Friday, May 9, 2008

Eastern Conference Final Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (6)

It always takes me being backed up against a wall to get this series predictions done, and the puck drops in fifteen minutes, so it's probably time to get something here. Once again I'll preface this series by admitting the incredible self interest I have in it. However at the same time, these are probably the two teams I know more than any other in the league. As a Penguins fan I've been there all season long. As a relocated resident of the greater Philadelphia area, all my friends, my neighbors, my co-workers, if they carry any interest in hockey, are Flyers fans. When I'm talking hockey, it's usually about either the Penguins or the Flyers. Needless to say, there are a handful of people who I'll be temporarily falling out of communication with for the duration of the series.

As a Penguins fan, they are playing as well now as I've seen them play in years. Since landing Crosby they've gone through periods of putting up big numbers, but their defense hasn't been as solid as it is now in a very long time. Marc Andre Fleury post high ankle sprain injury has been impeccable. And the Penguins at home have been unbeatable , 13 straight home victories dating back to February 24th. Coming out of, perhaps, the most competitive division in hockey, the Atlantic, the Penguins may be the most dynamic team in the NHL.

For the Flyers, it's been more of an up and down season. They have struggled, but they've proven they are up to the task, always bouncing back. At one point late in the season it looked like the had fallen out of the playoff race. They lost 10 straight games in February, and they lost out on the Forsberg lottery (ultimately for the best) in which they were originally favored. However they finished out the season 12-4-4, beating the Penguins on the final day of the season to leap a few teams to the sixth spot. They went 7 games with the Capitals, winning the deciding game with all the momentum against them and on the road. In the second round they were matched up with the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens. After dropping game one in overtime, the Flyers bounced back, rattling young Canadien goaltender Carey Price, and winning the next four. Throughout the season they have been down, but they haven't been out.

It's been said again and again, but it can't be underrated, this is going to be an emotional series. Special teams will play a factor, no one can afford letting their emotions get the best of them. Losing Kimmo Timonen hurts Philadelphia more than people may think. Ultimately it comes down to who can win on the road. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but I've got the Penguins in 6.

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