NHL Playoffs Conference Finals
The Stanley Cup is almost here, and no one really expected any of these teams to be the last four standing yet here we are. So, buckle up and let’s see if I can turnaround my current 5-7 record through these playoffs!
St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks
After both having survived game 7’s against wild card teams, the Blues look to continue their improbable run after having been last in the NHL on January 3rd before closing out the season with a playoff berth. The Sharks will hope to not have to rely on referees to bail them out in another game 7 by finishing this series quicker than the last two.
The Sharks welcomed back Captain Joe Pavelski into the lineup who made his presence known with a goal and an assist. Tomas Hertl got in on the scoring in game 7 as well to maintain his place atop the NHL postseason scoring leaders at 9 goals (along with his teammate Logan Couture). The Sharks have no issue scoring as they have scored 43 times through the playoffs (best of the remaining teams) and have 5 players with 10+ points.
Jaden Schwartz has stepped up tremendously this postseason for the Blues with 11 points through two series almost matching his output from the regular season. Binnington continues to impress as a rookie with an 8-5 record and has not come off of the ice yet this postseason. He has had some remarkable defense to help him out with the Blues only allowing 4 shots in the last two regulation periods against the Stars.
The Blues have been amongst the most resilient teams in the NHL this season as evidenced by their double-OT winner in game 7 against the Stars and their run to the postseason. The Sharks however, have an offensive output that I just think the Blues can’t compete with. The Blues only have 2 players with over 5 goals. The Sharks have the two leading scorers of the NHL playoffs.
Winner: San Jose Sharks
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Boston Bruins
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Boston Bruins
The Carolina Hurricanes had their first playoff sweep in franchise history against the Islanders and are every bit of ready for the Bruins who finished the Blue Jackets after being down 1-2 in 6 games. Hopefully this series proves as exciting as the last time these teams met in 2009 when the Canes won in OT of game 7.
Tuukka Rask had 39 saves in a shutout game 6 to lead Boston to their 8th ECF appearance. His stellar play is completely noticeable when you look at the box score and the Bruins have a +12-goal differential which is the best of the 4 teams remaining. The Bruins also have the best Power Play percentage (28.6%), and best penalty kill (83.8%) of the teams remaining. Not to mention Brad Marchand is second in the playoffs with 13 points.
The Hurricanes are flaming hot right now following a six-game win streak that included sweeping the Islanders with a 13-5 score through 4 games. Curtis McElhinney stepped up big time when Petr Mrazek left game 2 with a lower back injury. Through 2 (and a half) games, McElhinney has only allowed 1.56 goals per game with a save percentage of .947. It helps that his defense led by Jaccob Slavin only allowed 2 even-strength goals in the series against the Islanders. Slavin has been huge on the offensive side of the puck as well with 11 assists (2nd best in the playoffs).
A lot of this series boils down to who will be starting in the net for the Hurricanes, and if McElhinney starts, can he sustain his insane numbers. The Hurricanes will also be delighted to know that Charlie McAvoy is suspended for game 1, and they look to get Micheal Ferland back for game one. The Bruins won 2 of three regular season meetings and do have home-ice advantage which is huge for any team in Boston. Rask has been around for a long time and has been in 78 career playoff games which is 3 times more than Petr and Curtis combined. I’m going to have to give the edge here to Boston due to home-ice, and experience.
Winner: Boston Bruins