Two rounds are down in the NHL playoffs and now only four teams remain. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins will be battling it out for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, while the Blackhawks and Kings will battle it out in the West. I personally think these are the four best teams in the NHL, which is a very rare sighting in the Conference Finals round of the Stanley Cup playoffs due to the parity of the league. It’s also interesting that the four remaining teams are also the past four Stanley Cup winners. The core of each team is still together so one of these cores will win their second Stanley Cup in a maximum of 5 years.
First let’s take a look at the Conference Finals and then I’ll take my Stanley Cup winner pick.
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins -185 vs (4) Boston Bruins +170
The Penguins have been scoring with ease in these playoffs. They lit up the Senators, who were the second best defensive team in the regular season, in the second round and will now look to continue to tear up the scoresheet against the Bruins who allowed the third fewest goals against last year. With the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz, Dupuis, Iginla and Letang all firing on all cylinders I think it’s a safe bet that the Penguins will score their fair share of goals. In the past the Penguins kryptonite has been their goaltending and defensive team play. The Pens had a scare in the first round when they allowed 4+ goals in games 2 through 4 against the Islanders, losing 2 of these to sit with a 2-2 tie in the series. That’s when Fleury was taken out and Vokoun was given the chance to shine. And shine he has winning 6 of 7 games he has played so far in these playoffs. He has also not allowed 4 goals against in a game yet, which Fleury was doing on a consistent basis. This change in goal gives the Pens a chance to win each night.
The Bruins just don’t have quite the fire power of the Penguins and for this reason I don’t see them winning this series. They would need both their top lines to be firing on all cylinders and Jagr to step up his game as well. Even if these things both happen they will be in tough in this series. I think this could be the Penguins year.
Play: Penguins -185 (5Dimes.eu)
(1) Chicago Blackhawks -153 vs (5) Los Angeles Kings +143
The Blackhawks and Kings each needed 7 games to book their tickets into the third round, each winning tight 2-1 games in game 7 at home. The difference in this series I see as being the top end talent of the Blackhawks. If they can continue to get solid goaltending from Corey Crawford they should be able to find the back of the net at least 2 or 3 times a game, which could be enough against the Kings.
I also think home ice advantage could play a huge role in this series. The Kings are 1-5 on the road this playoffs and I’m not sure they will be able to get any wins playing in Chicago, where the Blackhawks are very strong (6-1 these playoffs). The Kings will have to win at least 1 road game to win this series and that might not happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the home team wins every game this series, but I do give the Blackhawks a better chance of pulling off a road victory than the Kings.
Play: Blackhawks -153 (5Dimes.eu)
Stanley Cup Winner
First let’s forget my Conference Finals winner predictions and look at the odds:
Pittsburgh Penguins +150
Chicago Blackhawks +245
Los Angeles Kings +395
Boston Bruins +450
From what I’ve seen so far in these playoffs I have to go with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They just have too many weapons to ever be shut down by a hot goaltender and with Vokoun in net they are able to keep the puck out of their net. When they get chances they capitalize and this will go a long way against the stingy defenses left in the playoffs.
I also don’t mind the Kings at +395 because they are the type of team that could cause the Penguins problems. That said they have two very tough series if they are going to win the Cup and I don’t really see them repeating.
The Pens went all in this year and I think it could pay dividends.
Stanley Cup Winner: Penguins +150 (5Dimes.eu)