The conference finals are now upon us. The field of sixteen playoff teams has been reduced to the final four, and there isn't an underdog among them. Each of them is a division winner. Each of them has a potent offense and a solid defense, and a talented, overachieving goalie.
So who's going to win and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals? As you know, I don't do predictions, I just pick favorites, like my dad did with his kids. I prefer not to make myself look bad when it turns out I have absolutely no ability to see the future, so I just root for one team over another and hope for the best.
So, without further ado, I present to you my new official favorites, and why:
This series should be amazing. The Sabres, in case anyone has been completely asleep for the entire NHL season and somehow didn't notice, are by far the favorites to win the Cup. They have the deepest offense, a surprisingly solid defense, and a goalie who's probably been playing above his actual ability for months now. On their backs are riding an entire Rust Belt city of perennial losers desperate for one professional sports championship after years and years and years of disappointment.
Against the Sabres is an Ottawa team that is also trying to shake some post-season demons of their own, desperate to finally make it past the conference finals and into the championship series. Speaking of potent offenses, they have one of their own, along with strong defense, a ton of speed, and another overachieving goaltender---who probably has a little too much speed for his own good.
This should be THE matchup of the playoffs, and the winner, whoever it is, will be the favorite to win the Cup in the finals. As for who I prefer? To be honest, it's a tough call. It would be good to see the Senators finally take the Cup back to Canada, and shut up their Montreal and Toronto rivals for a while. But for the sake of 300,000 Buffalo residents---who will likely pull a Jonestown if they don't win it all---I guess I'll root for the Sabres. We'll just say it's because I used to be a huge Pat Lafontaine fan.
I probably don't have to write too much about this matchup. Though I absolutely abhore the Calgary Flames and rooted for the Red Wings to dispatch them in the first round, I can't, with good conscience, encourage Detroit to do anything but lose badly to the Ducks.
Let's be honest, the rivalry between Colorado and Detroit that began in the late 1990s and carried over into the early years of this decade is probably over. All the old players have moved on (only Joe Sakic is left from the original Avalanche squad from 1995-96 and 1996-97) and the rise of divisional overkill in regular season scheduling has lessened the importance of the matchup. Sure, here in the world of hockey blogging, we still ruthlessly attack each other, but the glory days of Avalanche/Red Wings hatred are gone. Also the fact that Detroit is in the conference finals and the Avalanche are playing golf may have something to do with it. The point is, however, that we should all probably move on with our lives.
But I just can't, and I know they can't either.
So, regardless of how strong the Ducks are and how amazing their goaltending has been, and the fact that Detroit will be without their number two defenseman and their goalie is completely insane and ready to physically explode at any second, I'm going to ignore the facts (even if they're favorable) and root from my gut. The Ducks will win. They MUST win this series and advance to the finals. Please. For me.