2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs logo2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL Playoffs 2014: Schedule and Predictions for Remainder of Postseason

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24:  Justin Williams #14 of the Los Angeles Kings with the puck in front of the net against Nick Leddy #8 and Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Three of the Western Conference Final during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 24, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2014

We're three games into the respective conference finals in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, and almost it feels like nothing has changed at all.

The Los Angeles Kings own a 2-1 series lead against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, while the New York Rangers are up 2-1 on the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference.

Sometimes, one team has distanced itself from the pack by this stage of the postseason, but this year nobody's out of it, and a case could be made for each team as the Stanley Cup favorite.

Considering how the two series have played out so far, below are updated predictions for how they might finish.

 

Schedules

Eastern Conference Finals—Montreal vs. New York
GameDateTime (ET)AwayHomeTV
4May 258 p.m.CanadiensRangersNBCSN
5May 278 p.m.RangersCanadiensNBCSN
6*May 298 p.m.CanadiensRangersNBCSN
7*May 318 p.m.RangersCanadiensNBCSN
ESPN.com
Western Conference Finals—Chicago vs. Los Angeles
GameDateTime (ET)AwayHomeTV
4May 269 p.m.BlackhawksKingsNBCSN
5May 288 p.m.KingsBlackhawksNBCSN
6*May 309 p.m.BlackhawksKingsNBCSN
7*June 18 p.m.KingsBlackhawksNBCSN
ESPN.com

 

Predictions

Eastern Conference Final

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

By itself, a loss in Game 3 was bad enough for the Rangers. They had ample opportunity to get the better of Montreal on Thursday and grab what would've been a nearly unassailable 3-0 series lead.

Instead, the Canadiens stole one and clawed their way back into the series.

There was also the little matter of the 10-minute game misconduct for Daniel Carcillo after he made contact with a linesman. As a result, he was suspended for 10 games, per SportsCenter:

He is appealing the decision, per ESPN.com's Katie Strang:

Given how rigid the NHL Rulebook is regarding contact with officials, his appeal will likely be denied, and the Rangers will likely be without his services for the rest of the series.

New York may also miss Derek Stepan for at least Game 4 after he broke his jaw in Game 3 following a hit from Brandon Prust:

If the Canadiens take Game 4, they'll have regained home-ice advantage and swung the momentum completely in their favor.

So much rests on the shoulders of goaltender Dustin Tokarski. The 24-year-old was marvelous in Game 3, denying a couple of Rangers shots that looked destined for the back of the net.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22:  Dustin Tokarski #35 of the Montreal Canadiens makes a save against the New York Rangers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 22, 2014 in New York Cit
Elsa/Getty Images

"If it wasn't for him, it could have easily been three, four, five-nothing," said Daniel Briere after the game, per ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. "What he did throughout the game, but especially keeping us in the game in the first period, we owed him one, to say the least."

A hot goaltender can make such a huge difference in the postseason. Montreal fans know this full well having seen Patrick Roy and Jose Theodore lift the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With New York missing a couple of key players and Montreal carrying a bunch of confidence from its Game 3 win, the Canadiens will take Game 4 and eventually the series.

Prediction: Canadiens in seven

 

Western Conference Final

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24:  The Los Angeles Kings celebrate their team's victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Three of the Third Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 24, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noah Grah
Noah Graham/Getty Images

The Kings have turned this series completely on its head after Chicago took Game 1 by a score of 3-1. Los Angeles has since responded with a 6-2 win in Game 2 and followed that up with a 4-3 victory in Game 3—the score of which was somewhat deceiving.

The Kings scored three unanswered goals to take a 4-2 lead in Game 3, and then Patrick Sharp scored with five seconds left in the game.

The victory was enough to get the crowd inside the Staples Center to start looking towards the Stanley Cup, per ESPN's Arash Markazi:

Jeff Carter was the star with two assists and a goal, which gives him 10 points over his last two games, per NHL Network's Steve Mears:

Picking a winner in this series is extremely difficult. Both teams have experience winning the Stanley Cup. Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford are both capable of standing on their heads while Carter and Jonathan Toews can go toe to toe offensively.

Having home-ice advantage may be a deciding factor.

Chicago has had its fair share of problems playing away from the United Center. They've lost five out of seven games on the road so far this postseason.

Also working in the Kings' favor is their improved play on the penalty kill. They gave up a shorthanded goal to Toews in the first period but turned things around thereafter—an encouraging sign going forward.

Momentum is playing a big role in the series so far, and as long as it's in L.A.'s corner you have to back the 2012 Stanley Cup champions.

Prediction: Kings in six

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