A look at the NHL Conference finals:
No. 1 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (36-12-0) vs. No. 4 BOSTON BRUINS (28-14-6)
2013 series record: Pittsburgh 3-0.
Playoff History: Series tied 2-2. Last meeting: Pittsburgh 4-0 in 1992 Wales Conference finals.
How they got here: Pittsburgh defeated No. 8 New York Islanders 4-2; defeated No. 7 Ottawa Senators 4-1. Boston defeated No. 5 Toronto 4-3; defeated No. 6 New York Rangers 4-1.
PITTSBURGH: The Penguins won the trade deadline chase to acquire star forward Jarome Iginla, who had been ticketed to go from Calgary to Boston before Iginla picked the Penguins instead. The move has paid off as Iginla has four goals and eight assists in 11 post-season games with Pittsburgh. … The Penguins are still riding the fine play of goalie Tomas Vokoun, who is 6-1 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in seven games since replacing former No. 1 netminder Marc-Andre Fleury during the first-round series against the New York Islanders. Fleury went 2-2 before the change was made. … Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis have paced the offence with seven goals each, but defenceman Kris Letang and forward Evgeni Malkin are tied for the team lead with 16 points. Letang has 13 assists, and Malkin has 12. Crosby is right behind them with 15 points. Pittsburgh has spread its offence around as six players have already reached double figures in playoff points. Two others have nine. … The rest has been done by the defence. Pittsburgh has scored 47 goals in 11 games and allowed only 28. Ottawa mustered just 11 goals in its five-game loss to the Penguins. … Pittsburgh will have had seven days off since its elimination of the Senators before finally opening this series against Boston on Saturday at home. … Of the four remaining playoff teams, who make up the four most recent Stanley Cup champions, the Penguins have gone the longest since their last title (2009). Pittsburgh has 11 players who have been Stanley Cup champions. … In last playoff meeting with Boston, current Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr had three goals and five assists for Pittsburgh.
BOSTON: The Bruins had agreed to trade 24-year-old defenceman Matt Bartkowski, who was born in Pittsburgh, to Calgary in the deal they thought they had for Iginla. Bartkowski, who had played 20 career regular-season NHL games—including 11 this season—made his playoff debut this year and has recorded one goal and one assist in seven games. … David Krejci has been the biggest cog in the Bruins’ offence with a team-high 17 points and 12 assists. He is tied with Nathan Horton for the club lead with five goals each. … Boston is getting healthy on defence, having already gotten Dennis Seidenberg back in the lineup for Game 5 against the Rangers. The Bruins’ chances will be greatly enhanced against Pittsburgh if Boston isn’t forced to go with three rookie defencemen as they have been doing during the playoffs. But Torey Krug, who made his post-season debut in Game 1 versus New York, scored four goals in the five-game series. He is the first NHL rookie defenceman to net four goals in his first five playoff games. … Boston’s defence is still anchored by hulking Zdeno Chara, who certainly will be on the ice against Pittsburgh’s skill players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. … Tuukka Rask hasn’t starred in net, but has contributed solid play in Boston’s first two rounds. He has posted respectable numbers of a 2.22 goals-against average and .928 save percentage while playing in all 12 playoff games. He is 8-4 in this post-season and is still looking for his first shutout. It is unlikely to come against the high-powered Penguins. … Gregory Campbell scored two goals, including his first playoff game-winner. The fourth line of Campbell (three goals, one assist), Daniel Paille (one goal, two assists) and Shawn Thornton (0 goals, three assists) combined for 10 points and two game-winning goals in the series against the Rangers. … Boston last won the Stanley Cup in 2011. There are 18 current Bruins who have been Cup champions. … Boston will have had six days off before facing Pittsburgh.
OUTLOOK: The Penguins earned the top seed in the East for a reason. Although the Bruins are playing well, and the games should be close, Pittsburgh has enough offensive weapons to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Penguins in 7.
No. 1 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (36-7-5) vs. No. 5 LOS ANGELES KINGS (27-16-5)
2013 series record: Chicago 2-1.
Playoff History: Chicago 1-0. Last meeting: Chicago 4-1 in 1974 quarterfinals.
How they got here: Chicago defeated No. 8 Minnesota 4-1; defeated No. 7 Detroit Red Wings 4-3. Los Angeles defeated No. 4 St. Louis 4-2; defeated No. 6 San Jose Sharks 4-3.
CHICAGO: The Blackhawks’ rally against Detroit in the Western Conference semifinals marked the first time Chicago came back to win a series it trailed 3-1 (1-11). … Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook rescued top-seeded Chicago in Game 7 by scoring his first goal of this year’s playoffs and his first career post-season overtime goal. It was the 37th overtime goal in a Game 7 and fourth netted by a defenceman. … Patrick Sharp gave Chicago a 1-0 lead in Game 7 with his seventh goal of the playoffs, tying him for the NHL lead. Sharp and Marian Hossa have a club-best 11 post-season points. Hossa has five goals. … The defence was backed by Corey Crawford, who posted a 2.00 goals-against average and .929 save percentage against Detroit. Overall, in 12 post-season games this year, Crawford is 8-4 with a stellar 1.70 GAA and .938 save percentage. … Joel Quenneville earned his 80th post-season victory, the eighth most on the career coaching list. … Chicago last won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Eight players on the current roster have been Stanley Cup champions.
LOS ANGELES: The defending champion Kings have 19 current players whose names are engraved on the Stanley Cup. … The Kings outlasted the Sharks in the first NHL playoff series in which the home team scored first in every game and won them all. It was the ninth series overall in which the home team won every game in a seven-game matchup. The most recent occurrence was the 2003 Stanley Cup finals when New Jersey topped Anaheim. … The Kings will have a big edge should they go to a Game 7 against Chicago. Justin Williams is 4-0 in career Game 7s and has scored at least one goal in each of them. He is the first player to score in his first four Game 7s. … Jonathan Quick is making a case for his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. The Kings goalie has stopped 362 of 382 against him in these playoffs and leads the league with a 1.50 goals-against average, .948 save percentage, and three shutouts. At home he is 7-0 with a 1.14 GAA, .958 save percentage and three shutouts. Los Angeles has won eight straight home playoff games, dating to the last one of last season, and 14 consecutive overall, dating to the recently completed regular season. … The Kings are quite comfortable in close games, going 6-5 in the 11 of their 13 post-season contests decided by one goal. … Los Angeles has gone an NHL-record, 33 straight playoff games without allowing more than three goals. … The last four defending Stanley Cup champions have been eliminated in a Game 7, three at home. … The Kings have played in an NHL-high 33 playoff games the past two years after playing only 28 from 1994-2009.
OUTLOOK: The Kings needed 44 seasons to win the Stanley Cup for the first time. It will take more than one to claim their second. Chicago regained momentum in its comeback vs. Detroit. Another trip to the Cup finals is there for the taking. Blackhawks in 7.