(2) Detroit v Pittsburgh (4)
There isn't much that I can say about these two teams that hasn't already been said.
This is a matchup between two quality teams.
While it was not obvious that the Pens were the best team in the East at the outset of the playoffs, I think that it would be difficult to argue that point now.
They've been dominant since the start of the second round despite having a less-than-impressive showing against the Flyers.
I feel confident in saying that this year's team is better than last year's, if only for the fact that they're now able to consistently outshoot the opposition.
Needless to say, the Wings are also an excellent team that, like Pittsburgh, is clearly deserving of its place in the Finals.
What concerns me about Detroit is their injury situation. They missed a few regulars in several of the games against Chicago and, while some of those players have returned to the lineup, I doubt that any of them have fully recovered at this point. I understand that Datsyuk is out for game 1, and that will hurt them.
This series will be closer than last year's finals. If not in the outcome, then certainly in terms of the play. Last year, the Pens were decisively outclassed in all three games at Joe Louis and marginally outclassed in their own building. The Wings outshot the Penguins in all six games last year, and had an aggregate shot advantage of roughy +80. I just don't see that happening again this year.
Even though the gap between these two teams has narrowed over the last 12 months -- or, more accurately, since Valentines Day -- I still think that Detroit will win. The Wings are, fundamentally, the best team in the league (well, either them or San Jose) and I just can't pick against them. I also want them to win, and this has surely influenced my decision.
I think there's also something to be said for the competitive imbalance between the two conferences. Back in 2007, the Senators had, not unlike Pittsburgh, advanced to the final without too much difficulty, and had looked good doing it.
Of course, as is currently the case, the West was the stronger conference in that year. The Ducks had had a more difficult road to the finals than Ottawa by virtue of facing tougher opponents. And yet, it seemed that few people took that into account judging the relative strength of the involved teams. I'm not going to make that same mistake.
Detroit in 7.