With a 8 for 14 prediction rate so far in these playoffs, Canuckz.com has predicted about as accurately as Maggie the Monkey. With that said, we’re pretty stubborn here at Canuckz.com and we’re not giving up. So without further ado, here is the MUCH anticipated Canuckz.com Stanley Cup Final prediction:
The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers have a few things in common. They both have goaltenders who nobody thought would be starting goalies at the beginning of this season, nevermind playing well for Stanley Cup finalists. They also have a very strong defense corps, especially their in their top four. Chicago’s Keith, Seabrook, Campbell and Hjalmarsson are probably equaled by Pronger, Timonen, Coburn and Carle for the Flyers. Up front, both teams are lead by young captains, surrounded by a good mix of young and veteran forwards.
Antti Niemi versus Michael Leighton. Who would have predicted that these two goalies would be squaring off in the Stanley Cup Final before this season started? Amazingly, neither one has been a weakness for their team in these playoffs. I think both goalies will be in for a rude awakening in the finals. Neither goalie has had to face the kind of net presence, bumping and overall chippy play that they’re due to see in this round. The Blackhawks have made Anderson, Luongo and Nabokov look very ordinary, often due to traffic in front. You can bet that the Flyers will be trying much of the same on Niemi, and the types of players to make it happen effectively. As for who has the edge, based on play you’d have to say Leighton, but I believe that his strong play has been more a product of Philly’s defense. The edge goes to neither team, it’s a wash.
The way Philadelphia’s defense is playing, I think you have to consider this position a wash also. The difference between now and the regular season has been Chris Pronger. Pronger has really stepped up his game and is playing over 28 minutes a game. He’s also the perfect guy to battle with Chicago’s big strong forwards in front of the net. With that said, Keith and Seabrook might be the best defense pair in the NHL. Philadelphia’s defense also hasn’t had to face a team with a decent offense since they faced New Jersey in round 1.
The edge at the forward position goes to Chicago. Jonathan Toews has been the best player in the playoffs, and is playing alongside the always dangerous Patrick Kane and the red hot Dustin Byfuglien. They’ve rolled through the playoffs nicely, and they still haven’t gotten much production from Marian Hossa. The rest of their forwards are all playing at the top of their game and appear to be very healthy.
As for the Flyers, they’ve now got Jeff Carter back in the lineup, but how healthy is he? He only got 17 minutes of ice time in the last game against Montreal, so things appear to be looking better. Mike Richards, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux and Simon Gagne are carrying the mail for the Flyers forwards, who are good and gritty. They aren’t as deep as the Blackhawks though, and they don’t have as much top end talent, although it’s close.
Both Joel Quenneville and Peter Laviolette come into this series with great resumes. Laviolette has won a Stanley Cup, while Quenneville has been one of the more successful coaches in this decade. It has been said that Quenneville has an easier time winning the matchup game because of his personnel, and I happen to agree with that. He is able to throw Keith and Seabrook on the ice to eat up big minutes, while he has four centres who are excellent defensively. David Bolland is his shutdown centre, but John Madden, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp could all play that role if needed. Laviolette is in a similar situation with his defense, as he has two excellent pairings that eat up huge minutes.
There are two x-factors are play. The Blackhawks have been good all season, and came close last year. How many times do we see teams lose in the conference final or Stanley Cup final and come back to win the top prize the following season?
The X-Factor for the Flyers is the incredible roll they’re on. This team was the last team to qualify for the playoffs, needing a shootout win against the Rangers on the last day of the season just to squeak in. They’re also the first team in 35 years to come back from a 3-0 deficit, as they did in round 2 against Boston.
The Flyers are hotter than they’ve been all season and have won 8 of their last 9 games. The Blackhawks are rolling also, winning 8 of their last 9 as well. One might give the edge to the Blackhawks, considering they knocked off the Canucks and Sharks, better teams than the Bruins and Canadiens.
Cinderella often makes it to the Stanley Cup Final but never wins it. I don’t think this year will be much different. The Blackhawks are healthier and more battle tested than the Flyers, who have scraped and clawed their way past relatively weak opponents. The Flyers will make it interesting, but ultimately the better team will win. Blackhawks in 6.