Screen Shots: Stanley Cup finals breakdown
--Please, please, please, please, please make sure you pick Carolina over Edmonton in the Cup finals. As a huge Oilers fan, I can't stand the thought of you putting the jinx on us by actually picking Edmonton to win a playoff round this year. Keep up the bad work, and take the Canes! -- Sarah, West Edmonton
--Don't you DARE pick Carolina to win the Final. They're doing great with you disrespecting them at every turn. Don't do us the favor of jumping on the bandwagon now. -- Garrett, North Carolina
Let's see -- which team's Stanley Cup hopes shall Screen Shots crush by giving them our final endorsement of the 2006 postseason? Sure, we've discounted both the Hurricanes and Oilers round after round this season, but in our defense, even with the 0-2 record we had in the conference finals, we're still 9-5 overall on our picks this spring.
But that'll be no consolation to the fans of the team we wind up choosing/jinxing, so let's get the heartbreak over with by breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the NHL's two top teams:
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Goaltending: This is the area where the teams differ most. Edmonton needs Dwayne Roloson to continue playing out of his mind as he's done for 95 percent of the Oilers' stunning run. If he falters, there's little in the way of a Plan B for coach Craig MacTavish.
The Canes, meanwhile, have alternated between Cam Ward and Martin Gerber since the middle of the first round. Bench boss Peter Laviolette has been a master of knowing when to switch things up, and both of his goalies have responded with strong performances every time.
Some might believe that gives Carolina the advantage, but we're not so sure. At this point of the playoffs, you could make the case that having a clear-cut No. 1 makes the job of the coach -- and the team -- all the easier. MacTavish will have no goaltending controversies to deal with, but the moment Ward or Gerber struggle, Laviolette will be back before the media, tossing out bucketloads of "no comments" when asked who'll be between the pipes next game. If that's the case, what was a strength could quickly become a weakness for the Canes.
Defense: Here, the advantage is much more defined. Because although Carolina has a sturdy core of underrated, veteran blue-liners that includes Aaron Ward, Glen Wesley, Frantisek Kaberle and Bret Hedican, they have no one comparable to Chris Pronger. Few teams do.
And when you factor in the considerable contributions of Edmonton's Jason Smith, Steve Staios and Jaroslav Spacek, it's clear the Oilers have it all over the Hurricanes in this department.
Offense: This has been the Oilers' softest spot since Roloson rounded into form. Sure, they've received timely goals from guys such as Pronger, Fernando Pisani, Raffi Torres, Shawn Horcoff and Michael Peca, but let's be serious. It's nearly impossible to out-run-and-gun a lineup featuring the scoring talents of Eric Staal, Cory Stillman, Justin Williams, Ray Whitney and Mark Recchi. If there are more than four goals scored each game, odds are the Hurricanes will be the ones winning them.
Coaching: As mentioned earlier, Laviolette's juggling act with his goaltenders has been most impressive. However, MacTavish also has excelled at roster shuffles, bumping the likes of Georges Laraque, Todd Harvey, Toby Petersen and Brad Winchester in and out of his lineup with great success.
To us, those minor tweaks can have just as much, if not more of an impact as a goalie switch. And as the war of attrition continues through this round, and roster spots open up, that talent will serve MacTavish's team very well.
Our pick: Edmonton in six. (Sorry, Oilers fans.)
Material from The Hockey News.
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