So we have round three with a pair of what are sure to be classic series.
In the East, we have last year's Eastern Champions vs. the once again Cinderella Carolina Hurricanes.
Both of these teams underwent mid-season coaching changes, and both have been incredible since. Paul Maurice looks especially good, going from Zero in Toronto to once-again hero in Carolina.
This series also puts the two most offensive Staals against each other, with ultimate bragging rights on the line.
We'll start in net, where the easy edge goes to Carolina. Cam Ward is the reason Carolina is where they are, and while Fleury has been just good enough, Ward has been nothing but good.
On defense, the win once again goes to Carolina. Pitkanen has been brilliant, while his supporting cast has stepped it up when needed. The Pens defense has always been their weak point, and they're defenders just don't stand up to Carolinas.
On offense, the big win goes to Pittsburgh. They have the young superstars (Malkin, Crosby), the still-producing vets (Guerin, Sykora) and the role players (Staal, Dupuis, Fedotenko). Carolina's offense isn't to be overlooked, but I don't think there is any offense in the NHL, and especially the Eastern Conference, that can be compared to Pittsburgh.
In the West, we have a classic original six, divisional match up between Chicago and Detroit. Detroit, last year's cup champs, vs. a team that you can hardly remember their last playoff berth in Chicago.
In goal, I give the edge to Chicago. Both starting goalies have cup rings, and both have seen their careers rebound to an extent this season (more so Khabibulin, as Osgood has been brutal until the playoffs, when he's been lights out). I expect both to play very well, but both will face tests unlike any other offense they have faced thus far.
On defense, Detroit wins easily. Yes, Chicago has a great young d-corps, but Detroits got the experience and the talent to rank above any of the remaining defensive pairings.
On offense, I call it a draw. While Detroit may look like they have more fire power, Chicago's youth gives them speed and these kids seem to be getting better as the playoffs progress.
So who meets in the cup finals?
Chicago in 7
Pittsburgh in 6
Blackhawks / Penguins cup finals
you heard it here first!