NHL Week in Review (May 7-13)

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Four teams are one step closer to the Stanley Cup as the Conference Finals are underway with some intriguing potential match-ups for the ultimate prize.

In a strange twist, both conference finals are made up of very similar match-ups as there are two teams that nobody thought were going to be here and two teams that were mostly expected to be here.

In the west, the Anaheim Ducks are back in the conference finals riding the great play of their veteran captain Ryan Getzlaf.

The Ducks are a team that has been at or near the top of the league for years competing in the very tough Pacific Division.

They weren’t necessarily the favourites to make it to the Stanley Cup this year but they were certainly a team to watch.

They swept the Calgary Flames in the first round and beat Edmonton in seven games last round to find their way four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

If they win it will be their first time in the finals since 2007 that they will make the final and in that year they won the Stanley Cup.

Although they haven’t been at the top of the league for a while they are still one of the best teams in the NHL year after year.

Their opponents in the west are a team that has been great to make the playoffs year after year but has never been a team anyone thought would make the finals.

Nashville has seen a progression over the last few years even becoming a team to watch for the Stanley Cup.

This year they were a good but they weren’t expected to make it past the first round against the Blackhawks.

Yet they not only got past the Blackhawks but they swept the Blackhawks in one of the biggest surprises this year.

They then took another top team out beating the St. Louis Blues in six games to get to the conference finals.

The Preds have never been to the Stanley Cup Finals and in the west, they are the Cinderella story that nobody expected.

In the match-up, it seems like the Ducks should be able to take out the Predators but every team should have beat them this year.

After one game the Predators are already bucking the trend taking the first win and taking away home ice advantage from the Ducks.

In the Eastern Conference, things are eerily similar to the matchup in the West as there is a dominant power against a team nobody thought would be there.

The dominant team happens to be the defending champions and one of the top teams in the past decade.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a team to watch for years and after winning the Cup last year some wondered if they could do it again this time around.

They have matched those expectations and made their presence known in a series that everyone thought was going to be a lot closer.

The Columbus Blue Jackets were streaking into the playoffs but the Penguins shut them down winning the series in five games.hockey-sidebar

They then took on their old nemesis in the Washington Capitals and in another great series the Penguins sent Washington home in another second round exit.

They are four wins away from doing something that nobody has done since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings won back to back titles.

The team they are facing, on the outside, seems like the easiest path to get to that title for the second year in a row.

The Ottawa Senators were not considered a strong team heading into the playoffs as some were event surprised that they made the playoffs.

It wasn’t that they were bad but to make it this far was not in the cards for a team without any one outstanding aspect.

They quietly got past the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers both in six games and thanks in large part to Erik Karlsson they have been able to find their way to the conference finals.

It will be their first time in the conference finals since 2007 as they look to get their first every Stanley Cup.

The Sens are continuing to get through the adversity though as like the Preds they took the first game in the series in overtime.

These two match-ups lead to some interesting potential match-ups for the Stanley Cup Finals, and both could be great series.

The NHL as a league would most likely prefer Anaheim and Pittsburgh to face off as both are big teams in the USA.

That match-up would be an interesting one as two experienced teams with a lot of talent could put on a great finals.

Another option is one that the NHL might not prefer though as the Predators and Senators could also face off.

Neither are major markets but this would be a fun series to watch as two teams are not supposed to make it and the underdog story where one team will get their first Stanley Cup is can’t miss hockey.

Either way, the playoffs are headed to interesting times with the conference finals underway and the underdogs taking the first shot towards the Stanley Cup.

 

Overtime

Big Ben Heading South

Goaltending is always a need for so many teams in the NHL and the Dallas Stars just took the first shot in the attempt to solidify their goaltending. This week the Stars traded a fourth round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for the rights to Ben Bishop, who was set to become a free agent this year. With the move, the Stars will have the chance to negotiate a new deal with Bishop as they also look to make room for him.

Buffalo Going a New Direction

The Sabres had a very public off-season when they fired their head coach and GM after it was reported that their biggest star, Jack Eichel, claimed that he wouldn’t sign if they were still around. Now they are looking to the future though as they announced the signing of Jason Botterill as their new GM.  It is a big move for the Sabres taking a key piece of Pittsburgh management as they look to turn things around.

Russian Star Coming Back

In the late 2000s Ilya Kovalchuk was one of the top players in the league and then he signed a contract with the New Jersy Devils that changed everything. The contract was a massive deal but also a deal that was suspect with the majority of the money being paid out at the end of his contract, which may never come. With the contract in hand things never worked out but he seems ready to try again as teams are looking to make a sign-and-trade deal with New Jersey to bring the Russian back to the NHL.

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