Different routes lead to same Stanley Cup destination

Fri May 15, 2015 2:39pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - The East's New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning have endured a long and bumpy road to reach the last four of the Stanley Cup playoffs while the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks have barely been tested in the West.

But no matter what path is taken, the survivors of the National Hockey League's two conference finals will arrive at the same destination -- the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Western Conference's top-seeded Ducks needed nine games, one over the minimum, to get through the first two best-of-seven rounds after sweeping the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 and dispatching the Calgary Flames in five games.

The Blackhawks, appearing in the West final for the fifth time in seven years, have been no less ruthless eliminating the Nashville Predators in six before taming the Minnesota Wild in four.

It has been a far different story in the East where the top-seeded Rangers enjoyed a fast start in stopping the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games but then saw their second round series with the Washington Capitals go the distance and then some.

After battling back from a 3-1 series deficit, the Rangers needed an overtime winner from Derek Stepan in Game Seven to secure a second consecutive trip to the conference final.

All 12 games the Rangers have contested this postseason have been decided by one goal.

Tampa Bay found it tough slogging right out of the blocks needing seven games to eliminate the Detroit Red Wings and then, after racing to a 3-0 series lead, had to survive a scare when the Montreal Canadiens pushed the matchup to six games.   Continued...

New York Rangers right wing Kevin Hayes (13) and defenseman Keith Yandle (93) celebrate after defeating the Washington Capitals during overtime in game seven of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 2 - 1 in overtime. May 13, 2015; New York. Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports