The other thing this therad had (or did not have) is anyone mention Grand Rapids as a contender. I wonder if the end of the Lockout gave them that much help or if people really undersestimated them and their chances? The next couple weeks should make for some great Hockey between those 2 teams.
Some key points for success:
-Emergence of prospects.
Just making the playoffs this season would've been a huge step in the right direction for GR. The goalie situation going in was bad with McCollum and Pearce(probably the worst AHL tandem), Mrazek was a rookie starting in the ECHL.
The fast promotion and strong play of Mrazek was the turning point. GR was a top Western team already during the lockout. Then when it ended some other teams were hit a little harder by NHL callups, while GR has had a pretty tight unit all season(even if Andersson and Nyquist were coming back just recently). Obviously there are many guys having better seasons than expected. Ferraro, Billins and Glendening to name some have gone from being possible fringe AHL guys to important pieces. Jurco has had a late season breakout too.
Going into the finals, defensive play will be key for GR's success. It's rather good on paper especially with DeKeyser being added but they've had their struggles.