My sincerest apologies to all of you regarding Blogger's recent shenanigans. I too was terrified to click on my Sports Casual bookmark and discover that "The blog located at sportscasualblog.blogspot.com has been deleted." But do not fear, I happen to know a guy who knows a guy who's third cousin used to work for Google. Needless to say, strings were pulled and Sports Casual is back and exactly the same as ever.
Onto the picks.
Eastern Conference Finals
#3 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
-How They Got Here: After dropping their first two games at home against the Canadians, the Bruins rallied behind great goaltending from Tim Thomas, stellar overtime play, and some timely goals from Nathan Horton, among others. Following a game 7 OT win against Montreal, the Bruins took care of the Flyers with ease, sweeping the Philadelphia Goalie Debacle out of the playoffs. Tampa Bay advanced to the conference finals in essentially identical fashion. The Bolts ousted the Penguins with a narrow 1-0 victory in game 7 and then finished a 4-0 sweep against #1 seeded Washington.
-The Pick: Boston in 7 games.
-The Reasons: Say what you will about the Bruins' powerplay, but Boston has been stellar during 5 on 5 play this postseason. With strong defense and very impressive goaltending, the Bruins matchup up as well as any team could against Tampa's scoring firepower. And the Bruins have found scoring from a multitude of players, including Marchand, Kelly, Ryder, Boychuk, and Chara. Frankly, Tampa Bay's defense has asked too much of Roloson this postseason and I don't know how much more the 60-year-old can handle.
Western Conference Finals
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #2 San Jose Sharks
-How They Got Here: Vancouver and San Jose each narrowly avoided enormous, shall we say "Bruins-esque," playoff collapses. Vancouver blew a 3-0 lead against Chicago in the first round, only to escape with a game 7 OT victory. The Canucks then took care of Nashville in six. San Jose got by L.A. in round one, winning a six-game series. The Sharks almost dropped the ball against the Red Wings, blowing a 3-0 lead but righting the proverbial ship in game 7.
-The Pick: Vancouver in 5 games.
-The Reasons: When it comes to hockey, Canada > California. Vancouver is just too good, and they proved it all season long. Ryan Kesler, the Sedin twins, and Roberto Luongo are some of the best players in the game. The Sharks have quite a few skill players of their own, but will struggle on defense. Compared to Vancouver, San Jose's GAA and penalty kill numbers are pedestrian. It will be Canada vs. America for all the marbles, as the kids say.