An interesting second round saw the Presidents’ Trophy winners bounced out, and two incredibly boring Game 7’s. The dust has finally settled, leaving four teams to battle for a chance to play for Lord Stanley.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Penguins are back in the conference finals for the first time since 2013 after knocking off the Presidents’ Trophy winning Caps. Washington once again found a way to fold in the playoffs, fulfilling the perennial narrative that they can’t get the job done come Spring time. That remains true, but it should be noted that they also ran into a Pens team that has been the hottest in hockey for the last three months, and weren’t that much worse in the series. The question remaining for Washington is how much longer is this championship window open? Time will tell.
The Lightning, seemingly DOA at the start of the playoffs, have strung together two quick series victories to return to the East finals for the second straight year. Their road has been the easiest out of anyone (Wings and Isles), but that doesn’t mean Tampa hasn’t been playing some great hockey. What’s even more impressive is that it’s been done without two of their best players, Stamkos and Stralman. The Bolts have looked impressive, and could possibly get Stamkos back in this series. Ben Bishop has once again been a rock in net for them, and as long as he is playing well, Tampa has a shot against any team in the league.
It’s hard to find a weakness in the Penguins right now. Their depth is astounding, they’re rolling four lines, and getting contribution from everyone. Matt Murray is making MAF look like an afterthought. They beat the Presidents’ Trophy sinners with Crosby and Malkin combining for FOUR points… Oh, and that Phil Kessel guy is pretty good too. On the other side, Kucherov, Johnson and Hedman are budding stars for Tampa. Obviously having Stamkos back would be a huge game changer, but if it doesn’t happen, these three guys will have to continue to lead the way. If Bishop can steal some games here and there, the Bolts could have a shot. They’ve been there before. But I picked the Pens to win the East at the beginning of this thing, so I have to stick with that. Pens in 6.
St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks
Holy crap it’s actually going to happen… Either way, the Sharks or the Blues are going to the Stanley Cup Final. Let that sink in for a moment…….. Ok, that’s enough. The Sharks are looking to get to their first Final ever, and the Blues are looking to get there for the first time since 1970 (Hello, Bobby Orr).
The Blues have managed to nearly blow two straight series leads, but in the end got the job done in Game 7. Their win in Dallas to clinch the series was largely due to the Stars’ horrendous goaltending, but also because this Blues team has something new. They have a second mental gear that they haven’t had before. Brian Elliott has remained steady, giving his team a shot to win every night. They’re getting scoring across the board. I don’t think Tarasenko was a huge factor in the Dallas series, but it didn’t seem to matter much. The Blues are just finding ways to win.
I might be in the minority here, but despite going seven games I don’t think the Sharks-Preds series was very close. San Jose boat raced the Preds in all four games at The Tank. It took a close, questionable no goal call in overtime of Game 4 to keep it from being 3-1 Sharks going back home. San Jose was on the wrong end of two road overtime games, and that was the difference in the series. Martin Jones has proven he can handle the big moments, and the Sharks power play is literally unstoppable right now. San Jose’s stars are showing up in a big way, and like the Blues this team has a pedigree that’s different from years past.
Two snake bitten franchises that haven’t been able to get over the hump will face off for a chance to get over that hump. So as the title suggests, something is going to give. Someone’s long drought is going to end. It’ll be a pretty even series, and sure to be exciting. Give me the Sharks in 7.
Anybody but St. Louis.