There are many fans who claim the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best postseason in sports, and the 2014 edition of the games has exceeded the expectations of hardcore and casual hockey fans alike.
The resulting Eastern and Western Conference Final battles will be second to none, and regardless of which team eventually advances to the Stanley Cup Final, there will be plenty of action throughout the remaining games.
Here is the updated bracket, the entire conference finals schedule, championship odds and a preview of Monday’s Eastern Conference battle.
*Full bracket via NHLPlayoffsBracket.com.
|2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals|
|1||Rangers beat Canadiens, 7-2||May 17||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens||May 19||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|3||Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers||May 22||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|4||Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers||May 25||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|5*||New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens||May 27||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|6*||Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers||May 29||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|7*||New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens||May 31||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|1||Blackhawks beat Kings, 3-1||May 18||3 p.m.||NBC|
|2||Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks||May 21||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|3||Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings||May 24||8 p.m.||NBC|
|4||Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings||May 26||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|5*||Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks||May 28||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|6*||Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings||May 30||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|7*||Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks||June 1||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Source: NHL.com. *if necessary|
Now that you've seen the full schedule, here are the championship odds for the remaining teams:
|Odds to Win 2014 Stanley Cup|
|New York Rangers||47/20||+235|
|Los Angeles Kings||101/20||+505|
Breaking Down Monday’s Eastern Conference Battle
The matchup in the Western Conference between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks is intriguing, but Monday’s battle between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens is the talk of the NHL.
New York opened the series in spectacular fashion Saturday night by beating Montreal 7-2, and the team will be looking to do the same in Game 2 as well.
While the Canadiens will not go down without a fight, the Rangers are playing inspired hockey right now.
After the death of Martin St. Louis’ mother, For the Win reports that New York has come together as a unit.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault spoke to The Canadian Press (h/t TSN.com) about the raw emotion running through the locker room:
Emotionally, for us, that is something really strong right now. I know quite a few of our guys went to the wake (on Friday), and I texted with Marty last night to make sure that everything was good.
It's been very emotional for our whole group, and he's handled it in an incredible way that probably has helped our team come closer together. (Sunday) is going to be a tough day for our group. We need to be there to support him, and we'll do that and get ready for Monday.
As Jason Brough of Pro Hockey Talk shared on Twitter, though, New York has struggled when it has had the lead in a series:
There is still hope for Montreal fans.
Whether it was the fatigue of a brutal seven-game series against the Boston Bruins or underestimating the Rangers, Montreal is a much better team than the one that was blown out in Game 1.
Led defender P.K. Subban, the entire Canadiens roster must amp up its game and play as physical as it did against Boston in the previous round. The team must make up for the loss of goaltender Carey Price, according to the team's official Twitter account:
The Bruins are a much better team than New York, and Montreal should be able to stop the Rangers from winning again in the Bell Centre.
With talented forwards like Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek looking to step up and prove they deserve the spotlight, the Canadiens must win Game 2 if they want to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Regardless of who wins, Monday’s game will be a much more even matchup.
Predicted Game 2 Winner: Montreal Canadiens, 4-2
Stats via NHL.com.