NHL: Some Thoughts on the Playoffs to This Point
The NHL Eastern Conference Final was set Monday as the Carolina Hurricanes will face the Boston Bruins. Tuukka Rask was on the 2011 winning Stanley Cup winning side for the Massachusetts-based team, but Tim Thomas was their primary goaltender that season. For that reason, I think Rask has plenty of motivation to win the Stanley Cup. Boston has a lot of veterans like Marchand, Chara, and Bergeron. They were not fazed when they twice faced elimination against the Maple Leafs in round one. They also won three straight games after being down 2-1 against a hot Columbus team.
Then there are the Carolina Hurricanes, who used to be known as the Hartford Whalers. They won a Game 7 at home in 2006 against the Edmonton Oilers to claim their lone championship to this point. Carolina knocked out Ovechkin and the 2018 Stanley Cup winners, the Washington Capitals, after losing the first two games. The Hurricanes won on the road in a winner take all situation. They hardly trailed at all in their second-round series against the Islanders. When they did, it did not take long for them to get a goal and they just did not allow the New York Islanders to feel comfortable at any point in the four-game sweep.
The Dallas Stars ended up having two chances to close out the NHL Western Conference Semifinal series, but the St. Louis Blues were deserved winners. Winning in the Lone Star State for their fifth playoff road win in Game 6. St. Louis dictated play, especially in Game 7. They just hemmed Dallas in their own defensive zone for long stretches. Stars net-minder Ben Bishop kept making save after save to the tune of fifty-two times just to keep his team in the game. However, it was Pat Maroon scoring two minutes before eleven o’clock Central Time to send the Blues to the conference final. Maroon had the game-winner in Game 3, so he has had a great postseason already.
Colorado and San Jose required all seven games to find out who progresses to the West Final. Seeing these four teams conjures up flashbacks as they were all very good teams at the turn of the millennium. Joe Sakic helped get the Avalanche to a pair of Stanley Cups, while Jeremy Roenick once played for the Sharks. The Stars and Blues each had Brett Hull at one time, and Mike Modano was a prolific goal scorer for Dallas, so it is good to see those teams in contention again.
Thoughts and Prediction
What makes this year’s playoffs so intriguing is that none of the regular season division winners were able to get out of the first round. It has felt wide open compared to other seasons where the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins were the teams to beat. There is a mix of teams that either has not won the Stanley Cup in a while or in some cases ever, like the Blues and Sharks. I expect the Hurricanes to put up a valiant effort, but Boston gets through in seven in the East.
The Sharks fed off of their crowd again and sweated it out against the Avalanche. However, it was not quite to the roller coaster of the final game of the series against the Golden Knights. The Blues historically have had a tough time beating San Jose, so I think another professional sports championship will end up being Boston versus California. The Bruins will take the Cup in six games.
How do you feel about the NHL Playoffs thus far? Leave a comment below.
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Works cited: NHL app, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas_Stars