The NHL Conference Finals are starting to get really, really good.
The 2014 NHL playoffs have been exciting overall, but now that the Stanley Cup Finals are in plain sight for the remaining four teams, things have started to get contentious.
Big hits, surgeries and suspensions have taken over headlines in the East, while the West's top stories have been dominated by the strong play of goaltender Jonathan Quick.
With three games completed in each series, there's still plenty more hockey to come. Here is an updated schedule, including TV information, to ensure that you don't miss a single time the puck goes up the ice.
|2014 NHL Conference Finals TV Info|
|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||Canadiens beat Rangers, 3-2||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||Kings beat Blackhawks, 4-3||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|
|NHL.com; *if necessary|
Eastern Conference Finals
The Eastern Conference Finals is getting pretty chippy.
The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens are two passionate teams with Stanley Cup aspirations, and that has resulted in some emotional hockey. A rough hit from Brandon Prust may leave the Rangers without one of their top players moving forward, and that has made it even worse.
The Associated Press, via Fox News, has more on the injured Derek Stepan:
The Rangers remain upset they will not have top-line center Derek Stepan, who had surgery Friday for a broken jaw following an open-ice hit from Prust in Game 3.
New York coach Alain Vigneualt did not have an update on Stepan, other than to say the center was recuperating and "unlikely" to play in Game 4.
The Rangers will be getting back another key player for Game 4, however. Derick Brassard told the media that he would play in the game before he told head coach Alain Vigneault, according to the coach himself, via Steve Zipay of Newsday: "He cleared himself to you [the media] before he spoke to me, so he must be feeling better than he was yesterday."
Having Brassard back will be huge. He has played just 35 seconds in this series, but he managed four goals and three assists in the two rounds prior. Brassard is a key for the Rangers offense. Expect his return to help with the consistency of moving the puck and finding good shots in the middle of the ice.
New York is up 2-1 in the series, but Montreal is far from out of it. After winning Game 3 in overtime, the Canadiens will look to continue building momentum by taking Game 4.
Western Conference Finals
After dropping Game 1 to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Los Angeles Kings have now rattled off two straight wins behind the strong play of Quick. A 6-2 win in Game 2 showed just how dominant the Kings can be when everything clicks, but a tight 4-3 win in Game 3 showed the resiliency of a club that has been in important games before.
The Blackhawks seem to be a team in disarray. Jonathan Toews twice found the back of the net in Game 3, but the rest of the team looks lost. Toews, who has been calling for his teammates to play with more intensity, called for it yet again after the contest, via Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune:
We're pushing for another level every single game. It wasn't good enough (Saturday). We'll keep working on finding that next level in Game 4. We need to be the best we possibly can be.
We've shown we can do that in the past. The motivation is right there in front of us now. There's nothing left to think about, just give everything you've got.
There shouldn't be any need to find motivation at this point in the season. All the motivation this team needs is right in front of it—Lord Stanley's Cup.
If getting it all together as a team is still an issue for the Blackhawks in Game 4, then it's hard to imagine them defeating a cohesive team like the Kings.
Chicago needs to get it together—and fast. Toews can't do it by himself.