The NHL Conference Finals are upon us and we have some very interesting match ups for a good number of reasons.
Starting with the Canadiens and Rangers battling for the Eastern Conference title after beating Boston and Pittsburgh respectively. The Canadiens won their last two versus the Bruins whereas the Rangers overcame what seemed to be an impossible 3-1 series deficit to the Penguins. This series will feature the Gold medal winning Carey Price and the Silver Medal winning Henrik Lundquist. The series starts Saturday at 1PM ET on NBC and CBC in Canada. The rest of the series will be on NBCSN in the US and CBC in Canada and have 8 PM ET start times.
And then there is Los Angeles vs Chicago which starts on Sunday at 3 PM on NBC and TSN is another series that will be interesting because it is a battle of the last two Stanley Cup Champions (LA in 2012 and Chicago in 2013), what’s more is that this will be the second straight season that these teams will meet in the Western Conference finals, Chicago won last season obviously as they were the Champions of the league.
Canadiens vs Rangers
This is one for the history books, an original six battle between the Canadiens and Rangers with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals hanging in the balance. The Canadiens road here went through the Lightning in a four game sweep, and then the Bruins in what was a hard fought seven game series. The Rangers path was a little different, they knocked off the Flyers in the first round and then they came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
These teams play opposite styles, the Canadiens are more of an offensive style team whereas the Rangers play more of defensive style even though this season they have been more offensive than they were under John Tortorella and his defense first system.
I personally think the series will be a high scoring, light checking series. The key to the series will be goaltending, which goaltender does the best work for his team? Well if previous series’ are any indication than the Canadiens have the edge in net. I think the Rangers need to really pressure the Canadiens into making mistakes which is what Boston didn’t do for some reason, the Canadiens are a fairly young team and the Rangers are more experienced especially guys like Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis on that club.
My prediction is Montreal in seven games, I think the Canadiens will be the better of the two offenses, and I think Carey Price is locked in and will win the goaltending battle (again) in this series.
Kings vs Blackhawks
For the second straight season the Los Angesles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks will do battle for a chance to move on to the Stanley Cup Finals, last season the Blackhawks needed only 5 games to win the series, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the series this year will go 6 or 7 games, I expect seven to be honest.
The road to this series for both teams were tough, Chicago had a vicious six game series against the St. Louis Blues in what might end up being the series of the playoffs in terms of pure hatred, the Blackhawks then played Minnesota and that series were much calmer (actually all the second round series were pretty calm) and it was a laugher of a series, though give the Wild credit they tried their best to overcome the slow start to the series that they had.
Los Angeles on the other hand had an incredible series with the San Jose Sharks coming back from a 3-0 series hole to win the series over the Sharks and then they had another seven game series against the Anaheim Ducks (and who said California doesn’t know hockey? They got to see some great series this year) edging them out in a 6-2 game in game 7.
These teams are both very similar, they both play solid D and both are very good checking teams. I think that LA has the edge in goaltending though, Jonathan Quick is a playoff performer, he doesn’t get playoff jitters, he is as cool as it gets in the playoffs which has spelled success for the Kings making three straight Western Conference Finals and winning the Stanley Cup in 2012, you can’t deny the success of the Kings. But at the same time the Kings do not stack up against the Blackhawks who have won two Stanley Cups in 4 years and are going for a third in five seasons, one of the consistent factors is Patrick Kane who is a clutch playoff performer, he is as good of a player as it gets in these type of games, which is good because God knows Buffalo is disappointed in the rest of their sports adventures so it is nice for that city to see a local kid in Kane do well.
My prediction this series, I predict the Kings win the series in seven games. I think Jonathan Quick comes through again in the clutch, and I also predict Patrick Kane scoring a goal in the series deciding game, whether the series ends in four games or goes seven like I think it will.
Re-Post: NHL Round Up: LA makes History; Tortorella Fired; Halak Traded; NHL Conference Semi-Finals Preview
Please head over to the new site to read this and to follow that blog because starting in a week or two I will not be using this site however I want to give people proper time to adjust to the transition.
Flyers @ Rangers 8 PM ET (NBCSN|TSN2|RDS)
I flip flopped between this and the Canucks @ Wild game for game of the night because both games should be entertaining and wild all in one. In terms of this game this could be a possible playoff preview between these clubs, in fact it would be a preview if the playoffs were to start today. So historically these teams do not like one another and even if the hatred has been simmered a little between the clubs in recent years, there could be added hatred tonight and in a playoff series should that be the case. I think this will be a low scoring game but hard hitting with the teams trying to intimidate one another, which would be interesting.
Canucks @ Wild 7:30 PM (SNET-P|FS-N)
Another great battle on the schedule tonight, Vancouver is looking to find its way while the Wild will try to put distance between themselves and the Canucks. These two teams traditionally have a bit of hatred for one another on top of that so if the Canucks fall behind big, don’t be surprised to see some cheap play from the Canucks.
Penguins @ Ducks 10 PM ET|7 PM PT (ROOT-PIT|Prime Ticket)
Coming off the heals of a 5-3 defeat to San Jose in a game of the year candidate the Penguins have to shake that off and take the trip to Anaheim who has the best home record in the NHL at 24-5-3 and try to beat them after a grueling battle with the Sharks. The Penguins were dominated in the shot department but got some excellent goaltending from back-up Jeff Zatkoff making a lot of great saves despite allowing 5 goals on 47 shots. Now the Penguins have to go into Anaheim and play a Ducks team that has already pretty much clinched a playoff spot 5 weeks from the end of the NHL regular season. I think the Ducks will win 4-2 over the Penguins, I think the combination of the Ducks being a good team combined with the Penguins playing last night is enough to help the Ducks win their 25th home game of the season.
Rangers @ Hurricanes 7 PM ET|4 PM PT (MSG2|SportSouth)
Today was the last day for the NHL to make trades, and there were some pretty good trades today that will change the face of the league moving forward going into the playoffs.
The Trades (The Short List)
- The New York Rangers acquired Martin St. Louis from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Ryan Callahan, a 2015 1st round pick, and a conditional 2014 2nd round pick.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames for a unspecified 3rd round pick.
- The Montreal Canadiens acquired Thomas Vanek and a conditional 2014 5th round pick from the New York Islanders for Sebastien Collberg and a conditional 2014 2nd round pick.
- The Minnesota Wild acquire Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick from the Buffalo Sabres for Torey Mitchell and an unspecified draft pick.
- The Washington Capitals acquire Jaroslav Halak and a 2015 3rd Round pick from the Buffalo Sabres from Rostislav Klesla and Michal Neuvirth
- The Boston Bruins acquire Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 3rd round pick in an unspecified year.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets acquire Nick Schultz from the Edmonton Oilers for a 5th round pick in an unspecified year.
- The Dallas Stars acquire Tim Thomas from the Florida Panthers for Dan Ellis
- The Los Angeles Kings acquire Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Matt Frattin, a 2nd round pick and a conditional third round pick.
Last night also had the Vancouver Canucks trade Roberto Luongo and a minor league forward to the Florida Panthers for prospects, goalie Jakob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias.
Montreal Canadiens: I love the addition of Thomas Vanek for the Canadiens, they needed a piece to add to that team and they certainly got it. As an added bonus, the Canadiens got a player with decent size and a noted Boston Bruins killer. Combine this with the lack of a huge deal for the Bruins, the Canadiens really made themselves a pretender to a possible contender.
Pittsburgh Penguins: They didn’t make any major moves, but they added Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak adding depth to an already deep line up.
Los Angeles Kings: They added a prime time player in Marion Gaborik, while Gaborik isn’t a defensive minded player, he can be a nice asset in the goal scoring department, which is what the Kings needed to a lesser extent. The Kings look poised for another deep run.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Boy did the Lightning get a steal today in the St. Louis trade. I won’t say that St. Louis isn’t worth Callahan, the real thing for me is the fact that they also picked up a 1st round pick and a conditional second round pick which could move to a first round pick if the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Finals this season.
St Louis Blues: The Blues got themselves on this list because of a move that was made last Friday when they added Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres. The Blues felt like they needed to upgrade their goaltending, and getting Ryan Miller is a good way to add a stronger structure to the backbone of the team. I think they went from contender to a favorite to win the Western Conference.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins needed to do more, and while I am not down on the Andrej Meszaros deal with a good portion of Bruins fans and Boston media because I think Meszaros is a good player that was tangled in the wrong system. But they failed to get that guy who will be a sure bet for them, and they lost ground on the Canadiens and Penguins today in my opinion.
