No matter what happens in the Conference Finals, the 2015 Stanley Cup Final will have a first-time matchup. Here’s my predictions for the Conference Finals:
M1) New York Rangers vs. A2) Tampa Bay Lightning
The Rangers and the Lightning will meet in a playoff series against each other for the first time, but they are no strangers to each other. Remember the trade from last year — Ryan Callahan for Martin St. Louis? One helped bolster a team to win the Cup NOW. The other one helped set the table for what happened this season. Now let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of the series. Both teams are fast. Both teams are mobile. Both teams have goaltenders can can come up BIG in crucial moments. And their Captains? One is a goalscorer’s goal-scorer, and the other is a blue-collar lunch-pail defenseman that is the cornerstone of the Blueshirts’ blue line. In the regular season, the Bolts beat the Blueshirts in all three meetings, but you know this series isn’t going to end in a sweep. With all the experience and intangibles counting into my prediction. this series is going to be a coin-flip.
Prediction: NYR in 7
P1) Anaheim Ducks vs. C3) Chicago Blackhawks
Like the Eastern Conference Final, this will be the first playoff series meeting between the Ducks and the Blackhawks. You got two of the best teams in the NHL battling each other for the right to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Both teams have notable dynamic duos — Perry and Getzlaf — Kane and Toews; both teams have goaltenders that look better than what’s written about them on paper, basically in layman’s terms, this looks like last year’s Western Conference Final, except it’s the Ducks facing the Hawks, not the LA Kings. And like the Eastern Conference Final, this one also like a toss-up series. The lone difference is the Ducks haven’t run this deep in the playoffs since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007. Another difference is the Hawks come in well-rested and walking a bit wounded. As you probably may have known by now, Michal Rozsival fractured his ankle trying to stop a breakaway during Game 4 of the Hawks’ second-round series against the Minnesota Wild. David Rundblad will try to fill his spot, but realistically, David Rundblad is no Torey Krug. If the Hawks are going to make it to their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the last six season, the defense have to be alert of the physical play the Ducks can bring in this series. Besides, Kimmo Timonen, the 40-year-old stay-at-home defenseman the Hawks acquired before the trade deadline, has not played more than 10 minutes in a game decided in regulation during the entire playoffs. The way I see it, the Ducks are going to have to use the same game plan their Freeway rivals used to oust the Hawks: balance all four lines and make them effective in waves.
Prediction: CHI in 6