Friday, May 14, 2010

2010 NHL Eastern Conference Finals preview.......

In most sports - in most seasons - the last 2 teams to qualify for the play-offs are normally an after-thought in the story of how the Conference was won.......but the #7 seed Flyers and the #8 Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge are the last 2 standing in the East and one of them will soon be competing for the Stanley Cup......for Montreal it is a chance to return to the Cup Finals for the first time since 1993 while the Flyers were last there in '97
Who has been the most impressive here? Philly did the unthinkable - twice - by coming back from 3-0 in the Boston series then again when down 3-0 to the Bruins in Game 7....but a special story is also brewing in La Belle Province as this team has won Game 6 and Game 7 over the Ovechkin's and the Crosby's
When thinking about a series the usual place to start, and often times finish, is in net......the goal tending usually tells the story for what a team can accomplish in the play-offs (witness Halak in the play-offs vs Luongo in the play-offs and their teams results)....Les Habitants handed the keys to the franchise to Carey Price and it had horrible results but luckily - LUCKILY - for Habs fans in 2003 the team drafted Jaroslav Halak as an after thought with the 271st overall draft pick....every team passed on Halak numerous times, but today who would you rather have as your backstop right here-right now in this Conference Finals moment?!?!

The Flyers counter with goalie Michael Leighton.........ahem...............I am underwhelmed as for the billionth time you are about to hear the following - the Flyers are a very good team but they lack a Stanley Cup caliber goalie...story of that franchise ever since I can remember.....all due respect to Leighton, who in all honesty is at least their best goalie, but since this team chose Vanbiesbrouck over Cujo several years ago they have had mediocre-to-good goal tending but great is usually required for a Stanley Cup run.....

The Canadiens have Scott Gomez playing the role of Steve Nash as he hands out assists to Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, and Tomas Plekanec.......they hope to have Andrei Markov back in the lineup asap

The Flyers counter with guys playing well right now like Ville Leino, Simon Gagne, and Claude Giroux - plus Danny Briere, Mike Richards, and Chris Pronger

On the surface this looks like a Habs-in-7 part III, especially with the potential advantage in net for Montreal, but I am taking the Flyers to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.....the depth and balanced contributions the Flyers get is what will carry the day in this series.....consider this - the Habs have 5 players in the PLUS for plus/minus with PK Subban leading the way at +3 while the Flyers have 11 PLUS players, and 6 players with at least the +3 Subban has (Marc-Andre Bergeron is -10?!?! YIKES)....if the Habs get Andrei Markov back to full health he will certainly add to the Habs chances, but even then I still value the Flyers depth above anything else in this series......does any team have a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Finals with PK Subban as their best plus/minus player?!?! Doubt it.....I also feel Philly is more comfortable playing a 2-1 type game then Washington or Pittsburgh which makes them a tougher opponent for the Habs