NHL Playoffs 2014: Preview and Predictions for Conference Final Showdowns

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NHL Playoffs 2014: Preview and Predictions for Conference Final Showdowns
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Seven playoff games or less stand between four of the NHL's best teams and the 2014 Stanley Cup finals.

In the East, the New York Rangers already stole Game 1 above the border against the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 7-2. In the West, the puck will drop between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings for the first time this postseason at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Here are previews and predictions for each series.

 

Eastern Conference Finals: New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York surrendered the fourth fewest goals per game this season. Its defense is its strength. So when the Rangers score seven goals like they did against the Canadiens on Saturday, they're impossible to beat.

Home ice advantage is now gone for Montreal. If the Canadiens can't break New York's hot streak on Monday, they may never.

Now on a four-game winning streak, the Rangers haven't lost since May 5. Over that period of time, they've outscored their opponents 17-5. Montreal just ran into them at the wrong time.

 

Prediction: New York in 5

 

Western Conference Finals: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings

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This series pits the last two Stanley Cup champions against one another: Los Angeles won in 2012 and Chicago won last year.

The matchup features the Blackhawks' No. 2 ranked scoring attack against the Kings' No. 1 defense, but all this doesn't necessarily mean the series is a toss-up.

This is also a rematch of the 2013 Western Conference Finals when Chicago nearly swept Los Angeles, winning the seven-game series 4-1. 

Therefore, Chicago's performance is part of a trend. The Blackhawks are 9-2 against the Kings in the past two years, outscoring them 35-24. It's difficult to imagine Los Angeles doubling that win total over the next couple of weeks.

 

Prediction: Chicago in 6

 

David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report and editor at Wade-O Radio.

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