NHL Conference Finals Predictions
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The New York Islanders keep proving me wrong and are one the four teams left in the race for the Stanley Cup. They'll have a tough task dethroning the Stanley Cup champs, but if they can do it, they have a shot at reliving the glory days of the 80’s. Another team who's had a Cinderella story is the Montreal Canadiens. They are the king of the North, but now they face the Vegas Golden Knights with the Stanley Cup berth on the line.
There are four left, but only two can play for Lord Stanley, who will they be? Let’s find out!
New York Islanders vs Tampa Bay Lightning
It's the rematch of last year's Conference finals between these two teams. What can you say about the New York Islanders? A few seasons ago, they lost their captain John Tavares in free agency and then made some questionable signings including after the fact. Folks were even questioning the hiring of Lou Lamoriello. Well, here they are getting the last laugh.
You have to give credit where it's due. Barry Trotz has made the Islanders a tough team to play against. It's the third time in four seasons that Trotz is leading a team to the conference finals. And to put it under a microscope even further, it’s also his second trip in three years. Needless to say, his impact has been felt.
It's been a tough road for the Isles to get to this point. They knocked off Sidney Crosby in the first round, and then scrapped it out with the always tough to play against Bruins. They yet again face an uphill battle going against the defending champs. However, if they can continue their gritty ways and push the tempo, they may just be able to once again pull off another upset.
The Islanders' big key to the series is simple. DEFENCE. Semyon Varlamov didn't start game one against Boston, but started for the rest of the series. The former Avalanche goaltender has turned around his career. He out-duelled one of the most experienced goalies in the league on Rask, and has set himself up for folk legend status if he can continue this ride.
As for the Lightning, they didn't waste any time against the Hurricanes, finishing Carolina in five games. Though their offence cooled down compared to their series against Florida, Kucherov and Stamkos still had a solid series, combing for 12 points. In total the pair have 31 overall. Kuch has been everything as advertised, and then some. He has yet again become Tampa's power source, and I don't expect that to change this series.
Tampa’s power play will be the key to their success. It's been a big advantage for them in the playoffs and has been firing on all cylinders. When Tampa scores a power play goal this postseason they're 6-2. That's 75 percent of the lightning's victories in the playoffs! They once again find themselves as the favourites, and rightly so, they are well coached, have an insane amount of depth, and knows what it takes to win. NYI will be in tough.
While the Islanders have made me look stupid on multiple occasions his postseason, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the defending cup champs for a reason. They're like the final boss in a video game and they'll be tough to beat. I'd like the Islanders to prove me wrong again, but I don’t think they will this time around.
Tampa Bay in 6.
Montreal Canadiens Vs Vegas Golden Knights
The Habs are the last Canadian team standing but will have a difficult task ahead of them when they face off against the Vegas Golden Knights. Montreal swept the Jets after going 7seven games against the Leafs in the opening round. Their special teams killed Winnipeg, so they’ll look to continue that success against arguably the best team in the league (and maybe there’s not much of an argument any more).
Montreal's Nick Suzuki is continuing to be the driving force in the Habs offence, He finished strong against the Leafs and continued his solid play against the Jets. It's hard to believe that Vegas traded this kid.. A lot of credit for that deal has to go to their GM Marc Bergevin. Bergevin has made some pretty impressive moves on a budget in the past year, Toffoli is another notable add. It's good to see him prove the critics wrong and get some validation.
Montreal will need to strike first and preserve the lead. When they score the first goal they’re 8-1 in the postseason. And despite giving up a lot of leads this postseason, the Habs have adopted a bend but don't break mentality. In games 5-6 against Toronto, they almost collapsed but got the victory. In game 4 vs Winnipeg, Montreal blew a two goal lead but prevailed. They probably won’t get away with that against Vegas, but they have shown they’ve got guts.
The Vegas Golden Knights staved off the Avalanche in a six game slugfest. They trailed 2-0 at one point in the series but turned it around on the defensive side. In the first two games they gave up 10 goals, in the final four they gave up just 8. A big reason for that is The Flower. Fleury didn’t start the series, however he shut the door to end it. Stone, Karlsson, and Marchessault were all also key kogs in the comeback and will be leaned on in this series.
The key for Vegas is getting traffic in front of Price. The big man in net is pretty much unbeatable if he can see the puck. Luckily, the Knights thrive on getting bodies to the net. They were all over Grubauer last series, disrupting his vision and generated offence off of rebounds. That’s exactly what they’ll have to do against the Habs' legendary netminder.
Vegas is the ultimate favourite in this series. It's tough to see a scenario where Vegas loses unless they get some catastrophic injuries. From offence to defence, the Knights are the better team. However, if Price gets hot like he did against Toronto, anything can happen. With that said, I believe the Knights have the formula for that equation and will show off their skills before the finals. It's been a great run for Montreal, but it ends here.
Vegas in 6.