Four teams remain in the 2014 NHL playoffs, and the quest for the Stanley Cup is heating up.
The conference finals are officially underway, and if Game 1 between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens is any indication of how these next games will be played, then fans are in for some wild hockey.
The Rangers won 7-2 in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series. Montreal had no answer on offense, though pushing two goals across against Henrik Lundqvist is pretty impressive. The Canadiens will need to play much better defense moving forward.
Game 1 of the series between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks—the past two Stanley Cup champs—is on Sunday. Given the paths of each team this postseason, this series appears destined for seven games.
Below is the full schedule for the conference finals. An updated bracket can be found here.
|2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals|
|Eastern Conference Matchups||Date||Time (ET)||TV|
|New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens, Game 1||May 17||Rangers 7 Canadiens 2||Rangers 1-0|
|New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens, Game 2||May 19||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers, Game 3||May 22||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers, Game 4||May 25||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens, Game 5 *||May 27||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers, Game 6*||May 29||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens, Game 7*||May 31||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Western Conference Matchups||Date||Time (ET)||TV|
|Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks, Game 1||May 18||3 p.m.||NBC|
|Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks, Game 2||May 21||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings, Game 3||May 24||8 p.m.||NBC|
|Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings, Game 4||May 26||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks, Game 5 *||May 28||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings, Game 6 *||May 30||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks, Game 7 *||June 1||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NHL.com (*if necessary)|
Eastern Conference Finals
The Rangers were absolutely dominant in Game 1. ESPN Stats and Info's official Twitter feed had an interesting statistic following the game:
Not all seven goals were charged to Carey Price, however, as he was pulled after two periods and four goals allowed. The Score's Twitter account captured an ironic sign that happened to be next to the Canadiens' bench:
The beauty of New York's onslaught in Game 1 was highlighted by Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune:
The Rangers stomped the Canadiens 7-2, with seven different players scoring for New York. Dominic Moore got the pucks rolling by setting up two early goals with nifty backhand passes. Moore's pass through the slot found Martin St. Louis at the left post for a goal at 4 minutes, 35 seconds.
The fact that seven different players found the back of the net is encouraging for a Rangers team that goes through stretches of ineptitude on offense. With multiple players contributing on any given night, that will make the Rangers tough to beat in this series.
P.K. Subban and the Canadiens have gotten to this point playing some gritty hockey, though, so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back. With another showing like this one, they might as well pack their bags.
Western Conference Finals
The Kings have one of the top defenses in the NHL, and the Blackhawks have one of the top offenses. This should be interesting.
Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times broke down that matchup:
The Kings' defense was stretched by losing Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr to injuries, and their penalty killing suffered. Jeff Schultz and Matt Greene stepped in to help hold things together. Drew Doughty has averaged 27 minutes and 22 seconds' ice time and has handled it well. The Blackhawks' defensemen have scored six of their 35 goals. Jonathan Toews, known as Captain Serious for his demeanor, also can be called Mr. Clutch — he has four game-winning goals. Patrick Kane has three.
Los Angeles has played back-to-back Game 7s this postseason. The team's resiliency has shown through, but that's a lot of hockey that has been played. This team might be feeling the effects of playing so many games during the playoffs.
This series is going to be incredibly exciting. These teams are the past two Stanley Cup winners, but only one will get the chance to compete for it again this year. Plus, given the occasional inconsistencies of the Eastern teams, the winner of this series should be considered the favorite to win.
With that being the case, this series could get pretty chippy. There's nothing wrong with physical hockey, and we'll probably see a lot of that between these two motivated teams.