New York Islanders: The Islanders somehow managed to get very little for their trades recently that will help the team now, sure they managed to scrap together 2 second round picks and a third round pick. But looking at what they traded I feel that they could have and should have gotten more for the pieces they dealt away.
Vancouver Canucks: Look I am not going to bash Shawn Matthias or Jakob Markstrom, those are legitimate returns for the Roberto Luongo trade. However I do have the right to wonder what they’re going to do if they make the playoffs and have two rookie goalies in the mix for starting job.
I have to say in terms of the best NHL Trade Deadline Day team, it has to be the Montreal Canadiens, they added a scorer and size to their roster, a player who can make a big difference for them moving forward. I still do not think that the Canadiens are going to be front runners in the Eastern Conference, I think that the Canadiens are on their way. A defenseman and power forward from where they would ideally be in order to make a strong push for the Stanley Cup. But I can’t help but to like this move from a Canadiens perspective. As a Bruins fan it sucks seeing them add Vanek.
- This deal came on Friday night just before the Buffalo Sabres were set to take on the San Jose Sharks at First Niagra Center. The Sabres traded goalie Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott to St. Louis for goalie Jaroslav Halak, winger Chris Stewart, prospect winger William Carrier, a 2015 1st Round Pick, and a conditional draft pick.
- Rumors out of Buffalo say that the Sabres might be looking to flip Chris Stewart in a trade before the deadline which is Wednesday.
- Rumors out of Pittsburgh links them to Canucks center Ryan Kesler, one reported trade could be Brandon Sutter, a choice of either defensemen Simon Despres or Brian Dumoulin, and two draft picks which would likely be a first and a third according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- TSN is reporting that Colorado center Paul Stastny is a potential player if the Avalanche and Stastny fail to reach an agreement by Wednesday, Stastny is a unrestricted free agent after this season, so it would make sense to move him for something before he leaves the team for nothing.
- Last night the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 at Soldier Field in Chicago. It was played in moderate to heavy snow for a good part of the event, with temps in the upper teens and the wind chills in the single digits. The game was one that was dominated by Blackhawks forwards Jonathan Toews who scored two goals and added an assist, and Patrick Sharp who scored his team leading 29th goal of the season and also added a helper. Corey Crawford was solid in the win, he had to make 31 saves.
- Today features the last outdoor event of the season being played in Vancouver as part of Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic. The Ottawa Senators will take on the Vancouver Canucks at BC Place. The game will take place at 4 PM ET|1 PM PT, and the whether calls for light snow.
Games to Watch
Bruins @ Rangers 7 PM ET|4 PM PT (NBCSN|TSN2|RDS2)
This should be a good game, both teams are coming off of losses, the Bruins lost to Washington on Saturday and the Rangers endured a rare loss to Philadelphia on Saturday. The Bruins are 0-1-1 out of the gate from the Olympic break losing to the lowly Sabres in OT on Wednesday whereas the Rangers are 1-1 with their win coming against a tough Chicago Blackhawks team on Thursday.
Other Games of Interest
Flyers @ Capitals 12:30 PM ET|9:30 AM PT (NBC)
Senators @ Canucks 4 PM ET|1 PM PT (CBC|RDS|NBCSN)
Lightning @ Avalanche 8 PM ET|5 PM PT (SUN|ALT)
Tough Road Ahead
The team with the toughest schedule this week has to be Montreal, they hit the West Coast with match ups against Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix and San Jose this week, and then coming home next week and facing the Boston Bruins their first game back in town.
Rangers @ Penguins 7 PM ET (MSG-2|ROOT-PIT|NHL Network US)
A Metropolitan division battle is our featured battle, mainly because the rest of the schedule tonight is on the weaker side. Plus these two teams are playing quite well lately so it makes sense to feature these teams. Both teams are 7-3 in their last ten games and both teams would be in the playoffs if the season were to end today as 1-2 in the division but the Penguins are 1st and the Rangers and Flyers 2-3 and 17 and 18 points behind. Therefore since the Penguins are a superior team I will predict a 4-1 Pens win.
