If you had told me a month ago that Anaheim would be the odds on favorite to win the Western Conference Finals, I would have laughed in your face and said, “Yeah, and they are probably going to play Edmonton for the Title.” Laugh no more.
Two teams I didn’t even give a chance out of the first round are now serious contenders for the Stanley Cup. Did I miss something here? In a Conference that was a “you have to see it to believe it” tournament for a chance at the Cup, Edmonton and Anaheim prove that the NHL has changed for the better and talent can no longer carry you into the finals.
For example, Ottawa has problems. It is now their second attempt to get high talent and literally push their way to a Stanley Cup final. That didn’t happen. Buffalo was on a different spectrum, and no one even knew if this Sabres team was worth the price of admission. But Buffalo was a stronger, more team-orientated club and in the end spelled doom to a well financed machine in the Ottawa Senators.
Talent can only take you so far alone, it is the system in which that talent plays that has teams winning.
Now that I have to dismantle my predictions in the Western Conference, let’s recap quickly my picks from before.
Prediction: Buffalo defeats Ottawa in 6 games. Reality: Very close, Buffalo wins in 5.
Prediction: Carolina defeats New Jersey in 5 games. Reality: Dead on, Carolina wins in 5.
Prediction: San Jose defeats Edmonton in 7 games. Reality: WRONG, Edmonton wins in 6.
Prediction: Anaheim defeats Colorado in 6 games. Reality: Close, Anaheim sweeps in 4.
Okay quick notes, Colorado didn’t even show up for this series, only taking one game to overtime. Other than that it was all Anaheim. Edmonton has a way of proving me wrong. Buffalo looked a little too good in the series against Ottawa.
Okay down to fearless predictions.
Eastern Conference Final
Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes – The battle of young goaltenders. Buffalo looks good, no doubt about it, but the Hurricanes now have confidence. I expect that the team that wins the first game, will win the series. Confidence will play into the goaltenders heads, Cam Ward must play well against an offensive nightmare that is Buffalo. In the end these two teams will have lost all respect for each other.
Result: Carolina defeats Buffalo in 6 games.
Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Mighty Ducks – What to do, what to do… Frankly I never expected for the Oilers to get this far, which makes me root for them as underdogs. But Anaheim looked so good against Colorado that I can’t seriously discount them. Edmonton must find their legs to be effective and this series will be physical. I would imagine some carnage with these two teams.
Result: Anaheim defeats Edmonton in 7 games.
It’s actually kind of funny when I look back at Edmonton’s run. It was San Jose that got the Oilers into the playoffs by defeating Vancouver. Irony is a funny thing.