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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Puckmania: Sizing Up the Conference Finals

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Puckmania: Sizing up the Conference Finals
By Wild on Sports NHL Analyst Josh Tarr

The Blackhawks won game seven of the Western Conference semis last night against Detriot 2-1 in overtime, giving them a 4-3 series victory. As noted in my last blog, a Bruins-Penguins / Hawks-Kings conference finals (or as I’m calling it, the super series) will mark the first time since 1945 that the previous four Stanley Cup winners are the last four teams remaining in the league. The last time this happened, there we’re only six teams in the league compared to the 30 that exist today. That storyline will be a mere shadow, considering how incredible these two matchups will be.

The Kings currently own Stanley Cup bragging rights entering this series, but the president trophy winning Blackhawks are storming into this round having won three straight game to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to Detroit.

Los Angeles has the luxury of putting out a much better goalie than Chicago. Jonathan Quick is eons and light years ahead of Corey Crawford when it comes to the production of quality goaltending, but Chicago rolls four complete lines every single game. Kane, Toews and Hossa will beat the Kings in a footrace while Kruger, Saad and Shaw will wear you down with their physique. That being said, the Hawks are much more defensively sound and if that will keep the Kings from getting many scoring chances, Crawford’s best effort will be enough, as I believe Chicago has the potential to make this series rather short.

Pittsburgh and Boston on the other hand? If you’re from Boston and have no interest in Hockey whatsoever, do yourself a favor and watch this series. As a life long Bruins fan who has seen Boston win a Stanley Cup, this series may end up being the most exciting in my lifetime.

Nobody in Pittsburgh is giving the Bruins a fighting chance, but man do they deserve it. Both of these teams run four lines deep, and while Pittsburgh’s first two lines are better than Boston’s, the Bruins fourth line is better than Pittsburgh’s third. The Bruins, much like Los Angeles who are also underdogs, have the better goalie coming into this series.

The key factor that separates the Bruins and the Kings (again, both being the underdogs in this round) is that the Bruins defense is vastly superior to Pittsburgh’s, and that they are a team that is almost entirely built around defense. Although the Penguin’s tend to play better against team’s not notarized by high powered offense, such as Boston, I think the quality of the Bruins defense is so prime, that it will help them pull off an upset against the Penguins.

Ultimately, I believe the Blackhawks will have Home-Ice advantage against the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, but that is the last thing I want to think about right now. Let’s enjoy these next few weeks, it’s not too often we have a super series in our hands.

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