MORNING STANLEY CUP OF JOE – MAY 31, 2013
CONFERENCE FINALS BEGIN SATURDAY WITH DOUBLEHEADER
Saturday, June 1
Los Angeles @ Chicago, Game 1, Western Conference Final. 5 p.m., ET
NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Boston @ Pittsburgh, Game 1, Eastern Conference Final. 8 p.m., ET
NBC, CBC, RDS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
#1 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS. #4 BOSTON BRUINS
The Eastern Conference Final features the top six scorers in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Boston’s David Krejci (5-12–17) and Nathan Horton (5-7–12), and Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (4-12–16), Kris Letang (3-13–16), Sidney Crosby (7-8–15) and Jarome Iginla (4-8–12).
The Penguins have scored a League-leading 47 goals in their first 11 games of the playoffs, an average of 4.27 per game. The last NHL team to average four or more goals during the postseason (minimum, 10 games) was the 1992-93 Penguins, who averaged 4.17 goals in 12 playoff contests.
The Bruins ranked third League-wide in team defense (2.21 goals-against per game) during the regular season. Center Patrice Bergeron, the reigning Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defensive forward and one of three finalists for this year’s crown, has dominated the face-off circle this season. He led the NHL in face-off winning percentage during the regular season (62.1%) and also ranks first in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (63.5%).
Late-season trade acquisitions by both clubs add spice to the Eastern Conference Final. The Penguins landed Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jussi Jokinen from Calgary, Dallas, San Jose and Carolina, respectively, while the Bruins added Jaromir Jagr from Dallas.
Jagr played his first 11 NHL seasons in Pittsburgh, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in each of his first two campaigns (1991 and 1992). He is in quest of his first Stanley Cup since then. Jagr was instrumental in helping the Philadelphia Flyers oust the Penguins from the playoffs in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, recording seven points (one goal, six assists) in six games.
Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun (6-1) ranks second in the NHL with a .941 save percentage and third with a 1.85 goals-against average since taking over between the pipes for Pittsburgh. He has a 16-2 record in his last 18 decisions (regular season and playoffs) dating to March 2.
The Bruins and Penguins have split their four previous playoff meetings and are facing each other in the postseason for the first time since back-to-back clashes in the Conference Finals in 1991 and 1992. The Penguins came back from a 0-2 series deficit in 1991 to capture the series in six games and two weeks later won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Pittsburgh swept the Bruins in 1992 and went on to repeat as champion.
The Penguins swept the Bruins in their three-game regular-season series in 2012-13, winning each game by one goal. In their first meeting, the Penguins’ Brandon Sutter scored the tying and winning goals 3:24 apart during a three-goal Pittsburgh outburst in the final seven minutes of the game as Pittsburgh turned a late 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory on March 12.
Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun went 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average against Boston, while the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask was 0-2-0 with a 2.52 GAA versus Pittsburgh.
Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara (Game 4 of ECQ) and Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang (Game 4 of ECS) both have posted four-assist games this postseason. Only three other blueliners have collected four assists in a playoff game over the last 14 years: Detroit’s Chris Chelios (2002), Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom (2007) and Philadelphia’s Matt Carle (2010).
Letang leads all NHL defensemen with 13 assists and 16 points in 11 games this postseason, including 1-6—7 in his last two contests. His 16 points are a playoff career high, surpassing his previous best of 4-9—13 set in 23 games during Pittsburgh’s run to the 2009 Stanley Cup.
Chara ranks second among blueliners with nine assists and 11 points in 12 playoff games. Those both are career highs, surpassing his previous bests of seven assists and nine points set in 24 games during Boston’s run to the 2011 Stanley Cup.
Bruins rookie defenseman Torey Krug, who made his NHL postseason debut in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers, became the first rookie blueliner in League history to score four goals in the first five games of his playoff career and only the second rookie defenseman ever to produce four goals in one playoff series. Philadelphia’s Andy Delmore was the first, with five goals in his team’s six-game series victory over Pittsburgh in 2000.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
#1 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS VS. #5 LOS ANGELES KINGS
Both the Blackhawks and Kings have come back from two-game deficits and survived elimination games to reach the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks won a playoff series they trailed 3-1 for the first time in franchise history against Detroit in the Conference Semifinals, while the Kings rebounded from an 0-2 series deficit to defeat St. Louis in the Conference Quarterfinals and eliminated San Jose in seven games in the Conference Semifinals.
The Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup win was keyed by a dominant road performance, as the club went 10-1 to set an NHL playoff record for the longest road winning streak in one postseason (10 games) and tied the League mark for most road wins in one playoff year. In 2013, the Kings have won a franchise-record seven consecutive home games (eight including last year) and 14 straight games at STAPLES Center dating to the regular season. Los Angeles has posted a 1-5 road mark in the 2013 postseason.
The Blackhawks’ penalty killing has been close to flawless in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 40 for 41 through two rounds (97.6%). Chicago went a perfect 29-for-29 in its first eight games, matching the longest streak of games without allowing a power-play goal to begin a playoff year in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967-68).
Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick posted a 1.43 goals-against average in the Conference Semifinals against San Jose, lowering his career goals-against average to 1.94 in 45 playoff games. Eleven other goaltenders in NHL history have compiled a goals-against average lower than 2.00 with at least 20 games of postseason experience. Of those, only Patrick Lalime has played in the last 50 years.
Quick leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.50), save percentage (.948) and shutouts (three). He is 7-0 with a 1.14 goals-against average, .958 save percentage and three shutouts on home ice.
The Kings have not allowed more than three goals in any of their last 33 playoff games dating to last year, an NHL record. The previous mark was set by the Red Wings, who went 27 games without allowing more than three goals in a postseason game from 2002-06.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (8-4) ranks second overall in the 2013 playoffs in goals-against average (1.70) and third in save percentage (.938).
The Kings’ leading scorers in the 2013 postseason, Mike Richards (2-8–10) and Jeff Carter (5-3–8) are the only Los Angeles players to have faced the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Richards and Carter were teammates on the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers team that dropped a six-game decision to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final. Both Richards and Carter notched 1-1–2 in the series.
Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival is facing the Kings in the Western Conference Final for the second consecutive season. Rozsival was a member of the 2012 Phoenix Coyotes club that dropped a five-game decision to the Kings.
The Blackhawks won two of three games against the Kings in a high-scoring 2012-13 regular-season series (the teams combined for 21 goals). Chicago captain Jonathan Toews led all scorers with six points (three goals, three assists) in three games. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was 1-2-0 with a 4.04 goals-against average, while the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford went 1-1-0 with a 3.52 GAA. The Blackhawks played the role of spoiler in defeating the Kings 5-2 after Los Angeles celebrated its 2012 Stanley Cup banner-raising on Jan. 19 and the Kings overcame three one-goal deficits to defeat the Blackhawks 5-4 on March 25.
The Blackhawks and Kings have met just once before in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Chicago defeated Los Angeles 4-1 in a 1974 Quarterfinal series.
For the eighth time in the last 10 seasons, there is a California-based club in the Western Conference Final (Anaheim in 2003, 2006 and 2007; Los Angeles in 2012 and 2013; San Jose in 2004, 2010 and 2011).
NBC SPORTS NETWORK SETS RATINGS RECORD
Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings posted a 2.07 rating and averaged 3.354 million viewers on NBC Sports Network — its highest-rated NHL game ever and the most-watched Conference Semifinal game ever on cable (data available since 1994).
Source: NHL Media