NHL Week in Review (May 24-30)

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The Conference Finals did not disappoint this year as two match-ups that looked to be great ended up being just that.

Heading into the third round the NHL may not have found a better set of matchups to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the East was the high-octane Tampa Bay Lightning who were on a rapid scoring pace throughout the playoffs.

They were taking on the New York Rangers who had one of the best balanced attacks in the playoffs and a true future hall of famer in net.

In the West were the Anaheim Ducks who had run through the playoffs with a dominant combination of size, speed, and defence.

They were taking on the Chicago Blackhawks who had already won two Stanley Cups in the last five years with much of the same make-up and remained a strong team all throughout the playoffs.

The matchups were the best that anyone could hope for but there was never any guarantee that they were going to live up to the hype that surrounded them.

The good news for the NHL was that they did meet the hype and every team played up to their billing.

The Eastern Finals featured the best of both worlds in the match-up that was truly offence against defence.

The Rangers took the tight game as they broke a tie late in the third period to win the first game.

Then the Lightning came on as Tyler Johnson had a hat trick in Game 2 leading the Lighting to a big 6-2 win.

An offensive battle broke out in Game 3 with the Lighting taking the overtime win with another 6 goals.

hockey-sidebarThe battle continued with a 39 save performance from Lundqvist that evened up the series and a shutout performance from Ben Bishop to take a lead in Game 6.

The Rangers fought off elimination in Game 6 thanks to Derek Brassard’s five point performance including a hat trick.

It came down to Game 7. In what was a microcosm of the series both goaltenders played great in the final game and kept the game scoreless throughout the first two periods.

Then the offence of the Lightning finally broke through scoring two goals in the third period while Bishop remained strong in net.

The series was done and the offensive powerhouse, Lightning taking home the Eastern Conference title and move on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The West was not much different as two of the best teams throughout the playoffs went head to head.

It looked like it could be quick though as the Ducks won Game 1 by a score of 4-1 with the Blackhawks looking completely out of the game and looking like their injury woes throughout the playoffs had caught up with them.

The Blackhawks fought back though and won a triple overtime Game 2 that was an experiment in toughness from a team with only four defenceman.

The Ducks came back in a much closer game in Game 3 to go ahead while the Blackhawks took another long overtime game in Game 4 to even things up.

The fifth game once again went to overtime but this time the Ducks took the win in only one overtime period while the Blackhawks exploded for five goals in Game 6.

Game 7 was a different story though as the Blackhawks showed their experience and did not let the moment get to them.

They got out to an early lead and simply crushed the spirit of the Ducks moving to a 4-0 lead in the second period.

The Ducks tried to come back and scored one goal in the second period to try to kick-start the comeback but it was too little too late.

Anaheim added two more goals in the third but the game was out of reach after the Blackhawks scored another on a powerplay to make the final score 5-3 and to send the Blackhawks to the Finals.

So the Lightning will take on the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals as the experience takes on the youth in a team that has been through everything and a team that doesn’t know any better.

It is an interesting matchup but a tough line to follow as both teams attempt to make this a series to remember for their fans while other hockey fans are just hoping for another seven game thriller.

Overtime
(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Hitchcock earns extension
Ken Hitchcock was one of the big reasons that the Blues became a constant contender but he has yet to win in the postseason and the Blues’ ownership took notice as they gave Hitchcock an extension but only for a year sending a clear message of Stanley Cup or Bust

Bylsma to Buffalo
Teams are starting to nail down their coaching staffs as the end of the season approaches and the Draft gets closer as the Buffalo Sabres, who almost signed Mike Babcock, went with Stanley Cup winner and former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to lead their struggling team

DeBoer heads West
Peter DeBoer did not have much success trying to turn around the New Jersey Devils but will get a more talented group, albeit older, in San Jose as the new head coach of the Sharks as he tries to be the difference in making them a Stanley Cup team not just a playoff team

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