Thanks for everything, Toronto.
With the NHL down to its final four teams, all the action shifts to Edmonton where the Eastern duo of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders will join Western combatants the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars for their respective Conference Finals.
Tampa Bay easily advanced in five games, while the remaining three sides needed all seven to move on and keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. Those dreams will be put to the test once again beginning tonight, where only two sides will remain standing once the dust settles.
Game 1 in the West will be contested tonight at 8 PM followed by the East on Monday night at the same time. You can find the full Conference Finals schedule right here.
One of these teams many expected to be here, the other, not so much. After two rounds of intense action, the East comes down to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders. For the Lightning, this marks their third Conference Finals appearance since 2015, while the Islanders reach the last four for the first time since...that year we don’t talk about. First team to four victories takes home the Prince of Wales Trophy and will fight for the Stanley Cup later this month.
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders
It’s taken the Tampa Bay Lightning just 10 games to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, vanquishing both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the President’s Trophy winning Boston Bruins in five games apiece. The latter series included winning four straight after dropping the opener. For once, everything is clicking at the exact right moment for the Lightning and they have been without captain Steven Stamkos the entire time.
Banishing the demons against the Blue Jackets followed by a complete man handling of the Bruins make the Lightning the frontrunner to win the East, but they will certainly have their hands full against a relentless Islanders team who will not go quietly into the night. It’s going to take another complete effort if Tampa Bay hopes to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in five years.
Perhaps no team has turned more heads since the NHL restart than the New York Islanders. At the time of the COVID-19 shutdown back in March, the Islanders were right on the playoff bubble but now find themselves just four wins from their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1984. Barry Trotz has turned this Islanders team into an absolute nightmare to play against and they showed true mettle in defeating the Flyers in Game 7 after blowing a 3-1 series lead.
Facing this Lightning team will be the hardest test they have faced so far this playoffs and they will need their offense to fire on all cylinders to keep up. As great as the Islanders have been on defense, this Lightning team is built to score and the offense will find a way to produce goals one way or another.
Series Prediction: Lightning in 6
Who is your pick to win the East?
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Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Islanders
Both Western second round series were on track to be wrapped up in five games apiece, but comebacks forced both to be decided in a winner-take-all Game 7 and we are better off for it. Vegas was pushed to the absolute limit by the upstart Canucks while the Stars offense showed out in a big way to knock off the high powered Avalanche. Now the two sides meet in the Western Conference Finals with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final on the line.
No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars
Despite dealing with needless off-ice drama, the Vegas Golden Knights did just enough to solve Thatcher Demko and the Canucks to advance to their second Western Conference Finals in three seasons of existence. If it wasn’t for Demko playing out of his mind once he took over the starting job, that series never goes the distance and the Golden Knights are well rested heading into their meeting with Dallas. Instead, it took everything they had and perhaps even a little more to escape a tense Game 7 and come within four wins of another Stanley Cup berth.
Through the round robin and the first two playoff rounds, Vegas has looked every bit the machine they were built up to be coming in. Combine that with Robin Lehner continually proving Pete DeBoer correct, the Golden Knights look poised to play on hockey’s biggest stage once again.
If you were hoping for a much anticipated Western Final of Vegas and Colorado, direct all your anger to the Dallas Stars who survived blowing a 3-1 series lead to eliminate the Avalanche in Game 7 and ruin everyone’s dreams. There was no question the Stars could defend against the Avalanche offense, it just depended on if the offense showed up. In their seven game victory, the Stars averaged four goals per game and got enough timely goaltending to scratch out the four necessary victories.
Now the Stars enter their first Western Conference Final since 2008 facing their biggest task to date. For as good as they performed against the Avalanche, they will need to find another level to keep up with a fully healthy Golden Knights squad who can beat you so many different ways.
Series Prediction: Golden Knights in 6
Who is your pick to win the West?
This poll is closed
Vegas Golden Knights
It’s been just over a month since the NHL restart and we are already heading into the Conference Finals. Credit to the NHL, their tireless work to make all of this possible has paid off in a major way as were are now halfway to crowning a Stanley Cup champion. Even just three months ago, the idea of the Stanley Cup being awarded seemed like a far off dream, now we are just weeks away from it being a reality.
As with the past rounds, make sure you vote and leave your thoughts in comments as to who you think will win and why are you going with them to represent their respective conference in the Stanley Cup.