I am TOTALLY stoked for the conference finals.
And yes, the live blog will be dusted off and revived for each of the games.
I can’t promise I’ll post as frequently (or as chemical-free) as for a Canadiens game, but the old college try will be given.
It should be off-the-charts great hockey.
My sentimental choice; the Penguins. Five Quebecers (I’m a bit of a chauvinist) and a superstar who’s in the process of grabbing the 2009 playoffs by the short fuzzies.
Sidney Crosby blew my mind in the Washington series. I had never appreciated his skill set (he hasn’t been that great against the Canadiens), but Crosby’s vision, his recognition of opportunities and instant acceleration into openings. Wow!
Then add surprising strength, toughness and an absolute refusal to lose …. especially to that Other Guy. Sid the Kid is the indisputable leader of a very talented and well-coached team.
If my man Gino shows up, I don’t think Carolina has a chance.
But that’s what Mr. Always Wrong-pants thought before the Hurricanes beat Boston. I’d have bet my house (if it were paid for) that the Bruins were going to win that Game 7 – and the result proved, once again, that if I gambled on sports I’d be living in my car.
I don’t know how Carolina does it, but their success offers hope for the Canadiens. Cam Ward is the best goaltender left in the playoffs, and maybe we’ll be saying that about Carey Price one of these years.
On the other hand, Tomas Plekanec isn’t Eric Staal. But still, a no-name defence, secondary scoring from a guy they plucked off the waiver wire, 82-year-old Rod Brind’Amour, Sergei F. Samsonov … and they’re eight wins from the Cup.
Props to Paul Maurice and the great Ron Francis for having their guys prepared every night. Carolina proves what hard work, dedication and a sound, disciplined system can accomplish.
As for the west …. well, regular readers of this blog know I love the Red Wings. And I hope I’m not alone, because of you don’t like the way Detroit plays, then you don’t like hockey.
Two anecdotes say it all about the greatest organization in hockey:
Hakan Andersson scouts his native Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic for Detroit. He’s responsible for such steals as Henrik Zetterberg (drafted 210th overall in 199) and Jonathan Ericsson (291st: THE LAST PLAYER DRAFTED in 2002).
A few years ago the Wings wanted to pay Andersson a six-figure bonus. The scout was thankful but turned it down because, Andersson explained, he made quite enough money to live well in Sweden.
Then there’s the story about Zetterberg’s first training camp. Scrimmages begin and Darren McCarty pounds the snot out of the Swedish rookie, cheap-shoting Zetterberg all over the ice.
Afterwards, McCarty apologizes, explaining that Ken Holland, Detroit’s genius GM, had instructed him to tune the kid up and see if he could handle the NHL.
There will be a fair bit of tuning up in the Detroit-Chicago series.
For one thing, it’s the Western Conference, where they don’t screw around. This is not Canadiens-Senators in a 7-5 hot dog fest.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings will play smash-mouth hockey – the kind that wins in the playoffs. And the young Hawks are awfully good at it.
You have to like Detroit to advance, but they survived a brutal war of attrition against Anaheim.
Chicago is rested – and they’re utterly fearless. A big key in the series will be goaltending, and Nikolai Khabibulin has the ability to outplay Chris Osgood.
God, I love that Jonathan Toews kid. Did he lose one single puck battle against Vancouver? An NHL captain at 21. What a horse!
Something to keep an eye on: I don’t know that Detroit will have a answer for the agitators, Ben Eager (who’s become a hockey player in Chicago) and Adam Burish. Then there’s that Dustin Byfuglien kid, who’s a cheeseburger shy of 250 but can skate and score.
It should be a great series.
Just seeing those two jerseys …