Four weeks into the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the best teams have emerged on both sides of the league. There has never been a team that has won twice in the past nine years, but now it seems more and more likely that there will be a repeat.
On the East, both the Penguins and the Bruins have won their semi-final series 4-1. The Boston Bruins outplayed and outfought the New York Rangers to pack the series away at Game 5. The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the Ottawa Senators to end their season on Friday.
In the West, Both semi-final series are tied at 3-3. The Detroit Red Wings lead 3-1 in the series before the Chicago Blackhawks came back strong and forced a Game 7. The LA Kings and the San Jose Sharks series has been back and forth and has seemed very even, tied at 2-2 and then 3-3.
Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are a strong powerhouse team, and are a strong favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year ever since Chicago’s breakdown. They have much talent in their top two lines, lead by Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby, and with Tomas Vokoun defending the goal, the Penguins are a force to be dealt with.
The Bruins on the other hand, are a hard working team with great chemistry to make up for their lack of huge stars. They have a top-tier defense led by veterans in players such as Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, and young stars in Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. They have an explosive second line in Bergeron and Marchand, an effective first line with Krejci, Horton, and Lucic, and a surprisingly productive fourth line with Paille, Campbell, and Thorton.
The Penguins are the favorites to win this series, but the Bruins have a chance to win if their defense shuts down Pittsburgh’s offensive weapons. The Bruins must also work on their offensive production, as the Penguins’ defense will be tougher to beat than the Rangers’.
Game 7: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Chicago came back big after Detroit’s huge head start. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard had many great saves and shut down Chicago’s powerhouse offense until the Blackhawks finally came back led by Jonathan Toews.
Look out for Chicago to show more urgency in Game 7 than Detroit, as they have outplayed them in the past two games and carry the momentum. Detroit must play at their best level to stop the Blackhawks at this point, and if they don’t play as hard as they should, Chicago could easily outplay them to clinch the series.
Game 7: LA Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
After the Kings took a two game lead, the Sharks came back to make it 2-2, and San Jose has now forced a Game 7 with the series tied at 3-3. The Kings have a dangerous team, with leaders in Captain Dustin Brown, and Jonathan Quick. The San Jose Sharks, who are alway known to choke in the playoffs, are giving all they’ve got to try to at least make it to the Conference Final.
The Kings have a good chance of repeating this year, but they can’t relax yet. The Sharks are playing their best playoff hockey, and if the Kings don’t fight as hard, San Jose just might have a chance of slipping past them to the next round. It’s unlikely though, as the LA Kings are a strong contender and don’t look like they are running out of steam any time soon.