Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Round Three Preview

Thirty teams began the 2008-2009 NHL season back in October with aspirations of Stanley Cup glory, sixteen made the cut after 82 regular season games...and now there are four.

The Red Wings, Blackhawks, Penguins and 'Canes have all made it to the halfway point in terms of the sixteen wins needed to lift Lord Stanley's mug...but who will move on to the Stanley Cup Final?

(2) Red Wings vs. (4) Blackhawks

-The last time Detroit played Chicago in the playoffs was the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season in the Conference Finals...the Red Wings knocked a then 33-year-old Chris Chelios and the Blackhawks out in a very tight five games.

It's fourteen years later and Chelios is now playing for Detroit at the tender age of 47 against his hometown 'Hawks...

Look forward to what will probably be an even tighter series than the '95 one, as a highly experienced Detroit side gets set to take on a young, skilled Chicago team that got past Calgary and Vancouver to get to this point.

Will the Red Wings be tired after a hard-fought seven game series with the Ducks?

If they lose, that's no doubt what people will say. The 'Hawks had a pretty rough series with Vancouver too, but I personally don't think it'll be a factor for either team. At this point in the season, the serious cup contenders won't LET that be a factor.

Chicago is led by youngsters Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, with Marty Havlat leading the team in scoring. They've got a deep roster and strong goaltending.

The Wings boast a potent offence as well though, with a couple of players that are a few favorable bounces away from really getting back on track.

No one come close to Detroit in terms of depth, which is really what won them their series with Anaheim. In net, Chris Osgood has been coming up big and his extensive playoff experience will likely be a factor.

*MY PICK: Wings in six

(4) Penguins vs. (6) Hurricanes

-There will be a sibling rivalry in action when this year's Eastern Conference Final gets underway, as Eric Staal's Carolina Hurricanes take on his brother Jordan's Pittsburgh Penguins.

In round one, I didn't see the Hurricanes getting past the Devils...but they did.

In round two, I thought there was no way the 'Canes would beat the top seeded Bruins...but they did.

Can they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins?

For Carolina to advance, Cam Ward will have to outplay Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal will have to continue his strong play up to this point and provide most of the offence. Ward has already outplayed Martin Brodeur and Vezina trophy nominee Tim Thomas, so it's not out of the question; as for Staal, he doesn't have to deal with Zdeno Chara anymore, so WATCH OUT!

On the other side of things, Pittsburgh is a strong, experienced team with a very high-powered offence, a sturdy defensive core and a very strong goalie...and (maybe most importantly), they're just one year removed from a trip to the Finals.

Sidney Crosby is red-hot right now, Evgeni Malkin is always dangerous and lately, the Pens have been getting goals from their secondary scorers...which is a recipe for success.

As a team, they got rid of Philadelphia faster than I expected and never looked like they were going to lose their series with Washington, even though it went the distance, but...

The good qualities that the Penguins have are all qualities that New Jersey and Boston both had...and Carolina found a way to win.

I've bet against them twice, and after two upsets I think I'm ready to go out on a limb and put my (figurative) money behind the Cardiac 'Canes.

*MY PICK: Hurricanes in 7

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