I'm a pretty opinionated person when it comes to sports, so I was surprised at how hard it was coming up with a prediction for the Stanley Cup finals.
I've had confidence in the Flyers the past two rounds - though I confess I thought the Devils would win in the first round. But the Chicago Blackhawks are by far the best team the Flyers will have played this postseason. I've made the statement that I think an all-star team of Devils, Bruins and Canadiens might be comparable to the Blackhawks, and while that might sound absurd, the point remains how much better Chicago is than those teams.
But I also realized during my breakdown that I needed to stop comparing Chicago to the teams the Flyers already have beaten, and just to the Flyers themselves.
I gave the Blackhawks a slight edge offensively, because a team with Marian Hossa on its second line and Kris Versteeg on its third is ridiculous. But the Flyers have Danny Briere on their second line and Claude Giroux on their third, so it's close. I do also think Chicago has a better top line, though.
Defensively, both teams have spectacular top two pairings. Chris Pronger is the best defenseman in the series - I don't care that Duncan Keith is a Norris Trophy semifinalist - but the Blackhawks have a slight advantage with their next few guys, so I called it even.
Coaching and intangibles are more difficult to quantify simply because I haven't followed the Blackhawks much all year. What I know is that Peter Laviolette has done a phenomenal job this season and already has a Stanley Cup on his resume, while Joel Quenneville has never been to the finals. I also know the Flyers have been through more than any team in a long time, whereas the Blackhawks don't seem to have faced much adversity on their way to this point.
I think those last two factors could outweigh the slight edge the Blackhawks have in talent. That conclusion - and, I'll admit, a slight fear of being a downer - was why I picked the Flyers to win in seven. I'll confess, I'm still not completely confident in that pick. But with everything the Flyers have overcome this season, I just can't pick against them.