Friday, May 13, 2016

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview - Eastern/Western Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals:

#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #2 Tampa Bay Lightning

Season Series: Tampa Bay won the season series 3-0-0

January 15th, 2016: Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 4 (OT)
February 5th, 2016: Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Pittsburgh Penguins 3
February 20th, 2016: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Players to Watch:

Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin, Matt Cullen

Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin, Brian Boyle


Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby

Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov

Team Leaders:

Goals: Nikita Kucherov (TBL) - 9, Phil Kessel/Patric Hornqvist (PIT) - 5
Assists: Tyler Johnson (TBL) - 9, Nick Bonino (PIT) - 8
Points: Tyler Johnson (TBL) - 13, Phil Kessel (PIT) - 12
Wins: Ben Bishop (TBL) - 8, Matt Murray (PIT) - 7

Series Notes:
-Tampa Bay dominated the season series 3-0-0 outscoring the Penguins 15-9 in the process, but all 3 games came before the Trade Deadline
-The Lightning enter this series having beat the Red Wings and Islanders in 5 games a piece
-The Penguins enter this series having beat the Rangers in 5 games and the Capitals in 6 games
-The Lightning have been lead on offense by Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson, as Kucherov leads the playoffs with 9 goals and Johnson leads the team with 13 points.
-A great match up to watch is Victor Hedman vs. Kris Letang, two of the best offensive defenseman in the NHL.
-Tampa Bay will need scoring from their depth guys to win this series, guys like Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan and Jonathan Drouin
-Will be interesting to watch if Anton Stralman and or Steven Stamkos make their way back to the lineup at some point in this series.
-Ben Bishop has been great so far in the playoffs, he faces a tough task in slowing down the Penguins.
-A story to watch for the Penguins is in net with Matt Murray vs. Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has been out since March with a concussion, and so far Matt Murray has been exceptional in the playoffs. Will be interesting to watch what Mike Sullivan does with his goalies against a good Tampa Bay offense.
-Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had tough series against the Capitals, look for them to rebound in this series.
-The best line in the playoffs so far has been the line of Carl Hagelin-Nick Bonino-Phil Kessel which has a combined 11 goals and 30 points in 11 games.
-Look for another big series out of the Penguins depth forwards, in particular Matt Cullen who has been so good in the playoffs.

Prediction: This is a really exciting series, probably the two best teams in the playoffs to this point. They play a very similar game that revolves around speed and the series can go either way, but I think the Penguins are headed back to the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2009


Western Conference Finals:

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #3 San Jose Sharks

Season Series: San Jose won the season series 2-1-0

February 4th, 2016: San Jose Sharks 3, St. Louis Blues 1
February 22nd, 2016: San Jose Sharks 6, St. Louis Blues 3
March 22nd, 2016: St. Louis Blues 1, San Jose Sharks 0

Players to Watch:

St. Louis: Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Alex Steen, Alex Pietrangelo, Robby Fabbri

San Jose: Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joel Ward


St. Louis: Vladimir Tarasenko

San Jose: Joe Thornton

Team Leaders:

Goals: Joe Pavelsi (SJS) - 9, Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) - 7
Assists: Brent Burns (SJS) - 11, Robby Fabbri (STL) - 10
Points: Logan Couture (SJS) - 17, Vladimir Tarasenko/Robby Fabbri (STL) - 13
Wins: Brian Elliott (STL) - 8, Martin Jones (SJS) - 8

Series Notes:
-The Blues enter this series having won 2 grueling 7-game series, first taking down the defending-Champion Chicago Blackhawks and then the Dallas Stars. Both game 7 wins were also on the road too.
-The Sharks enter this series having beaten the Kings in 5 games and then the Predators in 7 games.
-Both of these teams having a strikingly similar path to the Conference Finals: Two teams for years labelled as contenders but never able to take the next step.
-The Blues have gotten a strong contribution all around, but in particular their best players have been Alex Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer.
-Both Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko have been really good on defense, they have a tough task at hand with the big San Jose Sharks.
-Brian Elliott has been the guy in net for the Blues all playoffs and he will need to be at his best to handle the Sharks.
-Their will be pressure on the Steen-Backes-Berglund line to match the Thornton-Pavelski-Hertl line
-The Sharks enter the series with several of the top scorers in the playoffs (Couture 17, Burns 15, Pavelski 13 and Thornton 11)
-Look for these 4 guys mentioned above to drive the Sharks in this series, it will be interesting to see if the Blues can slow them down.
-The Sharks have gotten strong play from guys like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward, they need to contribute in this series.
-This will be a big test in net for Martin Jones, who has been solid so far in the playoffs.
-This series is going to be fun to watch, two phyiscal teams that are also extremely gifted offensively.

Prediction: Both of these teams have never won the Stanley Cup before, so it's going to be amazing for one and a huge let down for the other. This series really could go either way, but I'm rooting for Jumbo Joe and the Sharks.


This has the Pittsburgh Penguins advancing as the Eastern Conference Champions to face the San Jose Sharks (Western Conference Champions) in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff 

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