The race for this year’s Stanley Cup is now down to just four teams as we have reached the conference finals.
In the east we will see the New York Rangers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning whereas in the west the Edmonton Oilers tackle the Colorado Avalanche. We look set for two fantastic contests, here we preview the best of the action.
Eastern Conference Finals
The Tampa Bay Lightning have quickly become a juggernaut of the NHL with the boys from the Bay recording their third consecutive Eastern Finals appearance. The Lightning will take on a Rangers side who will be making their first conference finals appearance since 2015.
The Lightning have had to wait for their opponents in the finals to be confirmed after they swept the top seed Florida Panthers 4-0. It was a dominant performance by the Lightning who would only concede four goals in their four meetings underlying their status as one of the favourites for this year’s Stanley Cup.
The standout performer for the Lightning has been forward Nikita Kucherov who has netted eleven times in the post season. Against a weary Rangers defence he will be looking to extend his excellent scoring record.
The Rangers once again showed their battling qualities and for the second successive round managed to squeeze past their opponents 4-3. Key to the Rangers success this post season has been the form of goalie Igor Shesterkin who only conceded twelve goals from the 244 shots he faced in their series victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
At the other end of the ice, Mika Zibanajed has top scored for the Rangers finding the back of the net nineteen times in the fourteen games he has played in the post season. If the Rangers are to pull off the upset here, both Zibanajed and Shesterkin will need to continue to be at their very best.
The Rangers should take confidence into the series having beaten the Lightning the last two times that these sides have met.
Western Conference Finals
The Edmonton Oilers are the last Canadian team standing in the race for this years Stanley Cup after the Oiler edged out compatriots Calgary Flames 4-1.
The Oilers haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the start of the 90s and standing in their way are an Avalanche team that many predicted would go onto win it all this season.
The clear underdogs headed into these finals much of the Oilers hopes will rest on the shoulders of star forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Both McDavid and Draisaitl have been in blistering goal scoring form. In their match up against the Flames, Draisaitl would score seventeen goals in the five match series with McDavid just behind his teammate with 12. If the Oilers are to cause the upset both McDavid and Draisaitl will need to be at their very best.
For the Avalanche there is a real sense that they have been building towards this moment. The undisputed number one seeds, the Avalanche have finally been able to get past the second round of the playoffs having fallen just before the Conference Finals in each of the past three seasons.
Whereas the Oilers will need to rely on their star forwards, the Avalanche are a much more rounded side and can hurt their opponents in a variety of different ways.
Leading the charge for the Avalanche will be Nathan McKinnon who is one of the very best players in the world. A beast at both ends of the ice, the Oilers will need to keep a lid on McKinnon if they are to stand any chance.
Supporting McKinnon has been Nazem Kadri who has enjoyed one of the best years of his career. If Kadri fails to fire than the Avalanche can turn towards the abilities of both Cale Makar and Devon Toews.
The Avalanche are the undoubted favourites to win a first Stanley Cup since 2001 and it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure having moved into uncharted waters.
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