Western Conference winner is: the Vancouver Canucks
Probably the hottest team heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. They've got 2 great scoring lines that are currently doing what they're supposed to do, a quality checking line that does a decent job shutting down the other teams top guys and an energetic, big and bruising fourth line that can dole out some punishment along with handling themselves with their fists. As long as the Sundin/Demitra/Kesler line continues to score it will help take the attention off of the Sedins/Burrows line. However if they hit a cold streak and teams can then focus in on the Sedins, they've proved that they will dissapear if you are able to put a full court press on them. The Canucks defense is very solid from 1 through 6 and they've got a couple of guys in Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and to a lesser extent Alex Edler and Mattias Ohlund can all put up points if need be so their powerplay should be solid throughout. And of course nothing helps more in the playoffs then goaltending and the Vancouver Canucks have one of the best three goaltenders in the game today. Roberto Luongo, while at times inconsistent during the regular season, always steps up for important games (ie. World Cup in 2004 and Canucks series win vs. Dallas two years ago) and this year will be no different. The Western Conference playoffs will be an absolute grind and any team that comes out of their deserves to be commended. But the San Jose Sharks will have to prove to me that they won't choke again, the Red Wings have severe goaltending issues, the Flames are folding like a cheap suit right now, the Blackhawks like the Penguins two years are just to young and inexperienced right now and will probably be bounced in the first round, ditto for the Blue Jackets although I have more faith in their goaltending then Chicago's, my darkhorse in the Anaheim Ducks cause they seem to be putting it together at the right time and with their phenomenal first line and two first rate defensemen on the back end they could be the Cinderella story, and finally the Blues or Predators will just be happy to be a young team that made it. But right now my choice to represent the West in the Stanley Cup final are the Vancouver Canucks.
Eastern Conference winners: the New Jersey Devils
Much like the Red Wings they are the franchise that just keeps winning and winning and winning. As long as Martin Brodeur is manning the crease in New Jersey this will not change. The Devils have arguably one of the top lines in the league with Parise/Zajac/Langenbrunner putting up massive numbers this season and I don't expect that to change in the playoffs. They are deadly 5 on 5 and almost unstoppably in the PP. Elias/Zubrus/Gionta as a second line is a great combo for a second line, a big two way centre with two highly skilled wingers flanking him and Elias has had arguably the second best season of his career. Shanahan/Madden/Rolston is an absolute lexury as a third line as not only can they put up big points on any given night but they're phenomenal in their own end and Shanny along with Rolston are particularly effective PP players and their fourth line is chalk full of experience. All of their forward lines have Stanley Cup rings on them and that could prove to be huge. The one place where the Devils may be exposed is on their back end where they have a host of nobody's as it's not a very impressive group but they get bailed out of their most glaring mistakes by the best goaltender in the game today in Marty Brodeur. Brodeur's resume is lengthy and unmatched among active goalies and given the fact that he's missed most of the season with an elbow injury will mean that unlike the past few years he won't be as tired as he was. The Bruins historically choke in the playoffs much like San Jose, Washington has no goaltending, Philadelphia's goaltending is also very questionable and their defence leaves something to be desired, Pittsburgh's defence is not that impressive and while they arguably are the hottest team and offence heading into the playoffs I don't expect Marc-Andre Fleury to continue his hot play but if he does they are my dark horse team in the east, The Carolina Hurricanes are just to soft and their goaltending is too streaky, The Montreal Canadiens might win a round but a lack of secondary scoring, a suddenly porous defence and inconsistent goaltending will do them in, and either the Rangers or the Panthers will probably either get killed in the first round or upset Boston and then get killed in the second round. So right now my eastern favorites are the New Jersey Devils.
Stanley Cup winner: the New Jersey Devils.
Martin Brodeur will prove prevailent over the younger goaltending star in seven games, much like Patrick Roy did to him 8 years ago. This is my crapshoot, my choice for the Stanley Cup final. Are the odds on my side? No, but I sure hope that I am cause I think it would be a great series.