You couldn't ask for two more intriguing conference finals.
In the East, the Montreal Canadiens battled back in Game 3, bridging the gap with the New York Rangers, who are still leading 2-1 in the series. In the West, the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings are tied at a game apiece after the Kings' epic comeback in Game 2.
Both of these series could go the distance, so missing out on any of the action would be just plain old silly. Luckily, with the full schedule below—and a few predictions too—you'll be sure to catch every goal, glove save and bone-rattling check.
|Blackhawks @ Kings||WCF||3||Saturday, May 24||8 p.m.||NBC|
|Canadiens @ Rangers||ECF||4||Sunday, May 25||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Blackhawks @ Kings||WCF||4||Monday, May 26||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Rangers @ Canadiens||ECF||5||Tuesday, May 27||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Kings @ Blackhawks||WCF||5||Wednesday, May 28||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Canadiens @ Rangers||ECF||6 (if necessary)||Thursday, May 29||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Blackhawks vs. Kings||WCF||6 (if necessary)||Friday, May 30||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Rangers @ Canadiens||ECF||7 (if necessary)||Saturday, May 31||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Kings @ Blackhawks||WCF||7 (if necessary)||Sunday, June 1||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Via NHL.com. Stanley Cup final schedule TBD.|
Rangers Over Canadiens in Six
Two very unfortunate things happened for the Rangers Thursday evening: The Canadiens won in overtime, 3-2, giving them some much-needed momentum in this series, and Derek Stepan was lost indefinitely after breaking his jaw.
From Katie Strang of ESPN:
The fallout from Brandon Prust's hit on Derek Stepan in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals continues.
Prust was suspended two games by the NHL on Friday. Stepan, meanwhile, suffered a broken jaw on the play, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault revealed.
Stepan was expected undergo surgery Friday night, leaving his status for Game 4 on Sunday and the remainder of the series against the Montreal Canadiens unknown.
He left the game after being rocked by a crushing, open-ice hit in the first period from his former teammate, a play that went unpenalized.
Still, the Rangers are in the driver's seat in this series. They've outscored the Canadiens 12-6 and seized home-ice advantage, with both Game 4 and Game 6 in New York. They also have the better goalie in Henrik Lundqvist, always a huge advantage. And before Montreal squeaked out a Game 3 win, New York had won five straight.
Game 3 was a crazy affair, with Daniel Carcillo getting a 10-game suspension for elbowing linesman Steve Driscoll. You have to think that both the loss and the circumstances around the loss will motivate this New York team in Game 4. With two games in Madison Square Garden to end this, the Rangers are headed to the Stanley Cup.
Blackhawks Over Kings in Seven
What a series this is shaping up to be.
The Blackhawks were outscoring the Kings in this series 5-1 and looked certain to take a two-game lead. And then, the normally tame Kings offense erupted.
In a rare burst, the Kings scored six unanswered goals and five in the third period alone, led by Jeff Carter's hat trick. In one fell swoop, the series went from one where the Blackhawks were in complete control to one that was completely up in the air once more.
It certainly exorcised some demons for the Kings in Chicago, as Corey Masisak of NHL.com noted:
"I think this is a huge game for our approach [and] I guess, our psyche," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. 'Kind of like slaying the mythical dragon. We've been dominated by this team over the last couple of years. To come in here and get a win in their building with the type of home record they have, I think gives us a boost in confidence."
It was the Blackhawks' first home loss of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs (7-1). Chicago won all three games in this building against Los Angeles last season in the conference final, which the Chicago won in five games. Los Angeles was 0-7 in Chicago in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The mythical dragon was slain for one game, yes, but don't be surprised if that dragon rises once more in this series.
The Blackhawks have the best offense remaining in these playoffs and a battle-tested squad that won the Cup last year. The Kings' offensive outburst is unlikely to last—they win with defense and strong goalkeeping, not six-goal games—but the Blackhawks made tickling the twine a habit this season.
The Kings will fight, claw and scratch their way to seven games. But in a series that goes the distance, Chicago will be glad to have Game 7 at home, where the dragon will likely reemerge and send the Kings home.