We’re nearly done with the conference semifinals in NHL playoffs, and we’re in for some exciting finishes. The Rangers have fought back to force a game seven with the Penguins. The Blackhawks and Bruins have a chance to close out their respective series in six, while the Kings and Ducks are a long way from settling their issue as the series is tied at two.
Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far from each series.
Boston vs. Montreal
What we’ve learned from Boston: The Big Bad Bruins are here to stay. I said in the second round preview that Boston would use strong defense and win games 2-1 and 3-2 instead of getting into shootouts with high-flying offensive teams. The Bruins have been so physical that even Tuukka Rask has gotten in on the act. Boston didn’t do Rask any favors earlier in the series, but it has settled things down defensively after a wild first couple of games. The Bruins are still my favorite to win it all.
What we’ve learned from Montreal: P.K. Subban is going to get paid in the offseason. The defenseman becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and he’s made some dazzling plays in this series. Subban has drawn fire for being feisty and emotional. As outgoing as Subban has been, Carey Price is the exact opposite. Price has kept Montreal in the series as well, but they’ll need some help if they went to rally from being down 3-2.
Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers
What we’ve learned from Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby is frustrated. You can just tell by his body language that he’s pressing. It’s gotten really bad for him, and he’s starting to get really chippy. The Kid speared Dominic Moore at the end of the second period of game six, (which led to Henrik Lundqvist squirting Crosby during the melee.) The Pens have a ton of pressure on them as this tweet shows.
Under Bylsma, Pens are 1-7 at home when having a chance to clinch a series. They are 2-6 all-time in Game 7s at home. #BecauseItsTheCup— Sports Rants NHL (@SportsRantsNHL) May 12, 2014
The Pens had their issues with Columbus, but the Rangers are a whole different creature.
What we’ve learned from the Rangers: I really thought the series was over after game four when Pittsburgh got a 3-1 series lead. However, the Rangers got some rest after that brutal six games in eight day stretch and Martin St. Louis put the team on his back after the death of his mother. It was only fitting that he scored on Mother’s Day. The Rangers need to get something from Rick Nash, who has been just as bad as Crosby has been in the postseason. He made some plays in the opening round against the Flyers, but has been a non-factor since.
Chicago vs. Minnesota
What we’ve learned from Chicago: They desperately need a second-line center to help the line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. The Blackhawks have been experimenting with Ben Smith at the second pivtot, and it’s been an ongoing issue since last season. Chicago continues to win despite this, but it could be a problem if they run into Anaheim or Los Angeles. Hawks goalie Corey Crawford continues to prove people wrong as he keeps winning playoff games for the champs. If he gets them to another Cup, you have to put him onto an elite level.
What we’ve learned from Minnesota: The Wild have not been pretty, but they’ve been effective in frustrating the offensive-machine of the Blackhawks. Minnesota has been rolling out lines with all sorts of players and they’ve made a great account for themselves. Even the champs have been surprised by how well the Wild have been. Minnesota has gotten solid play from Ilya Bryzgalov (their fourth goalie). I’d all but buried the Wild, but they belong.
Anaheim vs. Los Angeles
What we’ve learned from Anaheim: John Gibson played great in game four, but the Ducks have other problems. Gibson may be the future number one goalie for the Ducks, but they need offense in the worst way. Jonas Hiller and Frederick Andersen haven’t played bad, but they need some goals. The one shining light offensively has been Devante Smith-Pelley. He’s made some plays in both rounds and is one of the future stars for Anaheim. (Yes, Sandy Banks, there are black hockey players.)
What we’ve learned from Los Angeles: Despite people initially questioning the trade, Marian Gaborik has fit in nicely with the Kings. He’s given the club some timely goals. People thought he wouldn’t fit into Coach Daryl Sutter’s plans, but he’s proved the critics wrong. Jonathan Quick has shown flashes of greatness and mediocrity in the playoffs. When he and the Kings are on, they’re pretty much unstoppable like they were in the first two games. If Los Angeles can rattle Gibson, they can win the series. However, it’s going to probably go all seven games.
That’s it for today. I’ll have a preview ready for the conference finals that start later in the week. Take care and enjoy the hockey.
Dan Mount is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com and NYSportScene.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY and can be reached on Twitter @DanMountSports.