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Picking a Stanley Cup matchup Add to ...

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we ask the Globe’s roster of hockey writers to weigh in on an issue from the world of puck.

Today we ask the guys to do a little fearless prognosticating.

The question: Now that we've had a chance to watch just over half the regular season, which two teams make the most sense as a Stanley Cup final matchup?

ROY MACGREGOR

That's the easiest question imaginable: NO two teams. If the recent history of the Stanley Cup playoffs has taught us anything it is that the unpredictable will happen. Philadelphia Flyers will back into the playoffs courtesy of a last-moment shootout and go all the way to the final. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup. It's not always Detroit Red Wings vs. The New Jersey Devils....whoooops, did I actually say "New Jersey Devils"?

That may be the one certainty in the Eastern Conference this year: the Devils won't be there. In the West you can also lop off non-contenders, the Edmonton Oilers, ironically, the happiest team in all of hockey not to be going into the playoffs.

The best two teams at this moment are the Philadelphia Flyers (East) and the Vancouver Canucks (West). The Flyers have hockey's longest history of suspect goaltending (no Cup since Bernie Parent) and the Canucks have hockey's most curious history of suspect goaltending when it matters most. Not sure I'd bet on either.

So all we are left with are personal hunches, which with a few dollars will buy you a burnt coffee at Starbucks. Washington Capitals are supposed to prove their mettle this year by finally winning, but they don't look all that strong and Alexander Ovechkin appears to have lost the ability to finish - at least temporarily. I would bet on a healthy Boston team from the east, based on hunch alone. In the west, it's hard, always, to count Detroit out, but let's do so just for fun. My hunch is Dallas, simply because they seem to believe in themselves. No other reason.

The best series, once again, will be in the first and second rounds. It's simply the way it is in hockey playoffs, year after year after year.



JEFF BLAIR

Oh come on, Roy. Nobody's going to hold you to this.

Let's say Detroit and Philadelphia. I think the Canucks will choke - I don't trust Roberto Luongo - and the Flyers depth gives them the edge in the East.



SEAN GORDON

Can't agree Roy, there is a matchup that makes perfect sense from a quality-will-win-out standpoint, and it involves the two best teams in the NHL: the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings.

Yeah, the Canucks look good, as do Philly, and Dallas, but the Pens and Wings are lurking near the top of the standings despite being ravaged by injuries - think a Datsyuk or a Crosby will benefit from having three weeks or a month off during the dog days of the season? The Cup final everyone wants to see - Sid versus Ovie for all the marbles - can't happen, but a Thrilla in Pittsburgha Pt. III would be a fine consolation, not least because it would be a conclusive rubber match pitting two teams led by players who have actually won something in the recent past (sorry Caps, Canucks, Flyers, etc.).

The Wings have proven goaltending is more or less irrelevant to their hopes, which is a nice position to be in. Pittsburgh is an easy choice given their core of superstars and the fact they're better on the back end than when they won two years ago.

If there's one thing recent precedent has shown it's that winning the President's Trophy is essentially a harbinger of playoff failure (only the Wings and Avs have survived The Curse in the last decade), so Alain Vigneault may want to sit some regulars in April if it looks like his boys are going to finish first overall. Although it likely doesn't matter - I look at the 'Nucks and I see San Jose circa 2008-09.



MICHAEL GRANGE

This is excellent: Three answers already and no one has taken to best one! I'll put my vote in for Vancouver-Washington.

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