Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs Carolina Hurricanes (6)
So the only thing standing between the Penguins and their second consecutive trip to the Finals are the Cinderella Carolina Hurricanes. Wow, did things break in the Penguins favor or what? Instead of having to deal with New Jersey or Boston, they get to play the team that knocked both of those teams out. No disrespect to the Canes, but I'll take the old Hartford Whalers over the Bruins and Devils any day of the week. On paper, this should easily fall in favor of Pittsburgh, but everyone thought that in the first two rounds too and the Canes are still here. The play of goaltender Cam Ward is the key to this series. He was a major factor in each of the upset wins. If he can continue his strong play, we're in for another long series. If not, the Pens will roll over them and roll fast. Prediction: I picked against the Canes twice and was wrong both times obviously. Well, third times, a charm... Pens in 6.
The eliminated teams
Boston Bruins - This one is a head scratcher. How do you go from being so dominant one minute to losing Game 7 in your own building after making a HUGE comeback? This Bruins team was strong, it was playoff ready, it had a strong defense, a top notch goalie, forward depth and yet still snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The B's can take away one thing from this though, a lot of their young players got some valuable playoff experience and you can never underestimate how important that is. Keep your heads up Bruin fans, you have a very bright future ahead of you.
Washington Capitals - While people are still debating on who's better, Ovechkin or Crosby, one thing is for sure, the Penguins still own the Caps in the playoffs. Their really wasn't a doubt in my mind as to how this was going to turn out. The Caps have Ovechkin, the Pens had Crosby. The Pens had Malkin, the Caps had... umm.. uhh.. you know that guy that looked like he was trying to break the plexiglass with the puck... Semin. The Penguins just simply had too many superstars, while the Caps have a bunch of guys that like to run their mouths (Semin), complain about their sticks (Mike Green) and whine about the pressure of having to play Game 7 at home (Bruce Boudreau).
After watching this series, I think Alexander Ovechkin is, without a doubt, the best player in the NHL. How could I possibly say that after he just lost to Crosby? This next sentence will clear everything up for you. Ovechkin scored 8 goals and picked up 6 assists against Marc Andre Fleury and the Penguins defense. Crosby scored 8 goals and picked up 5 assists against rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov and the Caps defense. Ovechkin, needless to say, had much tougher obstacles to overcome than Crosby. Not taking anything away from Crosby, but he had a much better team around him than Ovechkin who basically had no support from anyone but still managed to push this to a 7 game series. Without Ovechkin the Capitals are a lottery team. They have NOTHING beyond his line. They're basically just a bunch of warm bodies filling out uniforms. Varlamov may turn out to be a franchise goalie, then again he could be the next Jim Carey for them. Right now, they're a mess and really don't have a great team. They have one great player. If this franchise is able to give Ovechkin a supporting cast, they will be serious contenders for a Cup every year. Till then, its going to be Alexander the Great trying to cover up for all the Caps "great" gaping holes in their lineup.