially true of the younger, less experience Sabre team should they lose in the first game. The problem for Carolina is that although their defense is fairly experienced they might not have enough mobility to keep Buffalo’s speedy forwards in check. I am really torn as to who to pick in this series. I really like the Sabre’s team and think that overall they are better, but I also like the superior veteren leadership and experience that the Hurricanes have with guys like Brind’amour, Recchi, Weight, Stillman, Hedican, Wesley. I’ll take Carolina in 5.