The 2014 NHL playoffs have been wild and unpredictable to say the least, with three teams having already punched their ticket to the conference finals.
With just one conference semifinals series still being played—the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks play Game 7 on Friday—let's take a look at the updated bracket and predict which teams will be playing for Lord Stanley's Cup.
|Date||Start time (ET)||Matchup||Television|
|Friday, May 16||9 p.m.||Los Angeles vs. Anaheim (Game 7)||NBCSN|
|Saturday, May 17||1 p.m.||New York vs. Montreal (Game 1)||NBC|
|Sunday, May 18||3 p.m.||Chicago vs. TBD||NBC|
Los Angeles vs. Chicago
Obviously, for the Kings to play the Blackhawks in the Conference Finals, they are going to have to get past the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 Friday night.
While this will be no easy task, the Kings showed in Game 6 how good they can be when their backs are up against the wall and should continue that into Game 7, via ESPN Stats & Info.
Kings force Game 7 with Ducks. The Kings are 5-0 when facing elimination this postseason— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
However, this never-say-die attitude will be put to the test when they take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
Boasting four elite scorers in Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks swept the Kings in the regular season, winning all three matchups by a combined score of 9-4.
While Jonathan Quick is coming off a strong bounce-back performance in Game 6, stopping 21 of 22 shot attempts, he hasn't played up to par during the playoffs.
Quick has a 2.78 goals-against average and has just a .914 save percentage over 13 games this postseason.
Who wins this Western Conference Finals series?
Counter that with Corey Crawford, who may very well be one of the more underrated players in the league.
Despite not getting the same notoriety as the other top goaltenders, Crawford has certainly played like one throughout the playoffs.
His 1.97 GAA is the best among the remaining goalies and his .931 save percentage is also the best among all goalies with at least five playoff starts.
Combine Crawford's great play with the explosive Chicago offense, and the Blackhawks should cruise to a second-straight Stanley Cup appearance.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 5
Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers
On the other side of the bracket, the East has a pair of teams that are coming off Game 7 road wins.
The Montreal Canadiens just capped off an impressive series victory after trailing 3-2 to the top-seeded Boston Bruins, winning 3-1 in Game 7.
Meanwhile, the New York Rangers came back from a 3-1 series deficit to win three straight games over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The matchup to watch in this series is in between the pipes, as Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist have been dominating over the first two rounds.
Price has had a save percentage of at least .929 in seven of his past 10 starts and only allowed one goal on 56 shot attempts in Games 6 and 7 against the Bruins. He also got the best of Lundqvist in the Olympics, with his Canada team knocking off Sweden in the gold-medal game. So there's some added momentum there.
Lundqvist, on the other hand, is second in the league in postseason save percentage at .931 and also boasts the experience of the conference finals, after making two trips in the last three years.
However, as ESPN's John Buccigross points out, the Bell Centre has not always been kind to Lundqvist:
Lundqvist last 9 starts in MTL 2-4-2, 4.56GAA, .857sv% Price 7-1-1 in career at home vs NYR 1.18GAA, .961sv%, 5 shutouts— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 15, 2014
Despite the fact that the Canadiens have two of the three best players in the series with P.K. Subban and Price, the Rangers have the depth to overcome that.
Who wins this Eastern Conference Finals series?
The Rangers have a deep defensive corps, including two pairs that coach Alain Vigneault trusts in all different situations, which will come in handy against the high-powered Canadiens offense.
Expect Lundqvist to overcome his demons at the Bell Centre and the Rangers to outlast the Canadiens in a low-scoring, hard-fought series.
Prediction: Rangers in 7