And then there were four. Get primed for the conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs with's postseason preview of each series matchup with analysis from TSN's Scott Cullen, Travis Yost and Craig Button.


Eastern Conference Final

New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

It's the first time the two teams have ever met in the playoffs, but they have an interesting connection due to last season's blockbuster trade in which Martin St. Louis was traded for Ryan Callahan.

St. Louis scored a franchise-record 953 points in 972 games with the Lightning between 2000 and 2014 before moving to New York last year. He hasn't been as productive with the Blueshirts and is still looking for his first goal of this postseason.

Ryan Callahan

Callahan hasn't typically been a big scorer, but he had more points than St. Louis this season (54 to 52), spending much of the year on the wing with Steven Stamkos. However, like St. Louis, Callahan is still seeking his first goal of this year's playoffs. He missed Game 6 against Montreal, after having his appendix removed, but is likely to be ready for this series. 

There was one other important move between the teams over the past year and it was defenceman Anton Stralman, who signed as a free agent in Tampa Bay over the summer and has been a rock for the Lightning, with the best possession stats (57.6 per cent) of Tampa Bay regulars in the postseason. 

Stralman's spot on the Rangers blueline was effectively filled by Dan Boyle, the 38-year-old veteran who played 394 games for the Lightning between 2002 and 2008. Boyle has the Rangers' best possession (55.0 per cent) in the playoffs, but was knocked out of Game 7 against Washington with what appeared to be a concussion, so his availability for the start of the series is not yet known. The Rangers are also waiting on the return of winger Mats Zuccarello, who hasn't played since taking a Ryan McDonagh shot to the face in the first round against Pittsburgh.

The series boasts the second and third-leading goal-scorers from the regular season, and both have had trouble finding the mark in the postseason. Steven Stamkos scored 43 goals during the regular season and was held without a goal for the first eight games of the playoffs before tallying three goals (and four assists) in the last five games of the Montreal series.

Rick Nash

Rick Nash had 42 goals during the regular season, and while he has generated chances, Nash has scored only two goals in the playoffs.

Goals have not come easily in the playoffs on the whole, which is part of why Stamkos and Nash are having trouble, but these low-scoring games put a lot of pressure on goaltenders and that would seem to be an advantage for the Rangers, as Henrik Lundqvist leads the playoffs with a .944 save percentage. Ben Bishop has been very good for Tampa Bay, with a .931 save percentage, and outdueled Carey Price in the last round, so it's not as though he's incapable of holding up his end of the bargain. 

The Lightning dominated the regular season series, winning all three games by a combined score of 15-7, but all three games were played during a two-week span ending December 1, so it's not necessarily representative of each team's current situation. The Rangers, for example, went 42-12-3 after last playing the Lightning, on their way to winning the Presidents' Trophy. - by Scott Cullen


Lightning won season series 3-0

Date Score Winning Goaltender Losing Goaltender
Nov. 17 TB 5 @ NYR 1 Bishop (15/16) Lundqvist (25/30)
Nov. 26 NYR 3 @ TB 4 Bishop (16/19) Lundqvist (25/29)
Dec. 1 TB 6 @ NYR 3 Bishop (32/35) Lundqvist (15/20)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

From a scoring chance perspective, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning offer an interesting contrast. Most Rangers games were of the 'low event' variety - only four teams league-wide saw fewer total scoring chances per game. The Tampa Bay Lightning, on the other hand, played 'high event' hockey - only three teams saw more total scoring chances per game.

Craig Button's Pick

Tampa will challenge the New York Rangers with speed and quickness - more so than in a physically grinding team like the Caps. Stepan and Brassard are much more capable than Plekanec and Desharnais of holding their own against Tampa's top lines. Both teams have very good depth on the blue line and while Ben Bishop has acquitted himself quite well through two rounds of the playoffs, he moves from the frying pan into the fire with Henrik Lundqvist at the other end. To win the Stanley Cup, you need to adapt to changing environments. The Rangers have shown that that capability and will return to the Stanley Cup Final in a very tight series.


New York Rangers

  Projected Lineup  
Henrik Lundqvist Ryan McDonagh Dan Girardi
Cam Talbot Marc Staal Dan Boyle
  Keith Yandle Kevin Klein
  Chris Summers Matt Hunwick
Rick Nash Derick Brassard Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider Derek Stepan Jesper Fast
Carl Hagelin Dominic Moore Kevin Hayes
Tanner Glass James Sheppard J.T. Miller
    Mats Zuccarello

Rangers' Injuries: RW Mats Zuccarello (Upper-body injury, day-to-day)


Tampa Bay Lightning

Ben Bishop Victor Hedman Anton Stralman
Andrei Vasilevskiy Jason Garrison Braydon Coburn
  Matt Carle Andrej Sustr
  Nikita Nesterov Mark Barberio
Alex Killorn Steven Stamkos Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat Tyler Johnson Nikita Kucherov
Cedric Paquette Valtteri Filppula J.T. Brown
Brenden Morrow Brian Boyle Vladislav Namestnikov
Jonathan Drouin    

