The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing as both the Eastern and Western Conference battles rage on with a right to advance to the Stanley Cup Final on the line.
With four of the best teams in the league squaring off—Los Angeles and Chicago are battling in the West, and Montreal is going to war with New York in the East—the real winners from this year’s postseason have been the hardcore hockey fans.
Here is all the updated information needed to enjoy the entire third round.
*Full bracket via NHLPlayoffsBracket.com.
|2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals|
|1||Rangers beat Canadiens, 7-2||May 17||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Rangers beat Canadiens, 3-1||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||Kings beat Blackhawks, 6-2||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|
|Source: Odds Shark|
Breaking Down the Western Conference Final
After Wednesday’s one-sided beatdown from the Los Angeles Kings, the Chicago Blackhawks now understand that this Western Conference Final will be a much harder matchup than the team anticipated.
Chicago skated to a convincing 3-1 win in Game 1 and was the more physical team throughout the game. The Blackhawks looked to be cruising to an easy victory in this series, but Los Angeles had other ideas.
In bounce-back fashion, the Kings stunned Chicago in Game 2 by scoring six unanswered goals to capture a 6-2 victory. Judging from the first six periods of this series, the remaining games will be much more intense.
As ESPN's Numbers Never Lie points out, Los Angeles utterly dominated the Blackhawks in Game 2:
Kings forward Jeff Carter told the Associated Press, via ABCNews.com, about the leadership on the team and the mental approach of the entire roster: "Just sticking with what we need to do. You know, we got a good group of leaders in our room. We've been through comebacks and whatnot a lot lately. Obviously, not something we want to do. But we stick with it, grind it out, get the job done."
The key in this series continues to be goaltending. While timely scoring and fundamental defense are always priorities, both franchises boast elite goaltenders who have the ability to stand on their heads and win the series.
For Los Angeles, the key is consistency with Jonathan Quick. There are times when Quick is unbeatable and makes even the best players look silly. But he can allow also multiple goals and completely put his team behind the eight ball.
The same can be said for Corey Crawford. While he can shine, as he did in Game 1, he can also blow up and allow several goals that shouldn’t have found the back of the net, as he did in Game 2. There is no question that the defense hurt him at times, but he was off his game.
There are enough top scorers on both rosters to put up huge offensive numbers, but the team that finds the most consistent goaltending will eventually win the series.
Series Prediction: Chicago, 4-3
Stats via NHL.com.