Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.
Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.
The topic: Our Stanley Cup Final and Conn Smythe predictions.
As a long-time loser in predicting Stanley Cups - I have predicted the St. Louis Blues to make the Final the last four seasons - I am venturing another prediction today.
The Predators are a great story, and it's been a fun ride watching Nashville make its way through the Western Conference for its first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Peter Laviolette has done a marvelous job with the Predators with players that fit his system (important to note). P.K. Subban is great for hockey, and having him in the Final should make NBC happy. He's an extremely marketable player who's an excellent hockey player too. Nashville is an underrated hockey market, as well, and it's deserving of the spotlight it'll be getting.
But I just don't think they have the depth to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, who I see winning their second straight Stanley Cup in seven games. The Preds survived the Anaheim Ducks after losing Ryan Johansen for the playoffs. I think that loss will prove costly in the Final.
Ottawa played Pittsburgh tough in the Eastern Conference Finals and took the Penguins to double-overtime in Game 7 before the Pens won. As long as the Penguins have a healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, I'm not going to pick against them in the series.
Sure, the Pens' defense is banged up. There's a weakness there, and Nashville's defensive corps is deep with a great mix of two-way defenders. Pekka Rinne has been nearly unbeatable all playoffs. It should be a really competitive Final. However, I just feel the Penguins will survive. They survived against the Washington Capitals, who were the best team in the NHL during the regular season. They survived against the Senators. And they'll survive again against the Predators.
And while Matt Murray will be the goalie for the Penguins in the Final, this Cup belongs to Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury beat the Capitals. He beat the Blue Jackets. He deserved better than to be yanked after one bad game against the Senators. But since he won't be in net, I'll go with Crosby for the Conn Smythe. He's still the best player in the world, and he's been great this postseason. He'll be just as good against Nashville.
This is a fun and enticing Stanley Cup Final.
I just don't see the Penguins losing.
Crosby, Malkin and Phil Kessel are clicking on all cylinders just like last season's Cup-winning team. And Crosby looks quietly hungry for another ring.
As stout as Rinne and the Predators have been defensively, I don't think they've seen a goal-scoring team quite as good and deep as Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Nashville will also be without Johansen, its second-leading scorer this postseason.
Malkin has really taken his game to another level in the playoffs. He did so during the regular season, as well. With that, I'll say he caps it all off with a big Stanley Cup Final and the Conn Smythe Trophy.
And Crosby will have his third Cup - we all know the significance behind that.
I love the dynamics surrounding this year's Stanley Cup Final.
On one hand, you have the darling Penguins, a complete powerhouse with some of the best talent in the world poised to lift the Cup for the second consecutive spring.
On the other hand, you have the upstart, hungry, take-no-guff Predators, who are ready to keep shedding the underdog label on the way to the ultimate prize.
The individual matchup of Subban vs. Crosby will excellent theater and will certainly garner the spotlight. As well it should as they're obviously two of the best players in the world.
And don't discount the matchup of Rinne and Murray in the nets. Rinne's superb puckhandling ability makes Nashville especially dangerous as he can jumpstart a Predators rush with just a flick of his wrist.
The Preds' speed and ability to attack and overwhelm in the offensive zone are their best traits. But if any team out there has the ability to match and even surpass, it's Pittsburgh.
So, as you may have gathered, I really feel this is an even series despite the facts Pittsburgh has an invaluable experience edge and the Preds are without their stalwart center in Johansen. So the smart money says I should lean to Pittsburgh then, right?
Well, I've never really been one to go along with the pack, so... I'm going with Nasvhille in six games and Filip Forsberg for the Conn Smythe. Forsberg has been fantastic this postseason and leads Nasvhille with eight goals and 15 points. The guy also has a knack for the clutch, timely play and I expect to see many more of those from him in this series.
It's tough to describe, but the Preds just have that "feel" right now.