Well, the final four are set and have already met. Two Original Six franchises, another team with plenty of history, and then a team founded in 1991. Two large American markets, a large Canadian market, and a California team. I'd say the NHL could be content with that. But I'm sure they're hoping for a Philly/Chicago final, as am I.
As difficult as it is to actively support the Flyers, it's impossible to root for Montreal. And I'd rather Joe Thornton not get his name on the Stanley Cup, so go Blackhawks!
Before getting to Sunday's games, why does the NHL insist on waiting for every series in a round to complete before even scheduling the next round? It makes sense in the 1st round, as teams are re-seeded afterward. But there's no re-seeding for the Conference Finals. The last 2 teams play each other. So while the Bruins and Flyers played Game 7 on Friday night, the NHL could have scheduled Game 1 of the Western finals for Saturday afternoon. That would avoid any competition with the NBA, and would allow the two series to alternate nights. West, East, West, East. Yet another fuckup.
Another, quicker question: Could the NHL please boycott Arizona too?
CHICAGO 2, SAN JOSE 1 (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)
Antti Niemi might be the best goalie left in the playoffs, and he's only now getting some credit for it. He stopped 44 of 45 shots in this win. The 26 year old Finn also had a 2.25 GAA in the regular season. Jason Demers scored his first goal of the postseason in the 1st, but that was it for San Jose. Patrick Sharp tied it in the 2nd, then Dustin Byfuglien netted the game-winner in the 3rd. Byfuglien has been a bit of an unlikely hero for Chicago. This was his 5th goal of the playoffs.
PHILADELPHIA 6, MONTREAL 0 (Flyers lead series 1-0)
The Flyers run has been nothing short of spectacular. On the last day of the regular season, they hosted the Rangers, with the winner earning a playoff spot and the loser seeing their season end. They won the game 2-1, thanks to a 2-1 shootout win. Then they upset 2nd seeded New Jersey, made history in Boston, and now they've annihalted the Canadiens.
But I wouldn't be too confident if I were Philly. They may have toyed with Halak in Game 1, seeing him pulled halfway through the 2nd, but Halak faltered in Game 1 of Montreal's series with Pittsburgh. He then allowed a mere 11 goals in the next 6 games, with a .945 SV%. This series will be a long one.
My Conference Final predictions:
Chicago in 6
Montreal in 7
CONN SMYTHE WATCH:
Mike Cammalleri, LW, MON - 12 G, 6 A, 2 GWG
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI - 6 G, 14 A, 3 GWG
Mike Richards, C, PHI - 5 G, 12 A
Dany Briere, C, PHI - 7 G, 8 A, 3 GWG, +3
Joe Pavelski, C, SJ - 9 G, 6 A, 3 GWG, +7
Chris Pronger, D, PHI - 4 G, 7 A, +3, 29:39 ATOI, 34 BS
Brent Seabrook, D, CHI - 2 G, 6 A, +5, 44 Hits
Hal Gill, D, MON - 54 blocked shots
Josh Gorges, D, MON - 20 hits, 44 blocked shots
Jaroslav Halak, G, MON - 8 W, 2.42 GAA, .933 SV%
Evgeni Nabokov, G, SJ - 8 W, 2.43 GAA
7:00pm - Montreal @ Philadelphia - Versus (Flyers lead series 1-0)
10:00pm - Chicago @ San Jose - Versus (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)