NHL playoffs: Previewing the Stanley Cup conference finals
The Ducks’ Game 7 victory over the Edmonton Oilers has put a California-based team in the Western Conference finals for the eighth straight season and 12th in the last 14.
The Ducks had to end a five-game home losing streak in Game 7 situations to get this far; the well-rested Nashville Predators will appear in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
In the East, the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins had to go seven games but continued their success against the Washington Capitals. The Ottawa Senators clinched their second-round series against the New York Rangers on the road, as they did in the first round against the Boston Bruins.
A look at the East and West matchups:
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS 50-21-11, 111 points
Rd. 1: def. Columbus, 4-1.
Rd. 2: def. Washington, 4-3.
OTTAWA SENATORS 44-28-10, 98 points
Rd. 1: def. Boston, 4-2.
Rd. 2: def. N.Y. Rangers, 4-2.
Power play: Season —Penguins 23.1% (3rd); Senators 17% (23rd). Playoffs — Penguins 21.6% (4th); Senators 14.6% (13th).
Penalty killing: Season — Penguins 79.8% (20th); Senators 79.7% (22nd). Playoffs — Penguins 80% (10th); Senators 87.5% (4th).
Top scorers: Season — Penguins, Sidney Crosby 44-45—89; Senators, Erik Karlsson 17-54—71. Playoffs — Penguins, Evgeni Malkin 5-13—18; Senators, Karlsson 2-11—13.
Outlook: The Penguins kept their title defense going thanks to clutch goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, production from rookie forward Jake Guentzel — who has three game-winners among his playoff-best nine goals — and their overall depth. Crosby (four goals, 14 points) sat out one game because of a concussion, and it’s difficult not to cringe each time he takes a hit to the head. Karlsson has dominated, adding defensive dimensions to his game while averaging 28 minutes 56 seconds’ ice time. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored six of his team-leading seven goals in the second round and goalie Craig Anderson (2.49, .914) has been solid. The Penguins’ experience and scoring potential give them the edge.
Elliott’s pick: Penguins in six.
Game 1: Saturday at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m.
Game 2: Monday at Pittsburgh, 5, p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday at Ottawa, 5, p.m.
Game 4: May 19 at Ottawa, 5 p.m.
Game 5*: May 21 at Pitt., Noon
Game 6*: May 23 at Ottawa, 5 p.m.
Game 7*: May 25 at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m.
*if necessary; times PDT
ANAHEIM DUCKS 46-23-13, 105 points
Rd. 1: Def. Calgary, 4-0.
Rd. 2: Def. Edmonton, 4-3.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS 41-29-12, 94 points
Rd. 1: Def. Chicago, 4-0.
Rd. 2: Def. St. Louis, 4-2.
Power play: Season — Ducks 18.7% (17th); Predators 18.9% (16th). Playoffs — Ducks 13.9% (14th); Predators 20% (6th).
Penalty killing: Season — Ducks 84.7% (4th); Predators 80.9% (15th). Playoffs — Ducks 69% (15th); Predators 87.5% (5th).
Top scorers: Season — Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf 15-58—73; Predators, Viktor Arvidsson, 31-30—61. Playoffs — Ducks, Getzlaf 8-7—15; Predators, Ryan Ellis 4-5—9.
Outlook: The Ducks banished many demons with their Game 7 victory over Edmonton and proved they can rally within games and a series. Getzlaf has provided steady leadership and coach Randy Carlyle has made some effective in-game adjustments. Their young defensemen make mistakes but compensate with mobility and the ability to join the attack. But the Ducks will need scoring from others besides Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg (seven goals, 11 points) and Rickard Rakell (six goals, 10 points). Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne (1.37 goals-against average, .951 save percentage) stops the puck and handles it well enough to have earned three assists. Roman Josi is the stud of a deep, mobile defense. Here’s balance: Eight players each have one game-winning playoff goal. They’re no longer just a nice little team, but the Ducks’ experience and continued calmness could be the difference.
Elliott’s pick: Ducks in seven.
Game 1: Friday at Anaheim, 6 p.m.
Game 2 Sunday at Anaheim, 4:30 p.m.
Game 3 Tuesday at Nashville, 5 p.m.
Game 4 Thursday Nashville, 5 p.m.
Game 5* May 20 at Anaheim, 4:15 p.m.*
Game 6* May 22 at Nashville, 5 p.m.*
Game 7* May 24 at Anaheim, 6 p.m.*
*if necessary; times PDT
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