2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals Preview
This would have been posted sooner but, due to the fires in San Diego, I had other things on my mind. Evacuation is over though and I am relieved.
What an extremely close second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Three of the series went to seven games the other one went to six. I only got one prediction correct but the other three all lost in a Game 7 so not too bad. I’m not really surprised the Penguins or Ducks lost. I am surprised the Bruins lost, however. On to the Conference Finals. One pitting two teams nobody would have guessed. The other is a rematch from a disappointing conference finals last year.
M2 New York Rangers vs. A3 Montreal Canadiens
Season Series: 2-1 Canadiens
Playoff Series History: 7-7
What We Learned: Montreal only trailed once in their previous two series (in games not in the score) which is pretty good. The Rangers looked left for dead after being outscored 9-2 in Games 2-4 against the Penguins but managed to turn it around, just like their season.
Stars to Watch: P.K Subban is a frontrunner for the Conn Smythe trophy this postseason. He could also be in line for the goat trophy as well. He has far to many giveaways for a star player and a defenseman. The Canadians go as he goes so he needs to bring his A game. It’s the Tampa Bay duo Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis who have been leading the charge for the Rangers and, let’s face it, they are their only stars really. You just know St. Louis can play even better that he has and he wants to prove that the forced trade to the Rangers was a good move.
X-Factor: The Canadiens have two things going against them. The Canadian curse of not winning a Stanley Cup in over twenty years. And the emotional letdown after a tough series that went the distance against their archrivals. The other one is the more the Rangers play, the more I realize what a great coach Alain Vigneault is. The Canucks didn’t realize what they had. Vigneault also learned a lot from his Stanley Cup loss in 2011.
Goalie Problem: Carey Price has fared well in the spotlight so far. But now he’s charting into unknown territory. He was impressive in Game 7 in Boston but the spotlight only gets worse from there. Plus now the Canadiens have home ice so more pressure. Henrik Lundqvist is always unflappable it seems. He’s money in Game 7’s too. This should be a good goaltending duel. Advantage goes to Lundqvist though.
Fun Fact: The Rangers are the only team in the final four without a player in the top 10 in postseason scoring.
Prediction: This is a really hard series to predict. I was initially going to pick the Canadiens. But, not factoring Game 1’s result into it, I think I’m going to go with the Rangers. It’s just a feeling that we’ll have a New York vs Los Angeles Stanley Cup final that we sort of had two years ago, courtesy of the Devils. Both Los Angeles and New York hosted big stadium series games too and it seems like they will host the big one as well. The Rangers, despite their lack of talent, just play really well as a team. The Canadiens just seem like they’re missing something. Which is odd since they have five players with at least four goals this playoffs. Rangers in 6 or 7.
C3 Chicago Blackhawks vs.P3 Los Angeles Kings
Season Series: 3-0 Blackhawks
Playoff Series History: 2-0 Blackhawks
What We Learned: The Blackhawks know when to score when it matters, especially Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The Kings are rolling like it’s 2012, the last time they won the Stanley Cup.
Stars to Watch: Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik would likely be the frontrunners for the Conn Smythe this postseason. It’s very important both stay hot. Especially Kopitar, who will probably have his hands full with Toews. Bryan Bickell is once again a top postseason goal scorer. He adds depth for the Blackhawks which is needed to counter a Kings team that boosts five players with at least four goals in the playoffs so far. He will need to continue to score since Marian Hossa has only two goals.
X-Factor: This series will be more competitive than last years. It’s almost assured it will go long. Can the Kings keep up their Game 7 winning magic? Especially Justin Williams? Or will it be Toews or Kane prevailing? I give the edge to the Kings because they have a core group that just know how to get it done. More importantly the Kings Game 7’s this year haven’t been very close. They just dominate.
Goalie Problem: Corey Crawford vs Jonathan Quick. Both of these goalies won the last two Stanley Cups. Crawford is less heralded but he’s almost just as good. Although he does let in the occasional weak goal, he is very consistent otherwise. Quick has had a few stinkers so far but he’s rebounded quite nicely from all of them. He’s regained his Conn Smythe winning form. Slight advantage to Quick.
Fun Fact: Toews has 4 game winning goals this playoffs and Kane has 3. Only one other player has more than two (Jussi Jokinen).
Prediction: History has shown it’s very hard for teams to repeat in any sport. Basketball is the only sport where is seems to happen all the time for stretches. With that being said, the Blackhawks always seem to find ways to win. But the current Kings season is pretty similar to the year they won the Stanley Cup. And, although both of their previous series went to seven games, they seemed to dominate the games they won. The Blackhawks only really dominated Game 6 against the Blues. Kings in 7.