Analyzing the NHL Conference Final matchups

The 2016 NHL Conference Final matchups feature the Sharks vs. Blues and Lightning vs. Penguins.

The 2016 NHL Conference Final matchups feature the Sharks vs. Blues and Lightning vs. Penguins.

Carson Field, Sports Editor

The NHL Conference Finals began on Friday, when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals. While Game One was won by the Lightning, both of the Conference Final matchups have the potential to be very interesting, as both of the matchups are relatively even. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Lightning face the Penguins, and in the West, the St. Louis Blues face the San Jose Sharks.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, Lightning and Penguins are currently split in the series 1-1. The Lightning got off to an early advantage in the series, winning Game One, but the Penguins quickly evened the series at home last night, winning Game Two 3-2 in overtime.

Because these teams are so evenly matched, the series has the potential to go into seven games. The Lightning have been on fire lately, as they downed the Red Wings and Islanders in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning’s firepower has been led by Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn, who all have 10 or more points this postseason. To make it to the Stanley Cup, Steven Stamkos must return from his injury and perform phenomenally.

On the other hand, the Penguins are also looking to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals by defeating the Lightning. The Penguins had a shaky start to the season, staying out of the playoff picture for a few months. However, they stepped it up near playoff time, finishing with the second most points in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins’ success has followed them into the playoffs, as they defeated the Washington Capitals, the winners of the Presidents’ Trophy, in the second round. The Penguins have had tremendous success from their star players this postseason, as Sidney Crosby, Nick Bonino, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have all played pivotal roles in the Penguins’ wins.

My ultimate verdict for this series is that the Lightning will win. The reason that Tampa Bay will win the series the ease in which they have won with so far this postseason. They defeated both the Red Wings and Islanders in five games, an impressive feat against strong opponents. I expect Steven Stamkos to come back from his injury this series and lead the Lightning to victory.

In the Western Conference Finals, the St. Louis Blues have taken an early 1-0 series lead over the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks will look to even the series tonight in Game Two.

The Blues have been able to get past the Blackhawks and Stars in the first round with the success of their star players. Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes both have 13 points this postseason, and have both been a key to their success. If the Blues can keep the production from Tarasenko and Backes up, there is a good chance the Blues can make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The San Jose Sharks have also been very successful this postseason, getting past the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Much of the Sharks’ success has come from star player Logan Couture, who is leading the NHL in points this postseason with 17. The Sharks need Couture to keep scoring this series to compete with the Tarasenko and the Blues.

While the Sharks have been performing rather well over the past couple of weeks, the Blues will ultimately advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Assuming the stars of the Blues keep their production up, the Blues will be the Western Conference champions.

The NHL Conference Finals resume tonight when the Blues face the Sharks in St. Louis. The Conference Finals have been intriguing so far, and it is likely that the excitement will not die down as the round progresses.