Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals Preview

Playoff preview

We have reached the final 4 teams in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The second round had many great moment and storylines and I expect there to be more of the same in these last 2 rounds.  There are many great storylines as well between the remaining teams, San Jose and St Louis have both never won the Stanley Cup yet, Carolina hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009 and they haven’t won since 2006.  The Boston Bruins are looking for another Stanley Cup with this core of players as there might not be another chance with players like Bergeron and Chara.  All 4 teams are playing great hockey and are confident that they can win it all.  I will preview both Conference Finals and look into how each team matches up and what each team needs to do in order to win.

 

Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes

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The Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes are the last ones standing in the Eastern Conference.  Both these teams met in the Second Round back in 2009, where the Hurricanes defeated the Bruins in Game 7 Overtime.  Both teams are also coming into this series with red hot goaltenders.  Curtis McElhinney has been brilliant since coming in for the injured Petr Mrazek in Game 2 against the Islanders.  Tuuka Rask was lights out all series against Columbus, especially Games 4 and 6 on the road, solidifying the series win.  Do the Veteran Bruins still have enough left to go all the way or can the Upstart Hurricanes take them down?

 

Season Series

October 30, 2018 – Bruins (3) – Hurricanes (2)

December 23, 2018 – Bruins (3) – Hurricanes (5)

March 5, 2019 – Bruins (4) – Hurricanes (3) OT

The Boston Bruins didn’t show any signs of fatigue against Columbus in Round 2.  They established a lot of zone time and controlled a lot of the play throughout the series.  After a little bit of a slow start to the series, the Bruins top players Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak started to heat up and that was one of the things that changed the series for Boston.  Brad Marchand has led the way for Boston with 13 Points in 13 Games.  David Pastrnak started to find his scoring touch with 3 goals in the last 3 games of Round 2.  The series might have gone either way if not for the play of Tuuka Rask.  Columbus threw everything they had at Rask throughout the series, but they just had no answer for him.  When Rask is playing the way he is, and when Boston’s top trio are hot offensively, the Bruins are one of the toughest teams in the league to beat, and it will be a tall task for Carolina in this series.

If anyone team can do it however, the Hurricanes are one of them that can the way that they’ve played in the first two rounds.  Carolina took down the Defending Cup Champion Washington Capitals in 7 games, off a Brock McGinn Overtime winner.  They then made quick work of the New York Islanders, sweeping them away in 4 straight games.  Carolina has absolutely dominated at 5v5 all playoffs, killing their opponents in Shots and Scoring Chances.  They have outscored opponents 26-14 at 5v5 for a 65% goal share, 5% better than any other team.  They have so many different players who are having great playoff runs and making different contributions.  Warren Foegele had 10 goals and 15 points all season, he already has 5 goals and 9 points through 11 playoff games.  Brock McGinn has 6 points through 11 games, including the Game 7 OT Winner against Washington.  Jordan Staal has 9 points including a few big goals and of course Justin Williams has been his playoff self.

 

Team Playoff Numbers

Powerplay – Bruins 28.6 (1st) – Hurricanes 10.5 (14th)

Penalty Kill – Bruins 83.8 (6th) – Hurricanes 75.0 (13th)

GF/Game – Bruins 3.08 (4th) – Hurricanes 3.09 (2nd)

GA/Game – Bruins 2.15 (1st) – Hurricanes 2.27 (2nd)

5v5

Shot Share (CF%) – Bruins 51.57 (7th) – Hurricanes 56.47 (1st)

Scoring Chances (SCF%) – Bruins 50.34 (10th) – Hurricanes 53.48 (3rd)

Goal Share (GF%) – Bruins 55.81 (3rd) – Hurricanes 65.00 (1st)

 

Boston’s 3 Keys to Success

  • Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak need to pick up where they left off last series. They need to be Boston’s best players because they have struggled in games where they haven’t gotten a lot of offense going.  Boston has been great defensively, but they don’t quite have the depth scoring like some other teams do.

 

  • Special Teams are a big advantage for Boston and considering how dangerous Carolina is at 5v5, the Bruins need to take advantage of their Powerplay when they get the opportunities.

 

  • Boston is 4-3 at Home and 4-2 on the Road, Carolina is 5-0 at Home and 3-3 on the Road, taking advantage of Home ice is something the Bruins will have to do because it is incredibly difficult to win in Carolina as proven so far in these Playoffs.

 

Carolina’s 3 Keys to Success

  • They need to improve their special teams, they’re probably the best 5v5 team in the playoffs but their Powerplay has been miserable. Their Penalty Kill hasn’t been amazing either and they are going to be tested with Boston’s 1st ranked Powerplay.

 

  • Rest could play a factor in this series; the Hurricanes are younger, and they have had more rest than Boston has coming off a sweep. Granted they’ve only played 2 fewer games but younger legs could make a difference.  I though Boston would show more fatigue against Columbus than they did.  Will they show it this time, or will they continue to keep up their level of play?

