NHL playoff predictions: Finals

NHL playoff predictions: Finals
May 30, 2013, 2:00 pm
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After two rounds of predictions, Tim Panaccio is 9-3 and Sarah Baicker is 8-4 (thanks a lot, Sharks!).

Here's who they predict will make it to the Stanley Cup Final.

Eastern Conference
No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 4 Boston
Panotch: The Bruins have shown admirable tenacity in the playoffs so far. Their historic three-goal comeback against Toronto in Game 7 of the opening round smacks of destiny in their minds. Boston is the more physical opponent in the East but the Penguins still have the better skill and forward depth. Should be a great goalie battle between Tuukka Rask and the Pens’ Tomas Vokoun. Long layoffs don’t help except to heal injured bodies. The Pens have four of top six point-getters in the playoffs while their power play has been lethal. In fact, Pittsburgh has the better special teams units, overall. The key match-up will be Pens Sidney Crosby vs. the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron. Kris Letang needs to pick it up on the defensive side of the puck, too for Pittsburgh. You know his counterpart,  Zdeno Chara, will have a great series for Boston. PICK: Penguins in seven.

Baicker: I'm beginning to feel like a broken record when it comes to talking about the Penguins - they have depth, so much depth, on forward, that they're simply tough to outscore four times in close succession. Just take a peek at NHL.com's stats page, and you'll see the Pens can claim three of the top four goal-scorers of the playoffs, as well as two of the top three assists leaders. That's a lot to handle, even for a goaltender like Rask. Of course, Boston will be coming into the game on an emotional high of their last two series, and they're certainly not going to just roll over to Pittsburgh. Add to the fact that the Pens will be a little rusty having had so many days off, and you've got yourself a battle. PICK: Penguins in seven.
Western Conference
No. 1 Chicago vs. No. 5 Los Angeles
Panotch: It was a very gutty performance from the Kings in their series against underdog San Jose. Amazing, isn’t it, how ex-Flyers seem to play such pivotal roles for other clubs. Justin Williams now has five Game 7 goals and four assists lifetime in the NHL for nine points. Unreal. He is 4-0 in those games, going back to the Flyers and including Carolina and L.A. where he won a Cup each time. Jonathan Quick has been superb in the playoffs and continues to come up with a one save every game that makes a difference. Chicago had to overcome a 3-1 series deficit against Detroit, overcome a potential game-winning goal late in regulation taken away, and just that in Game 7 against Detroit to win in overtime. The Hawks' resiliency has been admirable this spring. So has the fact Chicago has gotten pressure points from their key people at the right time. And yet, it always comes down to goaltending, and right now Quick is making up for any King deficiencies on offense. PICK: Kings in seven.

Baicker: It burned me once before picking a team just because Panotch didn't, but I feel good about choosing Chicago as the victor in this series. As Tim points out, Quick is playing very, very well, and the Kings just simply seem to have the fates on their side these days. But Chicago has a resiliency I like, and plenty of leaders who've been in this situation before. They're averaging 2.75 goals per game compared to L.A.'s even 2.00, and have clutch players doing what they're needed to when called upon. It's worth mentioning, too, that even though Quick is getting all the attention as this postseason's game-stealing goalie, Chicago's Corey Crawford is right behind him, holding strong to a 1.70 goals-against average (Quick's is 1.50). PICK: Blackhawks in seven


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