In the Eastern Conference Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning have taken a 2-1 series lead, with Game Four tonight. There were three or four main points in our Eastern Conference Preview Show with handicapper Dana Lane that we made before the series started. The first was the Rangers scoring. They have not been able to keep up with the Lightning giving up 6 goals in back to back games. That’s not Rangers hockey. Before the series started, Henry Lundqvist had a 1.6 goals against average, but four of their top six defenseman had a minus rating. That indicates that Henry had bailed them out, and that trend couldn’t continue. The Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, was mostly being overshadowed by his opponents goalies, Mrazek, Price, and now Lundqvist. We can argue he has outplayed them all. Then we looked at the Lightning scoring and decided they were to deep for the Rangers to contain. In the past, if a team could shut down the Stamkos line, they had a good chance at success. That’s no longer the case. The “triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov have out worked the Rangers at both ends of the ice. It is showing up on the score sheet and in their plus minus ratings as well, with a combined plus fifteen in the playoffs. With Killorn and Stamkos heating up, this poses big problems for Alain Vigneault. We talked about the coaching matchup and ended up in a draw. With Vigneault’s experience in the NHL and Coach Coopers championship pedigree at every level both making strong points. Alain Vigneault has to find answers for Tampa’s scoring depth. That was our thought going into the series, and so far that has not happened. If Tampa wins tonight, don’t look for the Rangers to win three straight against this club. The Lightning are too deep.
In the west, the Ducks and Blackhawks are playing a decidedly tougher series. With the triple OT game two, and last nights 2-1 Ducks win, this series just feels closer than the east. We highlighted the Ducks defensive scoring in our Western Conference Preview Show and that has been the difference so far, with Simon Despres netting the game winner in Game Three. Hampus Lindholm assisting on the Ducks opening goal and Cam Fowler assisting on the Despres goal, they have not slowed down a bit. In fact, nine of the Ducks seventeen points in this series have come from the blue line. Better than fifty percent. This while still maintaining a great plus minus with not one member of the defense carrying a minus rating. Can you say dominant? We can. The forwards for both teams have been almost a wash, with the Ducks depth tipping the scales to the 2-1 series lead. If the Blackhawks could start burying the chances they are getting from Shaw, Saad, Hossa, and Sharp they can still make a series of it. But with their combined two goals, both in the Game Two classic, we continue to say more will be needed if they are to advance. Both goalies have been at the spectacular level so far, so the onus falls on the forwards, and the Ducks have the edge.
At the midpoint of the NHL Conference Finals, it looks like we are heading to an all warm weather Finals, as we predicted in our podcasts. With the league looking at a possible Rangers Vs Blackhawks ratings bonanza, we hope the refs let the teams play this out, because we are seeing a classic changing of the guard in the West and an offensive Dynamo in the making out East.
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