In the West, we have the top two teams in the regular season standings for the Western Conference, seeing the San Jose Sharks begin by hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. This match-up actually favours the #2 seed, the Blackhawks, when you look at their regular season match-ups, as Chicago took that series 3-1 and even beat the Sharks 7-2 in San Jose in November. Based on that match-up, it might be tough for the Sharks to advance any further.
In this Playoff Pool, we do have the top point-getter in the playoffs so far in this series, as Jonathan Toews leads all players with 22 points in the pool. So far, he has 6 goals, 2 winners and 14 assists for 22 points and he'll go into the series with a 4-point cushion on the players chasing him from this series, both Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Nabokov, both having 18 points thus far.
In terms of picking the favourites from the picks, it's a pretty good match-up in the West, but there is a pretty clear favourite in the Blackhawks this year The Blackhawks were the favourite in the West from day one, so this should come as no surprise. The Blackhawks outnumber the selections 163 to 138, with Patrick Sharp leading the way for the Blackhawks with 33 selections, while Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski each have 18 to lead the Sharks.
I'm hoping to have a team-by-team breakdown of the players and teams soon... for the teams vying for top spot in the pool.
In the East, we have two miracle teams going head-to-head and it should prove to be a very hard fought series in the end. The top seed in the pool, the Philadelphia Flyers, finished 7th in the East and had to come back from a 3-0 series deficit in order to knock off the Boston Bruins in seven games, while the Montreal Canadiens, who finished 8th in the East, had to knock off both Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals and Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, both in seven games, to get to this point. As for the regular season match-up, both teams split their home games and went 2-2 in the season series, so we should be in for a treat here.
So, in the Playoff Pool, Mike Cammalleri leads everyone in this series in pool scoring so far with 12 goals, 3 winners and 6 assists, giving him 21 points, second in the pool in scoring. Trailing by 3 points are two Flyers, Mike Richards and Daniel Briere, each having 18 points going into this second round, so there should be plenty of offense in this series, if this preview adds up correctly.
Finally, we get to see the favourites in the picks and this isn't very pretty. Since there are only nine teams in the pool with 9 players going into the Conference Finals, there isn't going to be a great deal of picks here, especially with all the picks in the West. Philadelphia has a clear advantage in the number of picks they hold, claiming 57 picks in the pool, while Montreal only has 8. Since there are only 65 picks in total, I would have to say that this must be the lowest total for a series ever in the playoff pool, even back when Edmonton made it to the Finals. Kimmo Timonen leads the way with the most picks in this series with 14, while Marc-Andre Bergeron has 5 picks for the Canadiens. Defensemen in this series hold 39 of 65 picks in this series, which is a good chunk, so I don't expect a ton of points to come out of the East this time around.
Well, there's a small-ish preview of the Conference Finals, I hope to have something a little better for Game Two of the series, which hopefully illustrates the pool a little better for the top teams.