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Broadcaster Conference Finals Picks 2010

by Blue Jackets Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets
JEFF RIMER

West
San Jose/Chicago - Sharks win in 6... The Sharks time has come. Watching their performance in the playoffs they are focused for one thing, a Cup victory. Joe Thornton, an underachiever in playoffs past, is without a doubt playing his best post season hockey presently. His linemates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau will provide the Blackhawks with much more difficulty than what Vancouver's top line featuring the Sedins did. But, that's not all, their second line with playoff hero Joe Pavelski leading the way provides the Sharks with a better top six than Chicago. The San Jose blueline also gets the edge in my opinion with Dan Boyle and team captain Rob Blake providing the offense and their big bruiser on the defensive side, Douglas Murray, who has been exceptional in my opinion and will have to shut down the likes of Toews and Kane. In goal, again, I will give the edge to the Sharks with Nabakov and his previous playoff experience. This is the year of the Sharks and San Jose will win in an exciting six-game series win over Chicago.

East
Montreal/
Philadelphia - Canadiens win in 7... Oh Boy! This one I am not as certain of. Their are ample reasons for me to pick both teams to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Both have had impressive series wins. First Montreal in beating the Presidents' Trophy winning Washington Capitals in seven games and then turning around and upsetting the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. Remember, both game seven victories came on the road in a hostile environment. And what can I say about the Flyers? Down three games to none, Philadelphia just became only the third team in NHL history to come from a three-game deficit to win a series! And they did it by winning the final game in Boston after giving the Bruins a 3-0 first period lead. Are they a team of destiny? I am picking Montreal based on two factors: 1) better goaltending Halak over Leighton; and 2) the great play in these playoffs of Cammalleri, Gionta and Gomez. The Flyers certainly have their share of quality forwards, but I am going with the Canadiens in another seven-game series.


GEORGE MATTHEWS
West
Chicago/San Jose - Blackhawks win in 7... Top two teams in the Western Conference get to the final and deservadly so. Chicago won the season series 3-1 but all the games were close. The Sharks are 7-1 since falling behind Colorado 2-1 in the opening round. Chicago can win on the road as they showed by winning all three games at GM Place in Vancouver. The Sharks forwards are physical and Thornton line is getting better as they showed against Detroit. The 'Hawks lines one through four are as fleet footed as any forward group in the league and no team has better balance in the NHL. Chicago's defensive depth with Keith and Seabrook, who will have to be huge this series, Campbell, Sopel and Hjalmarsson will show. Neither team had great confidence in their goaltending to start the playoffs and Nabakov has a slight edge due to playing on the World's biggest stages (NHL and Olympics) longer. A close series, but Chicago's success on the road will be the difference in the series.

East
Montreal/
Philadelphia - Canadiens win in 6/7... The Flyers are the lowest seed in history to host a conference finals under the current playoff format. They last won a Cup in 1975 and will be looking to break the long drought by first beating the Canadiens, who last won it all in 1993. The two teams split the season series. Cammalleri has been a monster scoring 12-6-18 in two series, but has received good support from Gionta and Pleckanec. Simon Gagne has been the hero for Philly scoring two game-winning goals of the four in the historic series comeback victory over Boston. He has been supported by Danny Briere and Ville Leino who comebined for 7-9-16 vs. Bruins. The Flyers have the better defensive group, led by Pronger who is playing 30-plus minutes/game and has elevated the game of partner Matt Carle. Gorges and Gill have held down the fort for Montreal, but the emergence of PK Subban has been huge. Halak will continue to be the story of the playoffs with his performance in this series. He is 7-1 when facing 31 or more shots on goal and Montreal has blocked 320 shots in the playoffs, which is 130 more than second place Chicago. If Philly can get traffic to the net combined with getting the puck to the net, they have a chance to win - however, I'm staying with Montreal.


BILL DAVIDGE
West
Chicago/San Jose - Sharks in 7... They are in conference finals, but there is still a lot of pressure on the San Jose organization and Doug Wilson after losing in the first round last year. Everybody on that team took ownership and the individuals have come together this year. They are playing some good hockey right now, but the key is Nabakov and he must come to the forefront of this series. They can score, but the pressure is still on. I think the Blackhawks are just getting going and their confidence is growing. I think Byfuglien will be a factor in the series. This could be the best series in this year's playoffs, both teams are supposed to be here and both have pressure to win.

East
Montreal/
Philadelphia- Canadiens win in 6... Parity is back in the NHL and all you need is to get into the playoffs and have a hot goaltender. Michael Leighton has stepped in and given Philadelphia a chance to win, giving up only four goals in two and half games and helping the Flyers get to the Eastern Conference final. Simon Gange is back and making a difference and when you look at the top four defenseman for the Flyers, that's where they've been able to win the first two series and the case will be the same in this series. It could be a storybook finish for the Flyers. For Montreal they are doing it with three players that everyone laughed at playing them together because they are not very big - the smurf line of Gionta-Gomez-Cammalleri. They've stepped up with timely scoring and goals early in the game.


BOB McELLIGOTT
West
Chicago/San Jose - Blackhawks in 6... Joe Thornton has played better as of late. The star players up front are going to have to continue to rise to the top again in this series. They won four one-goal games vs. Detroit. Niemi is the key for Chicago and he now has series wins over Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo. Up front, Jonathan Toews is stepping into his own in this year's playoffs. The Blackhawks were great on the road vs. Vancvouer, but they have to take advantage of the United Center crowd and I think they will do that and win this series in six games.

East
Montreal/
Philadelphia- Canadiens win in 6... The Flyers had to rise like a phoenix to defeat Boston, in the series and in the seventh game, being down 3-0. We've seen the Montreal Canadiens do it with great defense and hard workers. Hal Gill was just a veteran d-man and now come playoff time, he shows his value. Josh Gorges is doing a great job with him, blocking shots and playing against the other teams' best players. Who would have expected the Flyers to come all the way back being down 3-0 and making history by winning the series in game seven at Boston. Leighton is the story for me, a career minor league guy, coming along, Boucher gets hurt and he has to come in a perform and does so. Both teams had question marks throughout the year with goaltending, but they are the two teams left standing at the end of the day.

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