May 13, 2011, 9:54 PM EDT
While few hockey people saw a Tampa Bay Lightning-Boston Bruins Eastern Conference finals coming, this one was much more foreseeable. Despite the negative things written about both teams, the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks are the top two seeds from the West, after all.
The best part is – if you ask me – these really are the best two representatives from the Western Conference. Honestly, these might be the two best teams in the NHL. Each team won tough Game 7s after “blowing” 3-0 series leads, at least temporarily halting the masses from fitting them with ridiculous “choker” labels. The winner of this series might not have to deal with such talk much longer … but you really never know with knee-jerk reactions.
The Canucks enjoyed the all-world play of Ryan Kesler in the second round, but must hope for more production from the Sedin twins. Their defense might be the deepest the Sharks will face in the playoffs, even if they lack a Duncan Keith or Nicklas Lidstrom-type star. Roberto Luongo consistently finds himself on the verge of scapegoat status, even if he happens to be one of the best goalies in the world.
The Sharks boast a stout offensive attack, with the usual suspects (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley) supplemented by burgeoning young players (Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi). They might not have the same depth on D as Vancouver, but Dan Boyle will likely be the best defenseman on the ice most nights. The team also employs a ghost from the Canucks’ playoff past in the form of goalie Antti Niemi. Niemi foiled the Canucks (and Sharks, by the way) last year on his way to Stanley Cup ring with Chicago. He might have the perfect attitude (or lack thereof) for this Sharks team.
Both teams are talented and some might say that each carries baggage into this game. It’s not an easy choice at all, but who do you expect to win this series … and in how many games?
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