May 7, 2004
With twelve series in the books and only three more to go, I'm running out of time to look good. In fact, having just looked in the mirror, there's no chance for me at all. Six wins, six losses so far. The quest for 9 and 6 begins now!
Eastern Conference Final
Philadelphia vs Tampa Bay
Nine of the twelve series to date have been won by the team with home ice advantage, but not this one. The Philadelphia Flyers have defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions, and the team that won the Battle of Ontario to get to this point. Don't forget, many of the ""experts"" suggested that the winner of Toronto/Ottawa was destined for a date in the Finals.
Ken Hitchcock not only pushed the right buttons with Keith Primeau last round, but also got terrific, underrated performances out of Michal Handzus and Tony Amonte (just to name a couple) in the deciding Game Six.
With a near healthy Vladimir Malakhov, the blueline is back in tact, and Sami Kapanen with Simon Gagne and Primeau should be the line to watch for Philly.
I'm not at all worried about the layoff for the Lightning. Even if they show so early rust, it will be forgotten quickly. John Tortorella gets his toughest test yet, and it will be interesting to see which line gets Primeau, and which gets Zhamnov.
The Bolts defence is certainly underrated, and because they've made such quick work of their opponents, the ""Khabibulin for Conn Smythe"" campaign hasn't really gotten off the ground.
Tampa won the East in the regular season, but it's Philadelphia's turn now. With apologies to Dave Andreychuk...
Philadelphia in 6
Western Conference Final
Calgary vs San Jose
This series has seven games written all over it.
The storylines and similarities are almost endless.
Age, height, weight, and payroll are all nearly identical.
Current Flames Darryl Sutter, Miikka Kiprusoff, Shean Donovan, Dave Lowry are up against a former team.
Both clubs have players who won Cups with the Avalanche (Simon, Yelle, and Nieminen for Calgary, Ricci for San Jose).
Both have players who lost in the 1999 Final with Buffalo (Warrener for Calgary, Brown and Primeau for the Sharks).
Since the Sharks joined the league, neither of these clubs had made it this far. And of course, the one and only time these two did meet in the post-season, they went to double-overtime in game 7 before the Sharks won it on a Ray Whitney goal in May of 1995.
If you've been following my past prognostications, I've yet to pick the Flames. For that I feel shame.
But not enough to pick them now.
Ron Wilson guided the Capitals to the Final in 1998, and his masterful job this season will not end before Memorial Day in the USA.
San Jose in 7.