After the exceedingly youthful Caps were blown out by the flightless birds of the Penguins, I pretty much figure it’s going to be a Pens v. Wings rematch and flightless birds will probably lose to the high flying wings if given the chance, considering the Wings will have already shot down Blackhawks and Ducks to get there, pretty much killing every bird they come across. Although reliving the pains of 01, 00, 96, 95, 92 and 91 means 09 comes to an all too familiar end, I am indeed calling the final round before we even get to it. I’m disappointed there won’t be an original six matchup, or a 98-rematch for my Caps, but this round in-and-of itself should prove to be fun to watch, if the teams all play to their ability. Then again, I’ve guessed wrong quite a bit so far, so who knows.
Detroit Red Wings v. Chicago Blackhawks, Wings in 5
Detroit has more depth, more experience and more discipline that their Midwest ‘Original Six’ rivals in Chi-town. The ‘Hawks have a solid young team that hits hard and thrives when they strike first but has yet to really face adversity outside of a short-tilt netminding neurosis early in the season. Detroit, on the other hand is the complete plug-and-play team that can roll four (or five) lines with the ease of a phd-certified genius sitting in on a first-grade class. It is unfathomable that even with speed and youthful aggression Chicago can make up the depth of match-ups the Wings can pull out. Franzen is hot, and Hossa is still waiting to heat up, the rest of the team is balanced in their assault from offensive attack, to puck control, to defensive systematic play to, yes, the oft-underrated goaltending by iron man Osgood. There just aren’t enough answers to balance it out and despite how hard the Ducks played in the last round, and what Chi is expected to throw out this round that even if the Wings sustained injuries, fatigue and a few bad bounces that they couldn’t rebound. If everything was perfect, they’d sweep in three so dominating there’d be no reason to play a forth, but I well imagine circumstances will let Chi take at least one while the Wings roll.
Pittsburgh Penguins v. Carolina Hurricans, Pens in Six
Let me propose the question now, before it gets lame… what happens when a Whaler gets caught in a Hurricane? He has nothing left to fend off a Penguin! The ‘Canes overachieved to get here. The Pens fought hard, especially against old-school Pat-Div rivals in the Caps and have something to prove, namely, last year wasn’t a fluke. They have more depth and have proven they can cap power-players from the opponents ability to maneuver. They block a lot of pucks in front of Flury and smother the other team’s speed by counter-acting it in the neutral zone to take advantage of a press play in order to exploit odd-man rushes. That will play into their favor yet again against the ‘Canes. It will fall on Ward to pack the team on his back and put on a show, one, he may not be able to adequately do especially without the balance of support in the defensive zone and in the control in the neutral zone. The Pens have springboard Gonchar back and are thoughtful of the balance they need between their big name wingers which could help them blow out a game or two if they can insight the ‘Canes into playing too wide open rather than disciplined offensive minded hockey, something, they were confused about through most of the season.