With the Stanley Cup Finals almost rounded into shape, the schedule will soon be released. While no official word has been given on any set dates or times, the latest that the Eastern Conference Finals can go would be a game 7 on May 28. This would require Montreal 's third straight series comeback. The Habs came back down 3-1 against the Caps, and 3-2 against the Penguins.
Last season the NHL rushed the start of the finals after the Red Wings and Penguins swept their opponents. This led to a controversial decision of holding back to back finals games to start the series. This year, the NHL may opt to take a little more time, though it may not matter.
If the series ends tonight, various ticket brokerage sites list game 1 as occurring on May 31st. While this is not set in stone, the holiday weekend may be the best time to start the series. Currently, NBC has an SNL 2000s flashback episode re-run slated for Monday May 31st in the 8 p.m time slot. This would be an easily replaceable program.
From there Game 2 would occur on Wednesday June 2nd, which is already listed on cable as an 8 p.m Stanley Cup Finals game on Versus. After that, the scheduling could take a turn. Based on NBC's tight availability, the NHL may structure whatever they can get on network television.
Another factor is the NBA. With their finals slated to start either June 1st or 3rd, the NHL may avoid some conflicting times. The NBA has already released their possible finals schedules, giving the NHL and the networks a chance to compare. Based on the NBA schedule, June 5th for game 3 would make most sense.
Then it could get interesting, does the NHL go head to head with the NBA on Sunday June 6th and play a back to back set of finals games? With NBC controlling much of their schedule, it is a possibility.
But will any of this scheduling truly matter in the end? Are the Blackhawks just too good anyway?
With Jonathan Toews currently living up to his captain status, and Dustin Byflugien riding a 5 game goals streak, various weapons have emerged for this team. They play physical, confident, and loose key ingredients for young teams to succeed.
This formula also includes Antti Niemi . The goalie didn't emerge until March, wrestling the starters job from Cristobal Huet . While he has been playing well, he still may be the vulnerable piece of the puzzle. Great defense and potent offense have kept the pressure off him, but how will he handle adversity?
Giving up 2.33 GAA, he's shown signs of brilliance and shakiness. Insert the Flyers . Since their comeback down 3-0 to the Bruins , their offense has been extremely potent. With veterans like Danny Briere and Chris Pronger , the physical team could match Chicago's intensity.
The reason the Flyers have been able to have such success of late is the brute force they've begun to play with putting the Canadians on their heels in each game. Little used veteran Michael Leighton took over the goalie spot, and has been able to stop practically everything headed his way.
Two unlikely goalies could meet in the Stanley Cup finals and either one could continue to rise to stardom or implode. While Chicago has the better team, it could make for an interesting series.
Of course if Montreal comes back to win another series, take them in 7 games over the Blackhawks because it's just meant to be.
The NHL has officially announced the schedule (courtesy of NHL.com):
Saturday, May 29 at Chicago, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS Monday, May 31 at Chicago, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS Wednesday, June 2 at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS Friday, June 4 at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS *Sunday, June 6 at Chicago, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS *Wednesday, June 9 at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS *Friday, June 11 at Chicago, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS