For the first time since 1945, the last four Stanley Cup Champions meet in the Conference Finals. By the end of the Conference Finals, the 2013 Stanley Cup Final will either be A) the first Original Six Stanley Cup Final since 1979, B) the first Expansion Six Stanley Cup Final since 1991, C) the first Stanley Cup Final to feature the top seed from each conference since 2001, or D) the first Final between teams from Boston and Los Angeles that’s not named the Celtics or the Lakers.
1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 4) Boston Bruins
Both teams have taken a week off after dispatching their respective opponents in five games. Now it’s back to the grind as Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final is a nationally televised Primetime game. It’ll be the first time these two teams meet in the Conference Final since they met in back-to-back Conference Finals in 1991 and 1992. In this series, Boston, led by the new defensive guns of Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and Dougie Hamilton, have to try to contain the most dangerous offense in the NHL. For Pittsburgh, the ball is in Tomas Vokoun’s hands. The Penguins did win the regular-season series against the Bruins, but if Marc-Andre Fleury has to go in net during the series, there is a legitimate chance the Penguins could be in big trouble. For Jarome Iginla, can the resulting “trade that never happened” prove to be a huge payoff? And for 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr, does he have enough gas in the tank to oust the team that he had the most success with in his playing career?
Prediction: PIT in 6
1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 5) Los Angeles Kings
Both of these teams came off well-fought seven-game series, and for the Blackhawks, an epic comeback against their hated rival Detroit Red Wings. It’ll be the first time these two teams meet in a playoff series since 1974. For the Hawks, they have to find a way to beat, quite possibly, the best goaltender in the NHL right now: Jonathan Quick. For the last six playoff series, he has proven that he can’t be beat in 4 games. Had the Kings faced the Red Wings in the Western Conference Final, the advantage would’ve swung the Kings way, because the Wings would’ve flown into L.A. physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted with no rest period headed into Game 1. Now the Kings fly into Chicago, and face a team that is battle-tested, and is ready to meet the challenge of dethroning the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Unfortunately, one of the Kings’ biggest strengths last year, is now an Achilles’ heel. After going 10-1 away from Staples Center last year, the Kings are just 1-5 away from Staples Center this year. If the Kings want a shot at defending the Stanley Cup and eliminate the Presidents’ Trophy champions, they’d have to steal at least two games at the United Center. As for the Blackhawks, if they can defend the Madhouse on Madison and end the Kings 14-game win streak at Staples Center, then this series will be a short one and the Hawks will be in the Stanley cup Final for the second time in four years. The first three games of the series will be played in a span of four days, and those three games will dictate how the series will go. Expect both teams to go all-out from the drop of the puck Saturday afternoon in Chicago.
Prediction: CHI in 6