Now that the conference finals are set, here's who I think will advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Sharks were the number one seed and have home-ice advantage over the Blackhawks. That's good for them because HP Pavilion is a tough place to play if you're the visiting team. The bad news is Chicago has been good on the road this playoff season. I think the Blackhawks have to play better at home in this round, in order to advance. Antti Niemi was a relative unknown coming into the season, but is clearly the guy the 'Hawks think can take them to the promised land. He hasn't given me any reason to disagree with Joel Quenneville on that. The Sharks need big performances out of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski. Chicago will lean on Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. I think the offensive stars of the Blackhawks will outshine those of the Sharks and Chicago will advance after six games.
Who would've ever predicted this? The number seven and eight seeds are squaring off with a chance to advance to the final round and win the Stanley Cup. Both Philadelphia and Montreal have made history, during these playoffs. The Flyers came back from a 3-0 deficit to knock off the Bruins, while the Canadiens have mowed down the Capitals and Penguins, so far. Jaroslav Halak has gotten the bulk of credit for Montreal's success. It shouldn't be forgotten that the shot-blocking his teammates have provided has contributed greatly. Montreal will have to continue that and also have to withstand a physical beating. Philadelphia will punish the Canadiens, which is something the Caps and Pens didn't do. Even though I think the Flyers might prevail because of the physical play, I can't pick against the Habs because I've already done that twice. I'll say this one lasts seven games.
*Throughout the season, AAA will bring you the Broadcaster's Blogs - "Bobby Mac", "Davidge Dishes" and "Rimer Ramblings." The Columbus Blue Jackets radio and television analysts will try to keep you updated on all the season action through their blogs, especially when the Blue Jackets are on the road.