[Enter "The Eye of the Tiger"]
Finally, no more Red Wings-Penguins Stanley Cup Finals! We’ve got two new teams with fresh faces and potent players who can step it up in any time of importance, like this importance, the importance of the Stanley Cup.
The Chicago Blackhawks were always expected to make the Finals. I said that they would lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins here in the Finals, in my Pre-Season Predictions. They’re here, and ready to end the longest Cup drought in the NHL. Their offense is full of depth, starting with Captain and current playoff scoring leader, Jonathan Toews along with mullet-man Patrick Kane. You’ve also got the blizz and blazz of Marian Hossa, who hopes the hockey gods don’t strike him with thunder again. Their third line may be the best in the league, made up of Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg, and Andrew Ladd. Their defense is nothing to scoff at either. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are Olympic Champions and look to make it a memorable year for them. The pairing of Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson ain’t no hunch either. And we all know about Antti Niemi, how he’s come from a Finnish castoff to possible Stanley-Cup goaltender.
The Philadelphia Flyers need a skills competitionshootout to even make it to the Big Dance. However, I’m not surprised that they’ve made it so far. They have players who have experience, and turn it on at the best time possible. That starts with yet another young Canadian captain, Mike Richards, who is being compared to Bobby Clarke (let’s hope his broadcasting skills will be better). Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne have the instant chemistry together that GM’s salivate about. The line of Scott Hartnell-Ville Leino-Daniel Briere is becoming a story. They’re the reasons that this team made history against the Boston Bruins. And do remember, Ville Leino was traded for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen? Ole who? Chris Pronger anchors this sqaud, the mean meanies of all but darn it, he’s skilled and has stuff only leaders are made of. Guys like Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen are also valuable members on this team, especially on special teams, the way they were able to beat the Montreal Canadiens. The big question for me is Michael Leighton. Can he keep it up against such a talented offense in Chicago. Can he record another shutout? Both unlikely, but I still think Brian Boucher will make an appearance in the Finals.
The X-Factor for me will be Dustin Byfuglien. This guy is big, real big, and scores goals at the most important times for his team. Nobody wants to play against him, and I can see Chris Pronger countlessly getting frustrated and melting down, and possibly costing his team. Playing for the majority of a line with Kane and Toews, the kid has nowhere but to go up. Chicago has the better offense, Philly has the better defense, and Chicago wins decisively in net. Therefore, my Stanley Cup Pick is…
Blackhawks in 6
Series MVP: Dustin Byfuglien
Conn Smythe Winner: Dustin Byfuglien
I can not wait until the moment where Marian Hossa touches the Stanley Cup. Finally, a Sens-nurtured player wins the holy grail.