The second round was fast paced, exciting, and contained each series playing at least 6 games. I definitely was not expecting these match-ups in the Conference Finals, but here’s what I think is going to happen in Round Three of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Western Conference Finals:
1 Chicago Blackhawks vs 3 Los Angeles Kings
The Kings and the Blackhawks will meet again in the Western Conference Finals. Last year Patrick Kane ended LA’s season on an overtime hat trick goal so expect the Kings to play even harder and look for revenge this time around. The Hawks have been cruising in the playoffs, going 8-4 against St. Louis and Minnesota in the first two rounds. Their scoring has been from the majority of their top two lines, and even guys like Bickell, Regin, and Versteeg who play as bottom six forwards on this offensively lopsided Chicago team, are pitching in. Guys like Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad have been putting up pretty good numbers in the assist column, but they have got to start putting pucks in the net themselves if they want to help the Hawks solve Jonathan Quick. The only player who is not playing up to his full potential right now is Patrick Sharp. With only 2 goals and 4 assists in these playoffs, he is going to be an x-factor in this series. The Kings exploded in their final elimination game of their series against Anaheim. They won 6-2 against the #1 seeded Ducks en route to the Conference Finals. The Kings’ offense usually is not a major part of their game, as they have amazing defense and an unreal goalie in Jonathan Quick, but lately, LA has started to score more and more. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone either. When Mike Richards is on your fourth line, and Justin Williams is on your third line, you know that offense should not be a problem. Marion Gaborik was incredible in the last series, scoring 6-4-10 in just 7 games. The former 40 goal scorer has really emerged once again as a premier player during the playoffs, after being a more quiet player as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. If the Kings continue to play defensively sound it should make for a great series. These teams have strengths and weaknesses in opposite parts of their game, which should make for a low scoring, hard hitting series. Although the Kings have just come off a huge series victory against Anaheim, I think they will get tired out by the Hawks, and won’t be able to play to their level once Games 4 and 5 come around. However I always doubt the Kings, partially because I live in LA and I don’t want my buddies telling me how great they are, and also because growing up, I knew them as a really bad team. Anyway, I think Chicago will take this one en route to their third Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 4 years.
Winner: Blackhawks in 6
Eastern Conference Finals:
3 Montreal Canadiens vs 2 New York Rangers
Let me start off by saying that although Montreal is ranked lower than New York, they had a better regular season record than them, so they have home ice at the Bell Centre. Bell Centre has not treated Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist well either. He has gone 0-3-1 at Bell Centre since his last win there in November of 2009. Additionally, the Rangers record as a team is 2-6-3 since Lundvist’s last win at Bell Centre. The Rangers should not let that worry them though, because they just defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games. Ever since the death of Martin St. Louis’ mother, the Rangers have been spectacular. I think that due to the tragic event, this team has bonded over something larger than hockey, and will continue to play harder than ever in this series against Montreal. Even though Rick Nash still hasn’t scored a goal in 17 straight playoff games, role players like Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle have pitched in during Nash’s scoring drought. Also, As a Leaf fan, I know that if a random rookie gets a hat trick against us, he probably grew up in the Toronto area and worshiped the Leafs as a kid. So, expect French Canadian players like Marty St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot , and Derrick Brassard to play on another level against the Habs. For the Habs, players like PK Subban, Lars Eller, and despite being shadowed by Chara all of last series, even Max Pacioretty has stepped up offensively. I think that more players have to generate scoring chances against the Rangers, especially because of the emergence of defencemen like Ryan McDonagh, and the superstar goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. The Canadiens have made it this far in the playoffs, but I think that all of the momentum is swinging in the Ranger’s favor right now, and they are going to be extremely hard to stop. I am about to make a really bold prediction here, but I think the Rangers are going to play even harder at Bell Centre because of their past struggles and win the series in a huge way.
Winner: Rangers in 5
Thank you so much for reading! I know I haven’t been writing as much as I should be, but being a student and a blogger is actually pretty tough. These next couple weeks will be busy but bear with me throughout them.
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