So far, this has been one of the better pair of NHL Conference Finals in recent memory. Usually we get a series or two that doesn’t go very long. Not the case this season. Both series are tied 2-2 and we should have a pretty decent Stanley Cup Final, no matter what the combination ends up being.

M1 New York Rangers vs. A2 Tampa Bay Lightning

What we learned: Tampa Bay is very inconsistent and Henrik Lundqvist bounces back well.

Things I like: A lot of speed in this series. Everything about Tyler Johnson. The Rangers were basically dominated in the 3rd period in Game 1 but found a way to win off of a deflection goal. Game 2 was one of my favorite games of the playoffs to watch. And o man to that 2nd period. Just wow. Steven Stamkos came to play in Game 3. Big hit to start the game on Kevin Hayes and then a steal and a goal. Amazing toedrag goal by Alexander Killorn in Game 3. I like that the Rangers responded back seconds later. Great goal by Rick Nash in Game 4. Nice of him to finally do something.

Things I don’t: Bad defense on the first goal in Game 1 for the Lightning. Cover your man, geesh. Derek Brassard’s accuracy was terrible in Game 1. He missed a lot of good chances including an empty net at the end. No idea what Martin St. Louis was doing on that 5 on 3 turnover. He did make a nice defensive recovery but it didn’t matter. Way too many penalties at the start of Game 2. They just kept coming too. The Rangers played better in the game but were doomed by taking too many. Not sure why the Lighting weren’t called for a tripping penalty right in front of the ref at the end of the 2nd period. Ben Bishop don’t play pucks behind your own net. Great job by the Lightning defensemen bailing him out. Slow start to Game 3 for the Lightning and a dumb penalty by Cedric Paquette but they got it together. Why you would ever leave Tyler Johnson wide open in front of the net like the Rangers did in Game 3, I’ll never know. Horrible turnover by Brenden Morrow for the Rangers 2nd goal in Game 4. A stupid icing, led to a stupid penalty, which leads to the first goal of the playoffs for Martin St. Louis. The Lightning actually played pretty well in Game 4, overall, but they didn’t get any breaks and did a few stupid things.

Likely Winner: The Lightning are the most inconsistent team in the playoffs. They’re in high scoring games. They’re in low scoring games. They blow people out and they get blown out themselves. They still have more offensive talent and they’ve found a way to win both of their previous series when it looked bleak. I still think my pick can pull it out. It will still probably go to seven games.

Numbers, Numbers

14 – Goals scored by each team in four games. A pair of 6’s and 1’s for the Lightning and a pair of 5’s and 2’s for the Rangers.
5 – Goal differential between the Lightning’s highest and lowest scoring game
1 – Goal a piece for Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash in the series
4 – Goals for Tyler Johnson in the series, including a hat trick
.769 – SV% for Lundqvist in Game 2
.974 – SV% for Lundqvist in Game 4

P1 Anaheim Ducks vs. C3 Chicago Blackhawks

What we learned: The Ducks and Blackhawks are really evenly matched but the Ducks can’t win in overtime.

Things I like: Great save by Frederik Andersen on Patrick Kane after the bad Ducks turnover in Game 1. Teuvo Teravainen was probably the best player on the ice, for either team, in Game 1. He was seemingly everywhere. What wasn’t to like about Game 2? A triple overtime classic with some really outstanding goaltending by both goalies. The chances by both teams were really good too. The Ducks hitting has been relentless so far. Nice header by Andrew Shaw even though it didn’t count. What wasn’t there to like about Game 4? More overtime, a few lead changes, plenty of scoring chances and some great hits. The Ducks had more shots on goal but the Blackhawks had the better scoring chances.

Things I don’t: I’m pretty sure Corey Crawford intentionally kicked off the net on Ryan Kesler’s shorthanded attempt in Game 1. But unless it’s blatantly obvious, the refs won’t call that on a goalie. The Blackhawks rotation of, essentially, only rotating four defensemen is going to catch up to them eventually. Although I know they were tired after almost playing two whole games but Ryan Getzlaf really let his team down in Game 2. He wasn’t guarding anybody in the final sequence and the guy he was supposed to be guarding, Marcus Kruger, scored the game winner. Game 3 was pretty sloppy but that was too be expected with how long Game 2 was. Way too many giveaways by both teams. Most scoring chances ended up being a scrum in front of the net, where nobody actually got a high percentage shot. The partial interference of Francois Beauchemin by the ref was lame ofnthe Blackhawks shorthanded goal in Game 4. But it’s even worse that two Ducks at the blueline let a Blackhawk get that far past them. Both defenses made costly blunders that gave the other team goals in Game 4.

Likely Winner: With two mutli-overtime games so far, what’s not to love about this series? The fact that all the Ducks losses have come in overtime is a concern. But the fact that they are undefeated in the rest of the games, is not. Even when the Blackhawks played one of their better games and were up 3-1, they still found a way to end up being down 4-3. They just can’t put the Ducks away. The amount of time the top four defensemen on the Blackhawks are getting is unreal. It will eventually catch up with them. Although it has been a close series, the Ducks could have swept it. The Ducks will win in six or seven.

Numbers, Numbers

3 – Overtime losses for the Ducks this playoffs
0 – Losses in regulation for the Ducks in this playoffs
3 – Goals in 37 second in Game 3 for the Ducks, the 2nd fastest in NHL history
62 – Shots on goal by the Ducks in Game 2
71 – Hits by the Ducks in Game 2
220 – Hits by the Ducks through four games
40:39 – Ice time for Duncan Keith in Game 4, Niklas Hjalmarsson had 39:13
30:41 – Hapmus Lindholm had the highest ice time for the Ducks in Game 4

This Week in Hockey History

Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.

May 18, 1990 Edmonton’s Jari Kurri scored three goals and two assists (on his 30th birthday) to become the NHL’s all time leading playoff goal scorer (passing Wayne Gretzky). It came as the Oilers won 7-2 at Boston, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

May 19, 2004 Jarome Iginla scored his 10th playoff goal and Martin Gelinas scored the game winner as Calgary advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in 15 years with a 3-1 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks, in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

May 20, 1966 Wren Blair was named the General Manager of the expansion Minnesota North Stars, a year and a half before their first NHL game. Blair later was also named their first NHL coach.

May 21, 1993 Jari Kurri scored shorthanded, for his 100th career playoff goal (putting him just three behind Wayne Gretzky), to lead the Kings to a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs, in Game 3 of the Campbell Conference Finals, at the Forum.

May 22, 1987 Edmonton Oilers’ center Mark Messier set a new playoff record with his eighth career shorthanded goal. It came in a 5-3 loss to Philadelphia, in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

May 23, 2000 Joe Nieuwendyk scored the winning goal at 12:10 of overtime in the Stars 3-2 win against the visiting Colorado Avalanche, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.

May 24, 1996 Florida Panthers beat Pittsburgh 5-2 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conf. Finals, for their 10th playoff win of the year, the most by a team making its first playoff appearance. Dave Lowry had three assists to lead the Panthers’ scoring.

Alex Mueller

Author: Alex Mueller

Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.

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So far, this has been one of the better pair of NHL Conference Finals in recent memory. Usually we get a series or two that doesn't go very long. Not the case this season. Both series are tied 2-2 and we should have a pretty decent Stanley Cup Final,...