The 2019 NHL Playoffs was pretty nutty early. Every division champ lost in the 1st Round, including last year’s Stanley Cup winner the Washington Capitals (in 7 games to Carolina). In total, just 3 higher seeds advanced to the next round.
The conference semifinals were more conventional, but aside from a Hurricanes sweep over the Islanders, it was very competitive. The Bruins finally put away the bottom-seeded Blue Jackets after 6 games. In the West, the Blues and Sharks outlasted the Stars and Avalanche is respective Game 7’s.
Let’s take a look at the conference final matchups, offer a prediction and give you an up-to-date schedule leading up to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Most Likely Western Conference Team in Stanley Cup Finals
The better road teams won in the semifinals. St. Louis went 21-13-7 away from Enterprise Center during the regular season. Meanwhile, San Jose went 21-16-4 outside of the Bay Area.
San Jose offers a balanced attack of Logan Couture (14 points) Brent Burns (12), Tomas Hertl (12) and Erik Karlsson (12). In addition, veterans such as Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton can always contribute on the offensive end. Meanwhile, the Blues were just the No. 15 scoring offense in the league during the regular-season, as compared to San Jose’s third-ranked unit.
The puts on onus on goalie play. St. Louis will send out Jordan Binnington, who ceded just 1.89 goals per game during the regular season. Those numbers have gone up in the playoffs to 2.39. Martin Jones is more accomodating with just under three goals a contest.
The Sharks have the more consistent offense and despite more spotty goaltending, it’s not as if Binnington has dominated as of late. Going with the Sharks in 7.
Most Likely Eastern Conference Team in Stanley Cup Finals
Carolina made quick work out of the Islanders, even though they entered the playoffs as one of two Wild Card teams. After two defensive-minded wins in New York, the Hurricanes blew them out with a pair of 5-2 decisions.
The main one to watch is Teuvo Teravainen, who notched three goals in the final two games in Carolina. He has nine total points, just behind defenseman Jaccob Slavin’s 11. They also have a hot goalie in Curtis McElhinney, who is 3-0 with a goal allowed average of just 1.56.
Boston roared back from a 2-1 deficit to get past the other Wild Card team in Columbus. That included a pair of 3-goal wins in Ohio.
Brad Marchand (13 points) and David Pastrnak (11) outdo Teravainen and Slavin as top threats on offense, and David Krejci isn’t too far behind (10). The Bruins also boast a top-flight netminder in Tukka Rask, who’s ceded just barely over two goals a night.
Carolina may just be that team that goes from Wild Card to the Stanley Cup Finals, just like Nashville two years ago or Los Angeles (as an 8-seed) even earlier this decade. However, Boston’s combination of goaltending and versatile scoring will put the Cinderella run to an end.
Boston in 6
Conference Finals & Stanley Cup NHL Playoff Schedule
Note: Tentative times and dates are listed below with all information courtesy of Sports Media Watch. These are subject to change.