Western Conference – Colorado Avalanche vs. Edmonton Oilers
It’s the match-up quite a few hockey fans have been salivating for when the brackets came out. Two high flying, star laden teams who are hungry for their first cup win in a LONG time. Colorado last lifted Lord Stanley in 2001 and Edmonton not since 1990. For a frame of reference Mark Messier led the Oilers and Patrick Roy was tending goal for the Avs. Speaking of Roy, he backstopped the last victory for a Canadian team as well, back in 1993 for Montreal. To say there’s a lot of pressure on Edmonton would be like saying there’s a lot of twists in Ozark (GREAT last season btw). The only club with equal pressure is probably Colorado, who finally got the monkey off their back advancing to the WCF after years of early exits. Both teams will score, no doubt about that. Could it come down to the goaltenders? As shaky as Kuemper has been at times, I have to give the edge to him over Mike Smith. Unless Smith has forgotten what the Avs did to him when he was in goal for Calgary in the playoffs a few years ago. If the scorers step up the defense and goalies will be right in the crosshairs of focus. Whoever tightens up juuuust enough will emerge with a chance to end decades of frustration. Smith has proven me wrong so far this playoffs and I’ll give him credit for his solid play (minus that past the other blue line goal a few games ago…yikes!) As Paul Bissonnette pointed out on the TNT broadcast we have two former Arizona Coyotes goalies facing off. If you haven’t caught the TNT roundtable please do so, hilarious blend of fun and insane hockey knowledge. With the edge in goaltending to Colorado I have to go Avalanche in an epic, blood pressure heightening and extremely hard fought 7 game series.
Eastern Conference – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
A dominating Game 7 victory last night for the Rangers has propelled them to the ECF to attempt to do what nobody has done in 2 years, take down the defending champions. Mistakes prove costly at this stage and Carolina’s ill-timed penalties plus a key injury to their second string goalie Antti Raanta (best wishes to him and his knee) proved to be the final dagger. Tampa has looked sluggish at times this year and potentially tired from all the wear and tear two cup runs brings, but now they’re the freshest of any conference final team. After eviscerating the President’s Trophy winning Panthers how can you go against this squad? Andrei Vasilevskiy turned his goaltending afterburners on Top Gun style and is dialed in. Top to bottom they will be ready to defeat the Rangers just like they did in the 2015 ECF. New York is HUNGRY for a cup – what a scene in Central Park with New Yorkers celebrating yesterday after each goal – and Igor Shesterkin has looked like the 2nd best goaltender last round after a shaky opening round against the Pens. Chris Kreider finally started cooking some gourmet performances and this could be an epic series just like the WCF. New York has sopme amazing young talent and should be a mainstay for years as a contender. Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller & Co. are leading the NYR revival. As much as people love new blood and hate a dynasty…get ready for back-to-back-to-back finals appearances for the Lightning. I just can’t go against that pedigree that remains largely the same from players to the focused coaching staff. Tampa continues their run for the ages with a 6 Game triumph in the series.
CSF predictions: 2-2 aka HOF in baseball
Written by Chris Dittmer