NHL Playoffs 2014: Schedule and Predictions for Conference Championships

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2014

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell (33)  celebrates the Kings' 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks with goalie Jonathan Quick (32) after Game 2 of the Western Conference finals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

If you aren't excited for the duration of the conference finals between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks in the West and the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens in the East, well, check your pulse—it's gonna be fun.

And you won't want to miss a second of it, which is why I've compiled the full remaining schedule for you below. 

Oh, and since I enjoy earning the ire of at least two cities on every article I write, I've also predicted how both series will play out. Let's break 'em down!

NHL Schedule
MatchupSeriesGameDateTime (ET)TV
Blackhawks @ KingsWCF3Saturday, May 248 p.m.NBC
Canadiens @ RangersECF4Sunday, May 258 p.m.NBCSN
Blackhawks @ KingsWCF4Monday, May 269 p.m.NBCSN
Rangers @ CanadiensECF5 (if necessary)Tuesday, May 278 p.m.NBCSN
Kings @ BlackhawksWCF5 (if necessary)Wednesday, May 288 p.m.NBCSN
Canadiens @ RangersECF6 (if necessary)Thursday, May 298 p.m.NBCSN
Blackhawks vs. KingsWCF6 (if necessary)Friday, May 309 p.m.NBCSN
Rangers @ CanadiensECF7 (if necessary)Saturday, May 318 p.m.NBCSN
Kings @ BlackhawksWCF7 (if necessary)Sunday, June 18 p.m.NBCSN
Via NHL.com. Stanley Cup final schedule TBD.

Blackhawks over Kings

It's hard to imagine a better matchup than the two teams that have won three of the last four Stanley Cup Finals, and it's hard to imagine any other series being more intriguing after the first two games. 

In the first, the Blackhawks knocked off the Kings, 3-1. In the second, the Kings fought back from a 2-1 deficit, exploding for five third-period goals, led by Jeff Carter's hat trick. 

Game on. Series on. Strap in. 

It was a huge result for the Kings, who were knocked out in this very round last year by the Blackhawks. And it was a huge setback for Chicago, who had this series in control before watching Carter go to town.

I really liked how we played for 38 minutes,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told Brian Hamilton of SI.com. “We did everything we were looking to do. The way it turned on a dime like that—I don’t know if we’ve seen a game like that all year where we’re doing everything all right and all of a sudden it was a disaster.”

That's the Stanley Cup playoffs in a nutshell, isn't it?

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Still, we've seen Chicago recover from shocking losses. After dropping the first two games in overtime in their first-round series with St. Louis, they won the next four. After winning the first two games against Minnesota and promptly allowing the Wild to even the series, they won the next two. Adversity has not lasted long for this Blackhawks team.

Of course, adversity hasn't much fazed Los Angles either. They've now overcome 3-0 and 3-2 series deficits in these playoffs, and they proved their resilience in Game 2 against the Blackhawks. 

In Game 2, it was a Jonathan Quick save that, well, saved the day for the Kings, per Mike Brophy of CBC Sports:

With the host Blackhawks ahead 2-0 in the second period and threatening to take a two-games-to-none series lead in the Western Conference final on Wednesday night, Chicago centre Kris Versteeg broke into the Los Angeles zone on the left side and spied teammate Brent Seabrook racing to the net on the other side of the rink. He made a perfect pass that Seabrook drilled, but Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick did the splits and saved the day.

"The pass came across and Seabrook is a right [handed] shot so it's a different angle than if it was a one-timer [from a lefty shot]. You just try to get over to the post and I was fortunate to get a piece of it," Quick explained.

It was one of the best saves of the entire playoffs and a turning point in the game. If the Blackhawks had gone up 3-0 on that play it would have been awfully difficult for the Kings to come back.

On the other hand, that moment illustrates just how close the Blackhawks came to firmly placing a stranglehold on this series. For five of six periods in this series, they've been the better team. In the past two years, they've been the better team. 

And for the rest of this series, I believe they'll be the better team. It's going to be hard to contain the mighty Blackhawks offense like Quick has done for much of this series, much like the Kings can't expect to have many five-goal games, let alone periods.

Chicago will wrestle back control of this series and win it in seven.

Rangers over Canadiens

MONTREAL, QC - MAY 19: Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers guards his net against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on May 19, 2014 in Montreal, Canada. (Ph
Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images

This series doesn't feel so tightly contested as the Western Conference version, and for good reason—after three games, the Rangers appear in control.

Once the Rangers won the first two games in Montreal—and the Canediens' star goaltender Carey Price was ruled out for rest of the series—it effectively felt like it was over no matter what happened in Game 3. Throughout most of this series, the Rangers have simply been better, and with a keeper like Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes, they're always capable of shutting the Canadiens out.

Montreal isn't out of this thing yet, of course—they showed resiliency against the Boston Bruins, and you'd expect them to show resiliency here, too.

But with home-ice advantage locked away and two remaining home games to close this series out, the Rangers are heading to the Stanley Cup Final, winning this series in five.


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