Puck Daddy predicts the Stanley Cup Conference Finals

Puck Daddy predicts the Stanley Cup Conference Finals

It’s the Tampa Bay Lightning against the New York Rangers in the East, and the Chicago Blackhawks against the Anaheim Ducks in the West, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs reach the conference final round!

Who wins? Glad you asked.

Sean Leahy, Puck Daddy Editor

Lightning in 7

Blackhawks in 7

I'm sticking with my Lightning-Blackhawks final prediction from before the playoffs. While Henrik Lundqvist has been amazing in these playoffs, his teammates have had a hard time scoring. You can't win every game 2-1, and facing a Lightning offense that has been rolling thanks to "The Triplets," all while waiting for Steven Stamkos to get going, will give the Rangers fits.

Ben Bishop will be under the microscope again this series as his counterpart does what he does on a regular basis. Bishop's played well despite moments to forget through two rounds. As long as he doesn't fall apart, the Lightning should continue their run and get back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2004.

Despite picking them to rep the West pre-playoffs, part of me wants to go with the Anaheim Ducks here. This isn't your typical Bruce Boudreau team that flames out in the playoffs. These Ducks have been dominant through nine games and but Chicago's depth has brought them success in the past and will do so at least one more time.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf has led the way, but can Patrick Maroon, Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey continue what they've done? Aside from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks know they can rely on Patrick Sharp, Marian, Hossa, and Brandon Saad for secondary scoring, while hoping Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell can channel their previous playoff production.

We're about to get two weeks of fantastic hockey.

Jen Neale, Puck Daddy Editor

Lightning in 7

Blackhawks in 7

I honestly have no idea who has the better chance at winning this series because I counted both teams out long ago. I went with a gut feeling. I see Tampa as a sleeper because they can outscore their opponents into submission. Look at what they did to Carey Price! Henrik Lundqvist is back to his old form, but his team isn’t providing him the run support needed to keep up with Tampa. No Rangers player has more than 8points total in the playoffs; Tampa has five players with 8 points or more.

As much as it pains me to admit it, the Blackhawks are the better team in this series. Their depth scoring far outweighs the Ducks, who will put up a fight, but ultimate fall due to their inability to win Game 7 at home. Playoff numbers-wise the Ducks are better in most categories, but they haven’t faced the quality of competition that Chicago brings. And really, if Tampa wins in the East, is the NHL going to let Anaheim win the West? That is a Stanley Cup Final ratings disaster waiting to happen.

/takes off tinfoil hat.

Josh Cooper, Puck Daddy Editor

Lightning in 6

Ducks in 6

The Blackhawks will be Anaheim’s greatest test this playoff, but I think the Ducks will prevail. The Ducks have the best 1-2 center punch left in the postseason. Their defense goes three pairs deep. Frederik Andersen has been steady the whole playoff. Coach Bruce Boudreau has kept his emotions in check. The Blackhawks seem to always figure out a way to win and have that sort of mojo about them. But the Ducks seem primed and ready for this challenge. Except for maybe a couple of minutes in Game 3 against Calgary in the second-round, they’ve been the most focused team in the NHL these playoffs.

Jon Cooper is a smart tactician and a mindful coach. He’ll figure out ways to maximize his teams’ speed against an equally fast group of Rangers. All teams are exhausted in the playoffs, but that Washington second-round seven-game series probably took a toll on New York. It was physical and gut-wrenching.  Tampa did go six games against Montreal in Round 2, but it held a 3-0 lead before the Canadiens won two straight games. It wasn’t nearly as tough as New York’s second-round comeback from down 3-1. Also, the absence of shifty forward Mats Zuccarello will really hurt New York against a speed team like the Lightning.

Ryan Lambert, Columnist

Lightning in 7

Blackhawks in 7

I literally flipped a coin on these.

I see very little difference between the two teams in the East, in terms of the likelihood they win this series. Basically it boils down to: Is Lundqvist enough to cancel out the Tampa offense? That's it. The Rangers can't really score too well and Ben Bishop has been pretty damn good in this postseason, so I have little faith that there's going to be some huge breakthrough for Rick Nash and Co. But Lundqvist is playing some of the best hockey of his life these days and the Tampa offense has occasionally faltered. God help them if Steven Stamkos gets going, though. God help us all if that happens.

Out West, Anaheim and Chicago are, I think, still viewed a little bit through the prism of what they have been rather than what they are. The matchups at the top of each lineup are fascinating; does Boudreau go Getzlaf and Perry against Toews and Hossa, or does he put the Kesler group out there to shut them down and hope his Big Bads can push Brad Richards around? No doubt Corey Crawford can outduel Frederik Andersen, but the Ducks are scoring a lot of goals in this postseason and that's a major cause for concern.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Fantasy Columnist

Rangers in 6

Ducks in 7

The Lightning probably lack the experience to take this over the top. The Rangers, meanwhile, were just in the Final last year and I believe that experience counts for something.

Rangers/Ducks were my Cup Final picks before the postseason began, so I should stick with those teams. But the Blackhawks have put a scare in me, that's for sure. That series has the potential to be absolutely epic. Right now the Hawks seem unbeatable - it's only loyalty to my original pick that has me still hanging my hat on Anaheim.

Sam McCaig, Yahoo Hockey Editor

Rangers in 5

Ducks in 7

It's the Rangers' veteran experience versus the Lightning's youthful exuberance -- and we're going with the old guys. New York made it to the Stanley Cup Final last spring and followed up with the Presidents' Trophy this season. The Rangers are built for the playoffs, with great goaltending and a stout defense corps, plus a championship blend of skill and grit up front. The Lightning's best chance to emerge rests with Ben Bishop outdueling Henrik Lundqvist -- not impossible, but not likely.

A great matchup between two high-octane teams, and it's a true toss-up. We'll take the Ducks in a series that goes the distance -- but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final because, hey, they're the Blackhawks. The Getzlaf-Perry line is a beast, and Anaheim can come back with Ryan Kesler on the second unit. The Ducks are deep and mobile on defense and Frederik Andersen has been solid in net. Not to mention, Anaheim is pretty rested for a team in the conference final after sweeping the Jets in Round 1 and eliminating the Flames in five games in Round 2.

Nick Cotsonika, Yahoo Sports columnist

Rangers in 7

Blackhawks in 6

Why Rangers in seven? Because winning seven-game series is what they do, and they have the best goaltender left in the playoffs. They've been here before. The Bolts are skilled and deep. They're a legit Cup contender. But they're still growing.

The Ducks were built to beat the Kings, the team that has rivaled the Blackhawks and beat them in an epic series last year. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are elite, and Ryan Kesler gives them a great one-two punch at center, an advantage in this matchup. But the Ducks struggle with speed, and the Hawks have speed and even more depth, not to mention experience.

Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy Editor

Lightning in 7

Blackhawks in 6

Yeah, I say the Lightning buck the roughly 10,000 Game 7 trends in the Rangers’ favor and the Blackhawks find a way to slow the Ducks’ various attacks.

Lightning vs. Blackhawks for the Cup. Please begin writing your Brad Richards think pieces now.