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Insider Only Morning Pens Buzz: 2001 NHL Playoffs was the last time two No. 1 seeds met in Stanley Cup Finals

MORNING PENGUINS BUZZ
The 2013 NHL Playoffs begin Tuesday night and this is a post-season where the two No. 1 seeds in both conferences, Pittsburgh Penguins in the East and Chicago Blackhawks in the West, are clearly superior teams to rest of the field in their respective conferences.
The Blackhawks and Penguins are heavy favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in what would be a tremendous matchup, but both No. 1 seeds reaching the Stanley Cup Finals rarely happens in the NHL.
The last time it did happen was the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals when the New Jersey Devils, 1st in Eastern Conference, and Colorado Avalanche, 1st in Western Conference, met in the Finals, a series that went seven games.
Since 1993-1994 season when the NHL adopted the concept of 16 teams qualifying for the playoffs, eight from each conference, 2000-2001 is the only season where a No. 1 seed from the Eastern Conference and a No. 1 seed from the Western Conference faced each other in the Cup Finals.
Will the Penguins and Blackhawks change that trend this spring?
Of the two, the Blackhawks have a tougher road in the Western Conference. The consensus team from scouts I’ve polled who feel have the best shot of upsetting the Blackhawks is the defending champions Los Angeles Kings, a potential second round matchup.
The Blackhawks are so deep up front and have a puck mover on every defensive pair, and scouts feel it’s going to take a big team that can keep them to the outside and be physical with them. The Kings are a big, structured group and the best team out there in Western Conference that excel in those two areas.
If there’s one achilles heel for the Blackhawks it’s the uncertainty of their goaltending. “Boy those two {Ray Emery, Corey Crawford} would give me an uneasy feeling,” an Eastern Conference scout said.
Many wonder if it’s bound to happen that one or both were to breakdown in a seven game series. The Kings have a superior edge in goal in Jonathan Quick.
The Kings, though, are far from a lock to get out of the first round with a first round matchup against the St. Louis Blues who have home-ice in the series and are one of those sleeper teams you don’t want to play.
The Blues could also become a surprise thorn in the Blackhawks side in a potential second or third round series were they to get by the Kings.
The Vancouver Canucks are also a team that scouts, coaches and analyst peg as being a tough out in the West for the Hawks. Anaheim doesn’t appear to be a team that many inside NHL circles feel are a serious threat to the Blackhawks, despite being the No. 2 seed.

With the Bruins just not looking right, for the Penguins, there’s no Los Angeles, or even a Vancouver or St. Louis in their way in the Eastern Conference. That doesn’t mean it will be an easy road for the Penguins by any means but the Blackhawks have a tougher road ahead of them.
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 8. New York Islanders
2. Montreal Canadiens vs 7. Ottawa Senators
3. Washington Capitals vs 6. New York Rangers
4. Boston Bruins vs 5. Toronto Maple Leafs
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
1. Chicago Blackhawks vs 8. Minnesota Wild
2. Anaheim Ducks vs 7. Detroit Red Wings
3. Vancouver Canucks vs 6. San Jose Sharks
4. St. Louis Blues vs 5. Los Angeles Kings.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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