Pens Skate Into Eye of the Storm

Hurricanes don’t make it intact as far inland as Pittsburgh very often, but one named Carolina will starting tomorrow night in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Quite possibly the two hottest teams in the East the last month of the season have navigated two playoff series each that went a combined one game under the maximum possible (the Pens needing “only” 6 games to close out the Flyers) to get to this point.  Both teams (along with Chicago in the Western finals) made a midseason coaching change to help rotate their fortunes.  In the case of Carolina they actually pulled a bit of a Billy Martin and went with the man, Paul Maurice (some people call him the Gangster of Love) who coached them to the Stanley Cup in 2006.  From the Pittsburgh perspective there are a number of storylines here.  Of course we have the Brothers Staal going against each other.  But there are also familiar faces on the Carolina coaching staff in assistant coach Ron Francis and goaltender coach Tom Barrasso.

As for the actual contest, I think the Pens probably have too much offensive depth for the Hurricanes, especially if Malkin finds some better consistency.  I just hope the players don’t assume getting back to the Finals is a given; many people in Pittsburgh seem to think that getting past Washington was going to be the hardest nut to crack.  And that was indeed a hard nut, but Carolina has already knocked out to division champs including the #1 seed in the East in Boston, so I doubt this is easy.  Either way it should be fun!  Go Pens!


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