Barnaby: Crunch Time
Conference Finals Mark the Best Competition our Sport has to Offer
There haven't been any real surprises so far this post-season. We all knew coming in that there was going to be a lot of tight hockey. There are a lot of good hockey teams, especially in the West. We all expected a lot of close games this post season, and we are getting just that. After we got knocked out, the teams that remained were not a surprise, and I expected them to still be in the hunt. It has been great hockey so far, and the level of competition has impressed me a great deal.
I hope no one has overlooked Ottawa this season. Buffalo had such a stellar regular season that everyone was foreseeing them winning it all. But Ottawa is a great team. They had a terrible start to the year, but really came on after the first month and were great. They are explosive and have one of the best lines in hockey with Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Danny Heatley. Their goaltender, Ray Emery, is playing fantastic as well. The Senators just had a bad start to the season, but if they hadn't, they might have been the team with the Presidents' Trophy this year.
Moving to the Western Conference Finals, I have said all along that Anaheim is the best team that we in Dallas faced this year. They have a little bit of everything. They have guys that can score, guys that can check, and great special teams. They also may have the best two defensemen in the league right now with Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. They have a good goaltender in J.S. Giguere and they can play very tough. They can beat you in any style of game you want to play. If you want to play tough, they have all the tools to do that. If you want to play a skilled game, they can do that, too, without skipping a beat. I like Anaheim and think they will advance with Detroit losing Mathieu Schneider and I think that will be a problem for them as the series moves along.
For the Stanley Cup Finals, I think it is going to be Anaheim versus Ottawa. I had predicted Anaheim to win the West in six games, and for Ottawa to win the East in six games as well. The Detroit/Anaheim series may be the closer of the two Conference Finals. It is really hard to bet against Dominik Hasek, having played with him. He has the ability to steal games like he did in game one. But I am sticking with my original prediction of Anaheim against Ottawa for the Stanley Cup.
For the Stanley Cup champion, I am going to go with Anaheim. I really like that team. It is going to be a very tight series, and I expect it to go seven games. I am going with them because they showed me how tough a team they are to beat, and there was no question that they were the toughest team we played this year. Anaheim has had a lot of rest this post season due to how quickly they have beaten teams. However, Ottawa is up two games to nothing, and if they can move past Buffalo very quickly, then I think that will play a big role in the Cup Finals. I may have to reconsider depending on which team gets that much needed rest.