 

  • Keeping up their aggressive style of play is critical to their success. Carolina has flustered teams with their aggressive forecheck and style of play in all three zones.  Boston has had issues most of the season with this style, their defensemen have struggled exiting their zone against strong forechecking.  This is what Carolina thrives at and if they can cause those problems for Boston, they will create a lot of zone time and scoring chances by doing this.

 

San Jose Sharks vs. St Louis Blues

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Two veteran experienced teams meet out West as the San Jose Sharks and St Louis Blues get set to battle in the Conference Finals.  Both teams have had difficult paths to get to this point, the Blues coming off knocking out the Winnipeg Jets in Round 1 and eliminating the Stars in 7 games.  San Jose is coming off two Game 7 victories on route to their second Conference Final appearance in the last 4 seasons.  These two teams met in the Conference Final back in 2016, with San Jose winning in 6 games.  Will we have a same result, or will the Blues prevail in the rematch?

 

Season Series

November 9, 2018 – Sharks (0) – Blues (4)

November 17, 2018 – Sharks (4) – Blues (0)

March 9, 2019 – Sharks (3) – Blues (2) OT

 

The San Jose Sharks have battled through two very tight rounds of the playoffs against two very evenly matched opponents.  They took down the Vegas Golden Knights in a fast, intense series, winning Game 7 off a crazy third period comeback.  They then had to take down Nathan MacKinnon and the high-flying Colorado Avalanche in a 3-2 Game 7 victory.  The Sharks best players have been their best players throughout these playoffs and that has made a big difference on why they are where they are.  Couture, Hertl, Meier, Burns and Karlsson all have at least 10 points through 14 games.  San Jose is an opportunistic team, they have the ability when they smell a scoring chance, to really turn it on and take a game over.  They are fast, skilled and experienced, they are getting older, but they’ve proven that that’s not going to slow them down easily.

We all know how great the St Louis Blues have been since the start of 2019.  They went from being dead last in the NHL on January 2nd to know just 4 wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.  They’ve continued their level of play through the entire playoffs.  They knock out the Winnipeg Jets convincingly in 6 games and they eliminate the Dallas Stars, with an absolute dominant performance in Game 7.  St Louis controlled the play for most of the games in the Dallas series, but Dallas’s stingy defensive structure kept the Blues to the outside a lot.  They were still able to outlast the Stars by sticking with it and not getting too frustrated.  The Blues have had several guys who have had big playoff runs.  Jaden Schwartz leads the team with 8 goals and 11 points through 13 games, notably two big games in Game 5 and 6 against Winnipeg. Alex Pietrangelo has been absolutely fantastic through this playoff run.  He has 11 points in 13 games as well as averaging over 25 minutes a night for the Blues.  The Blues will look to keep rolling against the Sharks in order to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.

 

Team Playoff Numbers

Powerplay – Sharks 18.5 (10th) – Blues 17.1 (11th)

Penalty Kill – Sharks 80.8 (9th) – Blues 75.0 (12th)

GF/Game – Sharks 3.07 (4th) – Blues 2.62 (10th)

GA/Game – Sharks 3.07 (11th) – Blues 2.54 (6th)

5v5

Shot Share (CF%) – Sharks 49.59 (11th) – Blues 52.61 (6th)

Scoring Chances (SCF%) – Sharks 48.98 (12th) – Blues 50.42 (9th)

Goal Share (GF%) – Sharks 47.17 (8th) – Blues 55.56 (4th)

 

San Jose’s 3 Keys to Success

  • Their 5v5 play needs to continue to improve in this series, St Louis creates a lot of zone time and shots and can control games in the offensive zone. Dallas was one of the best defensive teams in the league, but the Sharks haven’t been.  They’ll need to do a good job of defending the Blues like Dallas did and control the puck for significant stretches.

 

  • Martin Jones has found his game and has played a huge role in San Jose getting this far. He’ll need to continue this level of play against a St Louis team that spends a lot of time in the offensive zone.

 

  • Evander Kane and Gustav Nyquist have a combined 3 goals between the two of them. San Jose will look for them to get out of their slumps to really give San Jose a lot of depth and to help propel them over St Louis.

 

St Louis’s 3 Keys to Success

  • Special teams are an area where St Louis needs to improve, they’ve been very good at 5v5 but their Powerplay and Penalty Kill could be a difference maker against the Sharks if they find a way to get it going.

 

  • St Louis needs more out of guys like Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn. Schenn has just 1 goal and 4 points so far and Tarasenko has just 5 goals and 0 assists.  They are both big parts of the Blues and they need more out of them if they want to go all the way.

 

Create more from high danger areas, there was too much from the perimeter in the first two rounds, especially against Dallas. San Jose has had defensive struggles this season and throughout the playoffs.  If the Blues are more efficient with their offensive zone time and break through the Sharks defense, they will put themselves in good position to win this series.

 

All Stats/Info found from

https://www.nhl.com/

http://www.naturalstattrick.com/

https://www.thepointhockey.com/

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