2013 NHL Playoffs — Conference Finals Preview & Schedule
Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago have each passed two hurdles thus far in the 2013 NHL playoffs. Here's a preview of what to expect as these four teams attempt to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals:
Eastern Conference Finals: (1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) Boston Bruins
Two teams with recent Stanley Cup championships will battle for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the finals. The top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Islanders and Senators, while the Boston Bruins outlasted the Maple Leafs and dominated the Rangers. The Penguins last claimed the Stanley Cup in 2009, while the Bruins captured the title in 2011. Pittsburgh swept all three games in the season series between the teams, winning each contest by one goal.
The Penguins have enough offensive firepower to beat any team. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla are each among the top 10 in the NHL in scoring this postseason, while left wing Pascal Dupuis' seven goals are tied with Crosby (and Chicago's Patrick Sharp) for the NHL lead. The Bruins' hope defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara can slow down the Pens' attack in front of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Boston's David Krejci leads the NHL in playoff scoring this post-season. He'll team with Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic to apply pressure on Pittsburgh goalie Tomas Vokoun. The Bruins second line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and former Penguin Jaromir Jagr give Boston depth. Pittsburgh defensemen Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik will attempt to muscle the Bruins' scorers around in the zone.
Game 1 at Pittsburgh: Sat. June 1, 8 p.m. (ET); NBC
Game 2 at Pittsburgh: Mon. June 3, 8 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
Game 3 at Boston: Wed. June 5, 8 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
Game 4 at Boston: Fri. June 7, 8 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
*Game 5 at Pittsburgh: Sun. June 9, 8 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
*Game 6 at Boston: Tues. June 11, TBD; NBC Sports Network
*Game 7 at Pittsburgh: Wed. June 12, TBD; NBC Sports Network
Western Conference Finals: (1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings
The Western Conference Finals pits the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, who last claimed the Stanley Cup in 2010, against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. Chicago has defeated Minnesota and Detroit to advance, while Los Angeles has knocked out St. Louis and San Jose. The Blackhawks won two of the three meetings between these teams this season.
Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane are Chicago's top scorers this post-season. Chicago's Jonathan Toews has struggled and may be needed to help the assault on Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick, who won the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Slava Voynov, Robyn Regehr and Drew Doughty provide defensive support for L.A.
Kings' scorers Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter and Dwight King are large enough to wear down any defense. L.A. center Mike Richards seems to play better in big games. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford has been impressive thus far. He'll need help from defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, who scored the game-winner in Game 7 of the semifinals against Detroit.
Game 1 at Chicago: Sat. June 1, 5 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
Game 2 at Chicago: Sun. June 2, 8 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
Game 3 at Los Angeles: Tues. June 4, 9 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
Game 4 at Los Angeles: Thurs. June 6, 9 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
*Game 5 at Chicago: Sat. June 8, 8 p.m. (ET); NBC
*Game 6 at Los Angeles: Mon. June 10, 9 p.m. (ET); NBC Sports Network
*Game 7 at Chicago: Wed. June 12, TBD; NBC Sports Network
*— if necessary
Series are best-of-seven.