It’s never too early to start placing your bets. I placed mine back in July once free agency had ended. At that point I determined that one of four teams would win the Stanley Cup in 2011 – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, or Detroit. All four had had recent playoff success (all but Vancouver had been to the SCF in the last 2 years; Vancouver lost to the cup winner in round 2 in ’07 and ’10). All four had elite forwards and solid defences. Two teams – Vancouver and Philadelphia (both of which seriously challenged Chicago last year) – were on the rise, while the other two looked to regain their hegemony (having met in the finals in ’08 and ’09).
Fast forward to March, and very little has changed. While there are a number of good teams in the Western Conference, Vancouver and Detroit are the class of the group. That doesn’t mean that those teams will face off in the conference finals, (1 vs 2 rarely occurs), but regardless of who else may go deep in the west, I would be shocked not to see one of those teams in the final. Continue reading