Over the next eight days the Conference Finals for the Stanley Cup will be completed. After three matches in each semi-final series Anaheim and Tampa Bay hold 2-1 leads over Chicago and New York respectively. In races to four contests there will be at least two more matches in each tie which determine the play-off final teams for this season in the NHL.
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There are 15 matchups in the post-season play-offs and they are all played best of seven. Last season there was only one tie in which both teams did not win a match and seven of the series went to a deciding seventh meeting. There were five games in two contests and five went to six matches. One each of the semi-finals was won 4-2 and 4-3 and the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers 4-1 to win the Stanley Cup.
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Semi-Finals to Date
In three matches in the series to date Anaheim have outscored Chicago by 8 goals to five in two meetings at home and one on the road. Tampa Bay have scored 13 goals and conceded 9 in their semi-final with the Rangers over two matches in New York and one match at home. Two of the six completed matches at this stage of the season went to overtime.
In both semi-finals each team won a contest in the opening two groups of matches so in a mini-series of three the latest meeting determined which teams held a lead ahead of a maximum of four more matches. The first six matches were shared by the visiting and home teams. No team has won two matches on the road but Tampa are potentially in the strongest position as they lead their series having played twice away from home. Anaheim have won one and lost one home match and took the other contest on the road.
Lightning Beat Rangers
The Lightning beat the Rangers 6-5 after overtime at home on Wednesday night to take a lead in their semi-final. For the second game in succession both sides abandoned the cautious approach that resulted in more than the average number of low-scoring games during the regular season. The Lightning have now scored 12 goals in the last two matches and the coach Jon Cooper is happy for this strategy to continue.
He was quoted on nhl.com as saying: “I prefer to play this way if we keep winning. I think we’ve got a pretty quick team, and they have a quick team. I don’t know how it looks to everybody else, I don’t know how it looks on TV, but when you’re standing there, it is, pardon the pun, it is lightning fast.” Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat were the standout players for the winning team.
Ducks Beat Blackhawks
The Ducks beat the Blackhawks 2-1 in the latest match of the other semi-final with Frederik Andersen and Ryan Getzlaf starring for the team. Anaheim are showing signs of maintaining regular season form into the post-season that was beyond the last two teams from the franchise to qualify for the play-offs. Ducks captain Getzlaf preferred not to compare previous campaigns when he told nhl.com:
“That’s the media’s job to compare, not mine. We’ve learned a lot of things over the last couple of years in different playoff situations. Wins, losses, all that kind of stuff. We’re growing as a group”. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau saw a determination in the team to succeed during the training camp and in the preseason games. Anaheim are now in good shape to qualify for the Stanley Cup and win only their second final and emulate the squad of 2006-07. On current form Tampa Bay could join them in the final elimination matches of the current season.
Fourth Matches in Both Series
Tampa Bay host the Rangers on Friday evening and Anaheim travel to Chicago the following night. The fourth matches of each contest could be pivotal as one or both sides could take a two game lead into the fifth group of fixtures. Conversely both series could be tied at 2-2 which opens up the prospect of deciding matches in both ties. The chances are that one side will record back-to-back wins.
Matches are played on alternate nights and are all being televised by CBC. The league website has in-running updates and comprehensive statistical analysis soon after the end of all meetings. Bookmakers will update their Futures markets to win each Conference and the Stanley Cup in good time for the fifth matches in both semi-finals which could be the final contests or the precursor to a sixth or deciding match.
European odds can be found at British bookmakers William Hill
For a full range of ice hockey odds please visit 888Sport