Panthers @ Hurricanes 7 PM ET (FS-FL|FS-CAR)
Blue Jackets @ Sharks 10:30 PM ET (FS-Ohio|CSN-CA|NHL Network CA)
Canucks @ Bruins 7 PM ET
A rematch from the 2011 Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and Canucks, this time the game will be played at the TD Garden and the game could be a heated battle as most of the previous meetings have been since that time when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
One player to watch tonight is most likely to be Brad Marchand especially with his recent comments on how much he dislikes the Canucks, so I can see him getting into a scrap possibly with a player that plays a similar style such as Canucks winger Alexander Burrows.
I am not going to predict a fight filled game, but I will predict it will be intense and fun to watch. I’ll also predict a high scoring game, with the Bruins winning 6-4. Though I have yet to nail my high scoring game predictions so expect a 1-0 tilt now, but even still it should be entertaining.
Avalanche @ Rangers 7 PM ET (ALT|MSG)
Senators @ Blues 8 PM ET (SNET-E|FS-MW)
Islanders @ Rangers 7 PM ET
This is going to be the third meeting between the teams in a span of 10 days, so there should be a little hostility by now. And even if not, these teams should be able to put on a pretty solid game with so much familiarity between each other. That and these teams have an historic rivalry so I am hoping it comes back at some point because I love me a good rivalry.
Blackhawks @ Canucks 10:30 PM ET
This should be a fantastic game with hard hits, superb offensive talent and a rivalry that extends a few seasons long. While the NHL has it’s third outdoor game of the week between the Rangers and Islanders, it isn’t the best game tonight, in fact it isn’t even close in my mind. The Canucks and B’hawks are two of the best teams in the West so not only is it is the rivalry alive now, but I expect these teams to be good teams for the foreseeable future which is awesome for the NHL since they really do lack true rivalries where both teams are great at the same time.
Rangers @ Islanders 7:30 PM ET (NBCSN|TSN|RDS2)
Saturday January 25th
Bruins @ Flyers 1 PM ET (TV: NESN|CSN Philly|NHLN US)
This game could be interesting because both the Bruins and Flyers are playing well and they play a very similar style on the ice, a tough gritty type of game which to me is good because I like seeing physical games once in awhile.
Wild @ Sharks 10:30 PM ET (TV: FS-N|CSN-CA)
This game might be overshadowed by the game in LA but it should be a great game to switch over to if you live in the area it is being played or have NHL Center Ice/Gamecenter Live, the teams are both in a playoff race midway through this season.
Sunday January 26th
Coyotes @ Canucks 8 PM ET (FS-AZ|SNET-P)
This should be a good game between these teams, both offenses are good and the Coyotes are having a good season which is nice to see for a team that is finally able to look forward instead of wondering where they will play next season.
Along with the games to watch there will be two outdoor games being played on the weekend. Both games should give us a taste of something different in terms of weather. The winter classic had the snow and cold temps but these should be different. The forecast for LA has the high of 80° and a game time temp of about 60° F/14° C projected. Whereas the game in the Bronx, NY has a forecast of 20° F/-7° C with sunny skies. I think the better of the two games will be the Ducks @ Kings game assuming the ice co-operates with the high temperatures.
SAT: Ducks @ Kings 9:30 PM ET (Dodger Stadium|TV: NBCSN/CBC/RDS2)
SUN: Rangers @ Devils 12:30 PM ET (Yankee Stadium|TV: NBC/CBC)
Kings @ Ducks 10 PM ET
TV: FS-W|Prime Ticket|NHL Network
This is the first half of what should be a very entertaining home and home. Firstly because all home and homes are usually pretty good, they develop a solid sense of disdain for the teams. And the second reason is that the second half of this home and home is an outdoor game in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The problem with the outdoor game could be that the temps for the LA area on Saturday is supposed to be roughly 79 degrees F/23 degrees C during the day and 55 degrees F for the lows, with the game time temp probably being somewhere between 60 degrees F/14 degrees C would could make the ice look more like slush. We’ll see, it may actually be an interesting event in California.
Blues @ Rangers 7 PM ET (FS-MW|MSG)