So I was wrong with my San Jose pick. I should have known that the Sharks would not be able to keep up with the speed and depth of the Hawks. I was counting on the big three of Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley ,and Joe Thornton to come through with something to prove but they just wilted pathetically into the sunset. They were a combined minus-11 in the sweep and where was that guy who said he would make a difference in the playoffs?
He made a difference alright as Dany Heatley was sitting in the penalty box when the Hawks scored the series winner. Evgeni Nabokov never made a big save when they needed it and may have played his last game as a Shark. Like the Canucks, San Jose had great expectations. In the last six years they have amassed 648 points and have won their division four times. They have never made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Close is not good enough. The final four is not good enough.
Philadelphia is playing well but do we really know how well? They got into the playoffs with a shootout win over the Rangers on the last day of the season. This put them in seventh place in the Eastern conference with 88 points. Overall they finished 18th. That’s right 18th! Anaheim, Calgary, and St. Louis all finished with more points but unfortunately for them they were in the West.
By finishing seventh they got the New Jersey Devils in the first round. Jacques Lemaire watched his team play so poorly that after the series he decided to pack it in. In the meantime, the Bruins had knocked off the Buffalo Sabres and looked like they were unbeatable but then the boys from Boston became only the third team in league history to choke away a three game lead.
While this was going on, the Montreal Canadiens and Jaroslav Halak were doing the impossible, no the improbable by knocking off the Washington Capitals and then the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers beat the sixth place team in the Devils, the 14th place team in the Bruins and the 19th place team in the Canadiens.
How good are they? Not good enough to match up against the Hawks.
Chicago finished third overall with 112 points, 24 more than the Flyers. They scored 35 more goals and allowed 16 less. They beat Nashville who finished the season with 100 points and two division winners in Vancouver and San Jose. The Blackhawks have three solid lines and a fourth that can create havoc when need be. They are bigger than any team the Flyers have faced and faster then any team the Flyers have seen.
Prediction: I am taking Chicago in FIVE.