Stick with Calgary, a team of destiny

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 3:23 PM ET


 It took seven weeks, 14 series and 82 games to get it right. Who said sportswriters were a quick study?

 After barely keeping my head above water through the first two rounds of Stanley Cup playoff predictions, I'm happy to remind our faithful readers that I went a perfect two-for-two in the conference finals.

 Never mind that I'd originally picked Philadelphia and San Jose to meet in the Cup final, only to change both picks at the last minute. In the newspaper business, it's the final edit that counts.

 Calgary and Tampa Bay may be the matchup the U.S. didn't want, but it's also a wonderfully refreshing change from the Detroit, New Jersey and Colorado domination of the last several years.

 And it proves, once again, you don't need to blow the budget to ice a competitive team.

 So why do NHL owners keep spending themselves into oblivion? That's a topic for another time.

 Today, we take one final look back at Round 3, and give you our pick to win it all.

 And please, no cheap shots about waiting until after Game 1. This prediction was filed before they dropped the puck last night. Honest.

 BEST GOAL, ROUND 3: The first two rounds we tipped the cap to spectacular individual efforts. But if you saw the goal by Tampa Bay's Brad Richards in a Game 3 win over the Flyers, you saw the damage teamwork can do.

 Martin St. Louis to Andre Roy, back to St. Louis then over to Richards was a thing of beauty, a tic-tac-toe goal that would have made Viktor Tikhonov proud.

 BEST QUOTE: When's the last time you heard a coach rip into his counterpart the way the Lightning's John Tortorella blasted Ken Hitchcock for yapping at players from the bench?

 "Last time I looked, he's wearing a suit back there, the same type of suit I'm wearing," Tortorella began. "He's not in the battle. It's not about him. It's about two quality teams. It's disrespectful and it's wrong. Park your ego and shove it in your pocket. It's chicken s---. Shut your yap."

 Beautiful.

 Honourable mention goes to a beleaguered Yvgeny Nabokov, goaltender for the San Jose Sharks, who was asked about all the talk surrounding Calgary's Mikka Kiprusoff in their series.

 "Yeah, I'm sick of it," Nabokov muttered.

 LOOKS GOOD ON: Does anybody feel sorry for Flyers GM Bob Clarke, who can't get his team over the hump no matter how much his owner spends? It seems to me Clarke's smugness and heavy-handedness over the years haven't earned the pride of Flin Flon many friends in these parts.

 TOO BAD FOR: You couldn't help but feel for Keith Primeau, who almost single-handedly took the Flyers to the final. That was the most dominating individual playoff performance we've seen in years.

 CONN SMYTHE UPDATE: Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla still lead the way for the Flames. Even if they lose the series, one of them could easily win this trophy, particularly if the final goes seven games. Should Tampa Bay win the Cup in four or five, this thing's up for grabs between St. Louis, Richards and, if he's hot in the final, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

 AND THE WINNER IS: The Lightning may have proven their superiority over a long regular season, but I'll take the rested and determined Flames, a team of destiny, in seven games.


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