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Blittner’s Blue Line: Previewing The Conference Finals

Blittner’s Blue Line: Previewing The Conference Finals

Welcome to Round Three! Things are about to get intense. Well, they already were intense, but now is when the Championship caliber teams begin to really gel.

With the amount of parody that exists in today’s NHL, there are a number of teams that can and do qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in any given year. Some “bubble” teams even find themselves winning a round. But when it comes to the Eastern and Western Conference Final, the cream usually rises to the top. There are no more “we’re just happy to be here” teams. The Final Four teams all stand four wins away from playing in The Stanley Cup Final. 

Through the trials and tribulations of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs; teams build an identity. They come together to form something greater than the sum of their parts. They’ve worked hard to attain what is known as “Championship DNA.” Some teams have more of it than others, but it’s usually present in each of the Final Four contestants.

Now, just like we did for the first two rounds, let’s try to predict how the Conference Finals will play out. And for the record, after correctly predicting seven out of eight first-round winners, we went a perfect 4-0 in Round Two. 


Rangers vs. Panthers

Last year’s Eastern Conference champs versus this year’s Presidents’ Trophy Winner. That’s a tasty-looking matchup. 

Forget The Curse of The Presidents’ Trophy, these Rangers are the real deal. If they were going to succumb to “The Curse,” they would have lost Game Six to Carolina and then finished off their collapse with a Game Seven loss at MSG. 

That didn’t happen. Now, it’s just mono-e-mono, or rather, mano-a-mano. The two division winners in the East can both lay claim to being the superior team, but only one can move on to The Cup Final. 

History says that Presidents’ Trophy winners don’t usually win The Stanley Cup, but history also says that teams who lose in The Stanley Cup Final don’t usually make it back to the final round the following year. 

Offensively, both teams were Top-10 in The League in power-play and penalty-kill percentage. The Panthers are the better even-strength team, but the Hurricanes also held that advantage over the Blueshirts and they’re currently making golf plans. Meanwhile, the Seventh Avenue Skaters are chomping at the bit to face a Panthers team who went 2-0-1 against them in the regular season. 

Both teams have defensemen who can jump up in the rush to help create offense. And both employ Vezina Trophy winners in net. While he likely won’t win it this year, Sergei Bobrovsky is a finalist for the award that’s already won twice before.

There’s no doubt Igor Shesterkin is having a better postseason than Bobrovsky, but Florida’s netminder has the edge in experience. Will that play a factor in which goaltender will lead their team to victory? It might, it might not. 

New York’s Adam Fox is banged up, as is Ryan Lindgren. Jacob Trouba had a series to forget against the Hurricanes. Overall, the Rangers’ defense doesn’t have momentum on its side, but momentum rarely carries over from series to series, so maybe that won’t be a factor. Will Filip Chytil return again? If he does, will it only be for one game like it was against Carolina? Will Blake Wheeler play? Matt Rempe doesn’t appear to have Head Coach Peter Laviolette’s trust but the Rangers’ record is sparkling when their giant suits up.

Aleksander Barkov won the Selke Trophy as The League’s best two-way forward this season, but will that be enough to tip the scales in Florida’s favor? The Panthers have had that look in their eyes all season. They know what it takes to get to the final round. Plus, they’re healthier this year. Will that be the final piece in their championship puzzle?

Prediction: Panthers in Seven


Stars vs. Oilers

Twice in the first two rounds, we picked the Oilers to win strictly because of Connor McDavid. Twice we were proven right, but McDavid wasn’t exactly his usual all-world self against Vancouver in Round Two. Edmonton’s goaltending has been a nightmare the past few weeks, regardless of who’s in the net, and against a team like Dallas that’ll be a real problem. 

Conversely, the Stars are as deep as any team in recent memory. They’ve got a forward group who can beat you in many different ways. Their defense corps can join the rush but still get back in time to defend their own zone. Plus, they’ve got a goalie in Jake Oettinger who’s capable of stepping up and leading his team past a difficult opponent. 

Joe Pavelski has been waiting his entire career to win The Cup. For 17 seasons he’s had to watch somebody else lift Lord Stanley’s Fabled Chalice. Will the 18th finally be his turn? McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been in The League for a combined 19 seasons and they’ve yet to taste the sweet nectar of a championship. Will this finally be their year? They still don’t have much help in the way of depth scoring or defensive standouts. Can the Dynamic Duo push their team to a place it hasn’t been since 2006?

Dallas is rested. Edmonton had to play a grueling Game Seven in Vancouver on Monday night. Will that play a factor in who wins this series? On paper, this looks like a one-sided series, but games aren’t played on paper.

Prediction: Stars in Six

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