This year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs have been unpredictable to say the least. Big upsets, sweeps galore and moments that have left fan bases on the edge of their seats. 2019 has had it all and there is still more to come. Four remain in the hunt for the coveted Lord Stanley, the Bruins and Hurricanes in the East and the Sharks and Blues in the West.
The Bruins will head into the Western Conference Final coming off a 6 game series victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets whereas the Hurricanes, after dispatching of the reigning champion Capitals in the first round pulled off a remarkable four game sweep of the New York Islanders.
In the Western Conference, the Sharks are back in the hunt. It took them seven games to take down the surging Avalanche but the Game 7 specialists did it again. Facing them will be the St. Louis Blues who also went to seven games, taking down the Dallas Stars.
Who will advance to the Cup Final? Lets take a look at how the conference finals are shaping up.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Boston Bruins (A2) vs Carolina Hurricanes (WC1)
Thursday, May 9, 8 p.m.: Hurricanes @ Bruins | NBCSN
Sunday, May 12, 3 p.m.: Hurricanes @ Bruins | NBC
Tuesday, May 14, 8 p.m.: Bruins @ Hurricanes | NBCSN
Thursday, May 16, 8 p.m.: Bruins @ Hurricanes | NBCSN
*Saturday, May 18, 7:15 p.m.: Hurricanes @ Bruins | NBC
*Monday, May 20, 8 p.m.: Bruins @ Hurricanes | NBCSN
*Wednesday, May 22, 8 p.m.: Hurricanes @ Bruins | NBCSN
Bruins: David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron
Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Williams and Petr Mrazek
Head To Head
Boston has the edge in the season series against the Hurricanes with a record of 2-1 and the Eastern Conference Final provides a chance for an old rivalry to be reignited.
In an Eastern Conference Final which few would have predicted, Eastern Conference rivals Boston and Carolina will meet for the third time in the postseason since Carolina relocated from Hartford in 1997. Carolina took down Boston in the 2009 Conference Semifinals which was the last time Carolina qualified for the playoffs.
In terms of form, both teams possess this in spades with Carolina winning their last six playoffs games (which included Games 6 and 7 in Round 1 a sweep in Round 2). The Bruins have had a tighter run but outscored Columbus in the second round by total of 11-4.
It has been a special run for the Hurricanes, affectionately nicknamed ‘A Bunch of Jerks’ by Don Cherry due to their elaborate post game celebrations. “The journey that we’ve been on — and, obviously, the road isn’t over — we’re still creating it ourselves” Captain Justin Williams was quoted as telling NHL.com. As for Boston, they have belief themselves. The Bruins have advanced to the Conference Final for the first time since 2013, a year in which they lost in the Cup Final to the Blackhawks. A roller coaster season has seen them peak at the right time, carrying strong form into this match up.
For the Bruins, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask will be ones to watch with Pastrnak recording 10 points in his last 10 games. Rask has played every game in the Bruins’ postseason campaign so far and holds a strong .938 SV%. The Hurricanes’ net minder Petr Mrazek is set to return from injury but Curtis McElhinney is also looking the goods, playing a big role and going 3-0 for the Canes in the second round against the Islanders.
Both teams have battled hard to be in this position and Boston will hold the home ice advantage which will allow them to use their depth. Carolina possesses strength all over the ice and their defense and goaltender stocks need to continue to fire on all cylinders.
This will not be a straight forward match up with plenty of talent and game breakers but I predict the Hurricanes with their drive and determination will push the Bruins to the brink on home ice and take this one in seven games.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
San Jose Sharks (P2) vs St Louis Blues (C3)
Saturday, May 11, 8 p.m.: Blues @ Sharks | NBC
Monday, May 13, 9 p.m.: Blues @ Sharks | NBCSN
Wednesday, May 15, 8 p.m.: Sharks @ Blues | NBCSN
Friday, May 17, 8 p.m.: Sharks @ Blues | NBCSN
*Sunday, May 19, 3 p.m.: Blues @ Sharks | NBC
*Tuesday, May 21, 8 p.m.: Sharks @ Blues | NBCSN
*Thursday, May 23, 9 p.m.: Blues @ Sharks | NBC
Sharks: Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Martin Jones
Blues: Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly and Jordan Binnington
Head to Head
San Jose hold the edge over the Blues with a 2-1 season-series lead in 2018-19.
In a flashback to 2016 when the Blues met the Sharks in the 2016 Conference Final, the two Western Conference rivals will go skate to skate with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final on the line. The Sharks made the final that year, eventually going down to Pittsburgh. As for the Blues, they haven’t been to the Cup Final since 1970, a long drought for Blues fans. Both teams are in their best possible position in years with momentum aplenty.
The Blues have proven to be the comeback kings in 2019. On January 3rd, they sat last in the league before an astonishing 30-15-5 run saw them finish third in the Central and now they sit four wins away from a Cup Final berth.
“That’s kind of been the story of the season; when our backs are against the wall we play our best and find a way to fight through it,” Blues forward Robert Thomas told NHL.com.
For the Sharks, the names are well known and respected. Captain Joe Pavelski returned for Game 7 against the Avalanche and will prove pivotal for the Sharks. Many are throwing support behind Sharks veteran Joe Thornton (much in the same way as 2018 with Alex Ovechkin) who fans would like to see claim the Stanley Cup. They also possess the two players who sit atop the 2019 playoff goals (9) and points (14) tallies in Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture.
In net, it will be a battle between Martin Jones (7-3) and Jordan Binnington (8-5), both of whom have enjoyed strong postseason form. It will take both goaltenders to play at the elite level to propel their teams into the Cup Final.
This is set to be a tightly contested series but with the Sharks’ experience and drive I feel San Jose will take this one in six games.
Written by Chris McRae / @ChrisMcRae04
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