NHL Conference Finals Picks
Conference Finals NHL Series Picks
By Orion Grove (Twitter: @OvG_)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, no I’m not talking about Christmas; I’m talking about the NHL playoffs. Beards will grow, dream with be shattered, and at the end of it all, someone will be crowned the 2014 Stanley Cup Champions. Let’s break down the conference finals starting with the West.
Chicago Blackahawks (-150) vs L.A. Kings (+140)
Dating back to the 2013 Western conference finals, when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup for the fifth time in franchise history, the Hawks beat the Kings in five games and swept the season series. Should there be anything different this time around? Well, looking how the Kings maintained their composure down three games to San Jose, and coming back to win the series, then going the distance with Anaheim, embarrassing the Ducks at home with a 6-2 thrashing, The Kings confidence should be at an all-time high.
L.A is averaging 3.21 goals per game, which ranks second best in the playoffs thus far, but Chicago swept the season series (3-0), and outscored the Kings 9-4. Johnathan Quick has been outstanding when facing elimination, posting a 6-0 record, and only allowing more than one goal in those games, he’s also 3-0 in his career in game 7’s. BUT Quick doesn’t fare to well when playing Chicago, he holds a 6-12-1 record against Chicago in the regular season, with a .910 save percentage, allowing 2.76 goals against average. In last year’s Western Conference bout between these two franchises, Quick allowed 14 goals in just 136 shots posting a.897 save percentage. Quick better hope this series comes to an elimination game, because as history sees it, Quick doesn’t fare well with Chicago.
Chicago counters with Cory Crawford, whom never gets credit for his skills in between the pipes. Crawford came up HUGE in the clinching game against Minnesota, saving 34 out of 35 shots. Crawford should be awarded some credit considering the man is tied for the post-season lead in save percentages at .931, and leads among all the teams in the postseason with a 1.97 GAA.
Chicago is 6-0 at home in the post season, and 17-2 at the United Center during the last two years of post season play, outscoring their opponents 63-31. When these two teams met last year, all of the Hawks victories only came by a one goal victory, leading to the point that each Hawk victory wasn’t an easy one. Of course L.A is coming for revenge. L.A is a physical team that leads the NHL in hits per game, and Chicago, well… Isn’t such a physical team, But they make up for the lack of physicality with skills and speed. I think this game will come down to coaching, and coach Q of Chicago’s ability to switch up his lines, and match players up so precisely will be the advantage Chicago will have.
Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games
Montreal Canadians (-105) vs York Rangers (+105)
These two goalies are no stranger to each other, when they met up in the Olympic gold-medal game in Sochi, with Carey Price of Montreal sliding out with a 3-0 victory against New York’s Henry Lundqvist. Montreal is the highest scoring team in the post-season scoring an average of 3.27 goals per game. They were supposed to be eliminated two rounds ago, but swept Tampa, and stunned the world by eliminating Boston. Montreal’s last Stanley cup appearance was in 1993 and New York’s was in 1994. With both teams being the original six teams of the NHL, expect a high scoring, wild series.
Carey Price has done well against the Blue Shirts, posting a 8-5-1 career record, which included one shutout this season. New York’s Henry Lundqvist has also been pretty stellar this season, posting a .931 save percentage through two rounds. Which is outstanding considering he has faced the second most shots out of any goalie in the playoffs this season. This series will come down to P.K Subban and Martin St. Louis, the Montreal’s power play against New York’s Pentaly kill, and which team has enough gas in the tank.
Montreal’s P.K. Subban (2013 Norris Trophy winner, best defensemen) was quiet toward the end of the Boston series, posting only one point in the last for games of the series. Also, the Rangers have shut him down during the three regular season meeting. P.K is the motivator of this team, he will have to step up and get back on the scoring sheet to make Montreal a contender for the Stanley Cup.
Martin St. Louis has been a great factor to New York’s franchise, when he was traded to them during the middle of the season. St. Louis scored key goals in the Pittsburgh series to eventually clinch the series, and play for the Eastern Conference championship. Recently, St.Louis’ mother died, three days before mother’s day. This has got to be a huge motivating factor to go out and win games for her. Watch out for St.Louis to be a huge factor in this series.
Montreal came into the post-season with a horrid power play, ranking in the bottom five of the 32 teams. During the Boston series, Montreal woke up on their power play, and scored 32% of the time, going 8-25. Montreal will need to capitalize on these opportunities. New York Rangers P.K. has been outstanding all season. They help the Penguins to a 5% success rate is seven games. The Penguins led the NHL in power play goals, all season. IF New York can utilize their PK like they did against Pittsburgh, Montreal could be in for a rude awakening.
Both of these teams went seven games, and their gas tanks could be almost out. The outcome of this series will be determined for the will of not giving up. Hockey is one of the most physical and tiring sports, and whomever has enough gas in the tank will win this series.
Prediction: New York Rangers in 7 games