Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL playoffs. The final game of the second round was played Wednesday and the Eastern Conference Final gets underway Thursday.
The Eastern Conference Final begins in Boston on Thursday:
Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS): The Hurricanes haven't lost a playoff game since a 6-0 defeat to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Since then, they have won six in a row, including a four-game sweep of the New York Islanders in the second round. The Bruins have won three straight postseason games and six of their past eight after trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in the first round. The Hurricanes could get No. 1 goalie Petr Mrazek back for the first time since he was injured in Game 2 against the Islanders. The Bruins will be without defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who will be serving a one-game suspension.
Need to Know
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said he knows who the starting goalie will be for Game 1, but will not publicly announce his decision.
The Bruins have learned to play and succeed without key defensemen in their lineup all season, so Charlie McAvoy's absence will not be a major issue in Game 1.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has been a standout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far. So much so, that a panel of NHL.com writers believes he is the leading contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP halfway through the postseason.
Not everyone is surprised by Carolina's success in the playoffs. A deep dive into analytics provides some intriguing takeaways about the Hurricanes.
Here's a detailed series preview for the Eastern Conference Final.
And here are conference finals predictions from NHL.com staff members.
About last night
Here is what happened on Day 29 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
San Jose Sharks 3, Colorado Avalanche 2: Joe Pavelski, out since Game 7 of the first round, returned to the lineup and scored the first goal of the game, propelling San Jose to the Western Conference Final for the second time in four seasons. Pavelski also had an assist, Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi scored, and Martin Jones made 27 saves for the Sharks. Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost scored, and Philipp Grubauer made 24 saves, for the Avalanche, who are 4-7 in Game 7 since relocating from Quebec for the 1995-96 season, including 0-4 on the road. The Sharks will play Game 1 of the conference final against the St. Louis Blues at SAP Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
What we learned
Here are some takeaways from Day 29 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Sharks are survivors
The San Jose Sharks have survived two seven-game series to make the Western Conference Final. First, they came back from down 3-1 in the first round -- and 3-0 in the third period of Game 7 -- to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights. Then, they won a back-and-forth series with the Colorado Avalanche, playing the first six games without their captain and leading regular-season goal-scorer, Joe Pavelski. What's next? Will they be out of gas against the St. Louis Blues? Or has this team shown it has what it takes to return to the Final for the second time in four seasons and win the Stanley Cup for the first time?
Video: Sharks dispatch Avalanche in seven, move on to WCF
Sound the Avalanche warning
If you thought the Avalanche had a bright future before, with all their young talent and the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, what do you think now? They came within one win of making the Western Conference Final this season, upsetting the Calgary Flames, the first-place team in the West, in five games and nearly upsetting the San Jose Sharks, the second-place team in the West, in seven. Forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen were outstanding. Defenseman Cale Makar came straight out of college and flashed his talent, alongside another impressive 20-year-old defenseman, Samuel Girard. Look out.
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