These NHL playoffs have been nothing short of enthralling. Distinctively in the Divisional Finals, we’ve seen four intense, riveting matchups. There’s the quest for California supremacy with the Anaheim Ducks squaring off against the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. We had the historic original six matchup between the Montreal Canadians and the Boston Bruins, who have now met in a game seven for the ninth time in this rivalry’s history. The defending Stanley Cup champions, Chicago, squared off against an optimistic and energetic Minnesota Wild team who grinded their way to a Game 6, only to fall in overtime. And finally, the New York Rangers jousted with their Metro division rivals, the Pittsburg Penguins.
The gun smoke has just about settled, and we will be left with four clubs. In the West, L.A. and Anaheim went the full seven games to see who would challenge the Chicago Blackhawks. Montreal, a third-seed in the Atlantic, ousted the Bruins in seven games at the TD Garden on Wednesday night. Both New York and Montreal battled against No. 1 seeds in their respected divisions, and sealed the upsets.
Carey Price led Canadiens past B’s
What was the Canadiens’ X-factor in this series? Was it their speed in all three zones? Their ability to derail the Bruins from their game of grinding down teams? Or was it the fact that Montreal took advantage of Boston’s poor puck management? The answer, all of the above, plus a heap of Carey Price. Price has been on the redemption tour that has been his 2014 season after the uncharacteristic, ghastly 2013 stint. Price has been quite the lucrative goaltender, coming off an Olympic break that entailed bringing home gold for Team Canada. He’s now added another achievement to his stint, posting a major upset against the Bruins to send his Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Final. Because of Price’s brilliant play, his team is just four wins away from a Stanley Cup Final birth. Another reason why Montreal is advancing is from the Bruins themselves. Boston was outworked, significantly in Game 6 with the chance to clinch. Boston was out hustled, out puck managed, and far less motivated at intervals. The Canadiens utilized Boston’s lackadaisical play and capitalized on the openings. It’s as simple as that.
Rangers: a band of brothers
In case you haven’t heard it, the New York Rangers have been characterized as a rejuvenating team since the loss of forward Martin St. Louis’ mother last week. The Rangers have rallied around their veteran forward. St. Louis lost his mother in the midst of his clubs tilt against Pittsburgh in the Divisional Final. He was determined to grind out the series, for his mother. The Rangers pulled together, down 3-1 in the series, and harnessed the raw emotion of a fellow teammate to grind back and win the series. In Game 7, Henrik Lundqvist was sensational, posting 35 saves to win his fifth straight Game 7. Lundqvist led this hungry, resilient club who finally played like a solid unit. As for Pittsburgh, it is likely that head coach Dan Bylsma will not return for another season, after failing to reach the Stanley Cup Final for five straight seasons.
Ducks utilizing youthful gem
John Gibson has been nothing short of sensational for the Ducks. The 20-year-old American rookie etched his first career playoff start against the Kings in Game 4, and posted a shutout, too. He’s been the solution for the Ducks’ erratic goaltending situation. Thus far, Gibson has posted 88 saves in his first three career playoff games, rolling a .946 save percentage.
Bokum is a former Hinsdale High School student and a big fan of the National Hockey League.