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Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY[/caption]
We're into Round 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after some tight series and terrific performances.
Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs Los Angeles Kings (5)
Saturday 1/6 @ 5PM ET (Sunday morning in Australia)
The Blackhawks come into the Western Conference Finals after almost having their series against the Detroit Red Wings stolen from them. After going down 3-1 early in the series against Detroit the Blackhawks found their feet and took over the series, winning in OT in Game 7 2-1. After a poor start Brent Seabrook provided the magic in Game 7, scoring the overtime goal.
The Kings also took seven games to progress, dispatching the San Jose Sharks in their final meeting 2-1. Goalie Jonathan Quick was suburb in the final game, and only allowed 10 goals over the entire series. Him, and the efforts of a solid penalty-killing unit -- a defensive effort overall -- severely limited the Sharks scorers.
Despite the Blackhawks better regular season record and seeding, these two teams are very evenly matched. During the regular season, the Blackhawks won two of their three matchups but considering the up and down performance of Chicago in Round 2 it's hard to declare them the favourites. The Blackhawks will be hoping Seabrook once again makes a splash with his physical play on offence.
The Kings on the other hand need Jonathan Quick to keep them in this series and their forwards to find some consistency in scoring. This'll be the first time since 1974 that the two teams have met in the playoffs. I believe the Kings will show some grit and win in seven games.
Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs Boston Bruins (4)
Saturday 1/6 @ 8PM ET (Sunday morning in Australia)
The Penguins come to the Easter Conference Finals after handidly dismissing the Ottawa Senators in five games. Big performances on offence, including hat-tricks from Sidney Crosby (Game 2) and James Neal (Game 5) gave the Pens the edge as they scored no less than four goals in each game except for one.
The Bruins also won their series with relative ease, beating the New York Rangers in five games. Defensman Torrey Krug was merciless on the power play, scoring four goals total (three in power plays). The Bruins' goalie Tuukka Rask appeared to find his form late in the series as well, finishing the series with 2.05 goals against average. He'll need to step up against the Penguins.
The Penguins come into this series as the clear favourites, beating the Bruins in all three of their matchups during the regular season. Pittsburgh will continue to look to the dominance of their forwards against the Bruins, as their offence clearly out-matches that of Boston, with Sidney Crosby and the explosive Evgeni Malkin leading the charge. However the Bruins may hold the edge on defense with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberh.
How the Bruins defensemen deal with the phenomenal Penguins attack will be one of the major points of interest in this series. The Penguins may have gotten off to a shaky start during these playoffs, but have clearly found their feet and look to have returned to their regular season form. The two teams have opposite strengths, and that suggests a great series to come. I believe the Penguins will win it in six games.
There's some great games ahead, I cannot wait.
Stanley Cup Playoff Highlights
Crosby's hat-trick against the Senators.
Brent Seabrook's Game 7 OT goal.
Justin Williams second goal against Sharks Game 7.
Torey Krug's fantastic goals against Rangers.
Enjoy the hockey!