Lightning Injuries: RW Ryan Callahan (Appendectomy, day-to-day)


Western Conference Final

Anaheim Ducks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

It's a matchup between two well-rested teams coming off decisive series victories.
After sweeping the Minnesota Wild in the second round, the Chicago Blackhawks appear to be on top of their game. While Chicago split their goaltending duties in the first round against Nashville, Corey Crawford regained his form against Minnesota and stopped 124 of 131 shots (.947 save percentage) in the series. Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen has played well with a .925 save percentage in the postseason, but hasn't faced a challenging workload as Anaheim has allowed 26.6 shots per game in the playoffs, lowest among teams that advanced beyond the first round.

Patrick Kane, Blackhawks celebrate

This is a series that has big names on the marquee. Patrick Kane is in top form despite missing seven weeks at the end of the regular season with a broken collarbone, and leads Chicago with 13 points in 10 games. The rest of Chicago's top performers are players that have been the cornerstones of their recent success – Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook.

Anaheim's Corey Perry leads the playoffs with 15 points and Ryan Getzlaf has 12. And Anaheim has had more contributions throughout the lineup in the playoffs. Patrick Maroon has worked well with Getzlaf and Perry and the second line of Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey shut down the Flames' top line while scoring in their own right.

Chicago also enters the series missing veteran defenceman Michal Rozsival, who broke his ankle against Minnesota, which means David Rundblad will be playing for the first time in the postseason and Chicago's top four defencemen may need to handle a heavy workload. 

Anaheim's defence has been impressive with Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, Francois Beauchemin, Simon Despres and Cam Fowler each chipping in at least five points in nine games.

Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen

Their defensive depth is such that they are making James Wisniewski, regularly a top-four NHL defenceman, a healthy scratch.

The Blackhawks won the season series 2-1, outscoring the Ducks 8-3. It's a small sample and none of the games came after Jan. 30, which doesn't tell the story of Chicago's second-half scoring slump and Anaheim's late-season possession improvement. The Blackhawks seem to have worked out their scoring issues, while the Ducks have continued as a dominant possession team in the playoffs, controlling better than 54 per cent of shot attempts, best among teams to get through the first round (and favourably affected by playing Calgary in the second round). - by Scott Cullen


Blackhawks won season series 2-1

Date Score Winning Goaltender Losing Goaltender
Oct. 28 ANA 1 @ CHI 0 Gibson (38/38) Darling (24/25)
Nov. 28 CHI 4 @ ANA 1 Crawford (23/24) Andersen (34/37)
Jan. 30 CHI 4 @ ANA 1 Crawford (21/22) Andersen (29/33)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

If there's one team that Bruce Boudreau didn't want to see, it's the Chicago Blackhawks. Since his first full season as a head coach in Anaheim, the Ducks have managed to control just 45 per cent of the scoring chances and 44 per cent of the shots at even-strength against Joel Quenneville's team.

Craig Button's Pick

I'm hesitant to pick against the Chicago Blackhawks with Toews, Kane, Keith and the cast of others who have shown unequivocally, they're capable of winning in all manner of ways. Anaheim is skilled and they bring a size presence with it where they can push through resistance when their skill may not be able to. Lindholm, Vatanen and Fowler are anything but green and Kesler gives the Ducks a very strong 1-2 centre punch. With the injury to Michal Rozsival, it puts an uneven burden on the Hawks' top four defencemen against a team that can wear down defence. I pick the Ducks to go to the Stanley Cup Final.


Anaheim Ducks

  Projected Lineup  
Fredrik Andersen Francois Beauchemin Hampus Lindholm
John Gibson Cam Fowler Simon Despres
  Clayton Stoner Sami Vatanen
    James Wisniewski
Patrick Maroon Ryan Getzlaf Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey Ryan Kesler Jakob Silfverberg
Tomas Fleischmann Rickard Rakell Andrew Cogliano
Kyle Palmieri Nate Thompson Tim Jackman
Emerson Etem Chris Wagner Jiri Sekac

Ducks' Injuries: None


Chicago Blackhawks

  Projected Lineup  
Corey Crawford Duncan Keith David Rundblad
Scott Darling Johnny Oduya Niklas Hjalmarsson
  Kimmo Timonen Brent Seabrook
  Kyle Cumiskey  
Brandon Saad Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell Brad Richards Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp Antoine Vermette Teuvo Teravainen
Andrew Desjardins Marcus Kruger Andrew Shaw
Kris Versteeg Joakim Nordstrom  

Blackhawks' Injuries: LW Kris Versteeg (Lower-body injury, day-to-day), D Michal Rozsival (Fractured left ankle, day-to-day)