It's interesting, really.
The Conference Finals are normally the most intense and exciting series' of the playoffs, barring the Cup Finals. And while there's no denying that Evgeni Malkin's play against the Flyers (and basically every other team) is thrilling to the extent of *Mario-esque*, a 3-0 start to each series is a little disappointing.
If you look at each 0-3 team, and their play in the previous series', you'd expect them to put up more of a challenge. The Flyers managed a 7-game series win over the upstart Capitals, and then, as underdogs, took down the favored Canadiens in 6 games. The Stars, on the other hand, won a 6-game series against the former Stanley Cup Champs, the Ducks, before winning a very hard-fought series against the powerhouse San Jose Sharks.
So....why are they down 0-3?
For the Flyers' case, I think they have just run into the storm that is the SuperPens. The Penguins, currently 11-1 in their playoff run, are led by the incredible talents of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marian Hossa. Philadelphia's top scorers Daniel Briere, Mike Richards, and Mike Knuble just cannot match them. Marc-Andre Fleury has so far out-played Martin Biron, but each goalie is superb. On defense, the Flyers had a small advantage until they lost top D-man Kimmo Timonen to injury. The Penguins have a solid group led by Sergei Gonchar.
On the Stars side, however, I've been rendered clueless. For game 1, the excuse could be made that the Stars were tired from the long game 6 against the Sharks. But to have another days' rest, and then lose a close game, rest again, and lose big? That's a little strange. The Stars have Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro to lead the offense, and Sergei Zubov and Stephane Robidas are top blue-liners. Marty Turco has been excellent in goal. I just couldn't figure out why we were gettting such results, until now.
Listening to game 4 live (including right now), it's obvious that Chris Osgood is the deciding factor so far. The Stars had 6-7 chances that should have gone in, including a clink off the post from Nik Grossman, fresh off his first career playoff goal. Even on that play, however, Ozzie was quick to grab on to the puck and prevent a rebound. He had several other key saves that, without them, the Stars would be up probably around 2-0 or even 3-0.
I've called this game as 5-3 Stars. I kind of doubt that this will happen now, but we've looked (or at least sounded) pretty good.
Like I said in my last blog, the Stars will always be my team. We finally had a great run in the playoffs, and we can't be criticized too much if we get swept tonight. We've still got power left in the tank for a win, but this just might be the Red Wings year to make the Finals (and lose).
Thanks for reading!