Pens-Canes. Wings-Hawks. Sunday at high noon the Conference Finals get underway. Predictions must be in by then as well. For all of you who didn't watch Reading Rainbow as a kid, the deadline is Sunday at 12:00 PM.
In terms of standings, I've been a joke lately and haven't gotten to them. They will be posted at one PM on Sunday. Promise. In retrospect, it's going to be easier for me due to the decrease in people who submitted predictions for the second round (and likely drop-off this time around as well). There you have it kids- procrastination does pay off.
Chicago vs. Detroit
Head Says: Any team that manages to put seven past Luongo in an elimination game is a force to be reckoned with, but it's hard for me to see Chicago outgunning the Wings. The Bulin Wall has been pretty damn bad this postseason (a Nabokov-esque sub-.900 SV%), and Chicago's blue line is not nearly as deep as Anaheim's. Looking at Chicago's top-minute defensemen, Brent Seabrook is the only one in the top three who I feel could shut down one of Detroit's forward lines. Thing is, the Wings are pretty deep in that department.
Chris Osgood will lose a game for Detroit, and the Hawks second tier scoring will continue to get on the scoresheet. Unfortunately for the Hawks, I don't think it will be enough. Wings in seven.
Heart Says: Chicago has a really exciting team to watch, and it's almost a given they will be one of the Western Conference superpowers during the next five years. For as much trash Brian Campbell gets from the Sharks fanbase, I don't blame him for leaving. I would have taken the seven million per too, so there's no hard feelings. He's just soft as hell. Detroit is a menace to society. I've always been a fan of Martin Havlat, and wouldn't mind seeing him in teal next season, however unlikely that would be. Detroit's fans sense of entitlement makes me want to puke. Brent Seabrook is one of my favorite NHL 09 players and led my team to a Cup just recently, paired with Robyn Regehr. Robyn Regehr is one of my favorite defenseman in the league, but he didn't play in the Chicago-Calgary series so whatevs. I do like Mike Babcock, but that doesn't really matter. Chicago with 100% of my heart's vote.
Pittsburgh vs. Carolina
Head Says: I haven't watched too much of the Canes this postseason, but I do know two things- Cam Ward is proving 2006 wasn't an anomaly, and Eric Staal is one hell of player. That being said, the Penguins also boast a damn fine crop of centers, and have been absolutely ferocious on the forecheck. They shut down the Caps breakout for long stretches in that series. I'm certain that Carolina will do a much better job than Washington at backchecking (read: Carolina will actually backcheck), but having two of the best players in the world is an advantage for the Pens.
Sergei Gonchar's health is instrumental here- before the Ovechkin induced injury that sidelined him, he was getting roughly 26 minutes a game. Although he returned in game seven, he only played 15:06. That's a big chunk missing from that blueline if he's receiving sub-20 minute nights, especially on the power play. Penguins in six.
Heart Says: I've always enjoyed watching Crosby in the defensive zone, and his offensive skills are out of this world. When the Sharks bowed out last season, I rooted for Pittsburgh solely because of this. The Eastern Conference is fairly foreign to me pre-playoffs (as in I only get to watch games on the weekends usually), so I don't have all too much riding on this series. Rod Brindamour makes Mike Ricci look like Fabio. That gets him some points in my book. Pittsburgh with 93% of my heart's vote.
DET 4 CHI 3
PIT 4 CAR 2
[Editor's Note]: These predictions may or may not have something to do with a sick fascination of mine- Detroit vs. Pittsburgh in the Finals once again, with Marian Hossa on the losing end for the second straight year. "I went with Detroit because they have the best chance to win the Stanley Cup" would be one of the greatest quotes of all-time if this occurs. Frankly, it's way too good to pass up.
FTF Drinking Game
Let's get a Conference Finals drinking game going. Submit some rules in the comments, even if you're not of legal age and will be binge-drinking Mountain Dew.
1) Drink twice every time they mention Staal. Marc Staal that is.
2) Drink thrice every time The Razor (if he's slated to be an announcer, I would assume so because he's the best Versus has) uses a big fancy word that you have to look up in the dictionary.
3) Take one shot of Exlax every time The Razor uses the phrase "laxative."
4) Drink once every time the Wings complain to the refs after a whistle. This should get you nice and toasted.
5) Drink twice every time a Red Wing executes an effective toe drag. Supplement this with two more if you are unable to remember the last time a San Jose Shark executed an effective toe drag. Hell, just drink four times and save yourself the trouble.
6) Hide your children when you see Pierre McGuire. Drink twice afterwards.
7) Drink once everytime you see an Extenze commercial on Versus. And don't end up drunk dialing the number- trust me, it don't work.