Jackson and I survived our first two round's predictions with little indication that we knew what we were talking about, but that puts us on par with many of the "experts" who have also fared poorly in this years crazy Stanley Cup playoffs.
In the first round, I was 3-5 while Jackson was 4-4 and we were each 1-3 in the second round as I had Chicago as my lone winner and Jackson had San Jose. It looks like we will both ether look like expers or go down on the same sinking ship in this round as we independently came up with the same predictions.
After doing two radio preview shows yesterday, I have talked enough to convince myself that I knew what I was saying about in the finals. The reality is that both series could go either way and hopefully will be long, competitive match-ups.
Chicago (2) - San Jose (1) Even after winning two series, I am still not convinced that San Jose has left their past playoff failure ghosts behind. Their first line players still have not performed up to what would be expected of them but they did show signs of getting on the bandwagon in the last couple of games against Detroit.
San Jose has been led by Joe Pavelski who has taken the pressure off the Joe Thornton line to some extent. I don't believe that this situation will continue in this manner. With eight days off since the last game, it will be hard for the Sharks to recover that momentum.
Chicago has shown explosive type scoring in their series with Vancouver and they look like they are hitting their stride, even without much goal production from Marion Hossa. A key for San Jose will be discipline, and not giving Chicago much time on the power play. Chicago's penalty kill was the second best in the league so they can more afford to play with an edge and get away with it against the Sharks.
Chicago's defense is superior to San Jose's in depth and speed. I see the goalie match-up as a near wash with a possible edge to Niemi who has not platey like a rookie at any point in the playoffs thus far.
The first two games in this series will be key. If Chicago continues their road success, and wins one in San Jose, which I expect them to do, they will have a distinct edge. If they win both games at the Shark Tank, it will be a short series. Chicago in six.
Philadelphia (7) - Montreal (8) This is a series that is virtually impossible to predict. I went back and looked at material from the pre-season when I predicted that the Flyers would win the Stanley Cup. Up until the last couple of days, that was a really horrible prediction but now at least has a chance to be viable.
The things I liked about Philadelphia seven months ago are the same things that give them a good shot against a smaller, quicker Montreal team. They have solid defense, anchored by playoff veteran Chris Pronger that will allow them to play a rough and tumble game with Dan Carcillo, Scott Harnell and others roughing up the opposition.
Montreal will continue to play a game where they try to get a lead and then suck the life out of the clock with their puck possession game. Mike Cammalleri has really come into his own in the playoffs and will continue to play well against the Flyers. The Flyers have many offensive weapons and may even get Jeff Carter back in the line up if the series is a long one.
Both teams have played well not having home ice advantage through two rounds and each will each enjoy strong home ice support in this series. Montreal has an advantage in goal as Jaroslav Halak has been masterful so far. Michael Leighton's return as Brian Boucher went down has been solid and he appears to have picked up where he left off during the season.
In a series that is really too close to call, I'm going to return to my pre-season thoughts and go with Philadelphia in seven.
Chicago (2) - San Jose (1) How often do you see the number one seed and the number two seed in a conference final? You’d think it would happen more often, but, hey, that’s why I love hockey.
San Jose has yet to see the point performance from their top line that they’ve been wanting all along and I don’t see Joe Pavelski standing up again for them in this series. Chicago in six.
Philadelphia (7) - Montreal (8) It’s hard to say which one of these teams has a better story throughout these playoffs, but at least it’s guaranteed that one of them will be in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Both teams are very resilient, obviously, so I have a feeling this is going a seven game series. Philadelphia has the rough, tough, grittier edge to their game that I don’t think Montreal will be able to match and that will be the turning point when all is said and done. Philadelphia in seven.
Buddy and Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass