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SenShot’s Round Three Playoff Preview

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The Final Four is set and ready to begin.

Round two is history, and four teams are left to battle it out for Lord Stanley. Let’s take a look at the two Conference Final match-ups:

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

(3) VS(5)

The second round was a breeze for these two teams. Both swept their respective series and have been resting for more than a week waiting for the third round to begin. With both teams having played a full seven games in their first round series, these two teams have many similarities in this year’s edition of the playoffs.

Boston came into the playoffs this year as a heavy favorite to come out of the East. With Montreal giving them a scare in the first round, Boston looked to avenge their embarrassing loss in last year’s playoffs to the Flyers when they blew a 3-0 series lead and lost four straight games to get knocked out of the playoffs. With the Bruins being better matched against the physical Flyers squad, Boston took advantage of a Philly’s poor goal tending and Chris Pronger‘s absence to oust the the Flyers.

Tampa Bay got the monkey off their back as they won their first playoff round since they won the Cup in 2004. With their seven game series against the Penguins, where the Lightning won three games in a row to overcome a 3-1 series deficit, the Bolts have won seven straight games. Riding the ageless wonder that is Dwayne Roloson, the Bolts shutdown the offensive Capitals to advance to the conference finals.

Both these teams are rocking winning streaks going into the Eastern Conference Finals with the B’s on a five game winning streak while the Bolts are on a seven game winning streak. Both teams are undefeated when scoring first going a combined 13-0. This will be the first meeting in the playoffs between these two and will feature the playoffs two best tenders. Roloson has a SV% of .941 while Tomas has a SV% of .937 so its safe to say this will be a defensive battle.

Tony’s Thoughts: With both teams playing tight defensively and featuring the top two goalies in the playoffs, this series has all the makings for an old fashioned New Jersey Devils barn burner. I think the two factors that will decide this series will be the toughness of the Bruins versus the veteran experience of the Bolts. The B’s have the physicality that their stars can bring throughout their entire line-up the cannot be matched by Tampa. However, the Bolts have a veteran core that helped them win their last Stanley Cup and knows what it takes to win. This series will be close, and I’m glad to see two classy vets like Roloson and Tomas have a 50/50 chance to play for Lord Stanley. Look for Martin St. Louis to have a big series.

Jared’s Thoughts: Both teams have had enough rest and both are veteran enough to not have it affect them negatively.  The only question mark I have is whether the rest will hurt Dwayne Roloson‘s momentum. I think the Bruins combination of aggressiveness and skill will be too much for the Lightning defense to handle, and the Bruins’ top line of Krejci, Lucic and Horton are just hitting their stride.  If Patrice Bergeron is able to come back from concussion before too long, the Bruins will be finals bound.

Derrick’s Thoughts: Tampa Bay has really been the surprise of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Not too many were picking Stevie Y’s crew to make it this far, but they are full value for their current position. Boston, meanwhile looked like the team to beat in the East heading into the post-season and they just continued to get better in reaching this point. Both teams are getting contributions throughout their line-ups, especially from their big guns while goal tending for both has been all-world. No team seems to have a significant advantage over the other, the difference might come down to coaching – which coach can do more efficiently and consistently find ways to break down the other team’s system?

Here is the schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals:

Game 1Saturday, May 14, 8pmTampa Bay at Boston
Game 2Tuesday, May 17, 7:30pmTampa Bay at Boston
Game 3Thursday, May 19, 7:30pmBoston at Tampa Bay
Game 4Saturday, May 21, 1pmBoston at Tampa Bay
Game 5Monday, May 23, 8pmTampa Bay at Boston*
Game 6Wednesday, May 25, 8pmBoston at Tampa Bay*
Game 7Friday, May 27, 8pmTampa Bay at Boston*

* = if necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

(1)

VS

(2)

This series will involve to teams that cannot live up to expectations. But there is good news for one of these teams, one will finally advance to the finals. The loser will be left answering a lot of questions.

Vancouver continued their shaky playoffs as they could not close out their series against the Predators when they had their chance. Even though they won the series in six games, Van-city still has many holes such as goal tending and scoring. The Canucks got through the series as Ryan Kesler returned to his offensive ways and got a total of 11 points in the series and carried the team to the conference finals.

San Jose looked to be in full control of their series as they jumped to an early 3-0 series lead over the Wings. But as history likes to repeat itself, the Sharks blew their series lead and had to beat the Wings in a seventh and deciding game. The Sharks are doing it without their big guns Heatley and Marleau doing anything as they had a combined five points in the second round tilt versus Detroit.

Tony’s Thoughts: These two teams are eerily similar in many ways. Both have high powered offences that aren’t clicking on full steam yet. Both have defensive units that are very mobile and can puck up points. And both teams have goalies that have not silenced their critics yet. Which ever team can consistently get it going will win this series. I expect this series to go the distance and for Logan Couture to continue his awesome play.

Jared’s Thoughts: I was not as sold on Antti Niemi‘s performance against Detroit as most people were.  I found he fought the puck and many times just threw himself around the crease to stop the puck.  I think this strategy might get the better of him this round against the plethora of snipers at Vancouver’s disposal.  I think the Wings took a lot out of the Sharks and the quick turnaround will hurt them against another quality opponent.

Derrick’s Thoughts: The battle of the teams who have trouble closing out series. This match up will be determined by the team with the stronger killer instinct and the team who’s big guns decide to show up. The Sedins, Heatley, Marleau, etc. have all struggled to find that playoff gear. Both teams have had suspect  goaltending at times throughout these playoffs, as well. So, who wants it more? Perhaps Kesler will just continue to drag his team all the way to the Cup finals.

Here is the schedule for the Western Conference Finals:

Game 1Sunday, May 15, 8pmSan Jose at Vancouver
Game 2Wednesday, May 18, 9pmSan Jose at Vancouver
Game 3Friday, May 20, 9pmVancouver at San Jose
Game 4Sunday, May 22, 3pmVancouver at San Jose
Game 5Tuesday, May 24, 9pmSan Jose at Vancouver*
Game 6Thursday, May 26, 9pmVancouver at San Jose*
Game 7Saturday, May 28, 8pmSan Jose at Vancouver*

* = if necessary

Enjoy the Conference Finals and let us know your thoughts on each series.

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Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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