2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: PHT’s conference finals picks

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PHT staffers — myself (Mike Halford), Jason Brough, Joe Yerdon, James O’Brien, Ryan Dadoun and Cam Tucker — did quite well with their Round 2 picks:

Halford: 4-0 (3-5 in Round 1, 7-5 overall)
Brough: 3-1 (7-1 in Round 1, 10-2 overall)
Yerdon: 3-1 (5-3 in Round 1, 8-4 overall)
O’Brien: 4-0 (6-2 in Round 1, 10-2 overall)
Dadoun: 3-1 (6-2 in Round 1, 9-3 overall)
Tucker: 4-0 (5-3 in Round 1, 9-3 overall)

Brough and O’Brien are crushing it overall, while special Round 2 acknowledgement goes to me (the only staffer to pick ‘Hawks in 7) and Dadoun (only one to pick Kings in 7).

As for the commenters? Kingsfan68 and chanceoffleury1 both picked the Pens in 5, and that was about it for highlights.

So, onto the conference finals we go…

Western Conference

No. 1 Chicago vs. No. 5 Los Angeles

Halford: ‘Hawks in 7

Home-ice advantage rules. The ‘Hawks have it, and for as good as the Kings have been at Staples this postseason, they’re 1-5 on the road, with their lone win coming in OT.

Brough: ‘Hawks in 7

I went back and forth on this one a few times. Ultimately, I picked the Blackhawks for two reasons. First, they have home-ice advantage. Two, they have a mobile defense that may be able to mitigate the Kings’ forecheck.

Yerdon: Kings in 6

To make this easy, I think LA steals one in Chicago and holds serve at home like they have all playoffs. Quick reigns.

O’Brien: Kings in 7

If this was a regular season series, Chicago might dominate. “Conservative” officiating will do the Kings just enough favors to eke out a close win.

Dadoun: Kings in 7

The Kings and Blackhawks are both so deep and talented but, in the end, I just can’t bet against Quick right now.

Tucker: ‘Hawks in 7

The Kings know how to win, but the Blackhawks should be at their best after the scare they went through in the second round with the Red Wings. Crawford can further solidify himself as a premier NHL goalie.

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 4 Boston

Halford: Pens in 6

Worried about Boston’s back-end. Just not sure Krug and Bartkowski will handle the shift in pressure from the Rangers to the Penguins. It’s asking a lot from two guys with 35 combined games of NHL experience.

Brough: Pens in 7

I picked the Penguins to win the Cup before the playoffs started and they’ve done nothing to make me think twice, so I’ll stick with them here. But if anyone can shut down (or at least contain) Crosby and Malkin, it’s Bergeron and Chara.

Yerdon: Pens in 7

Neither team has faced someone like their opponent yet. Pittsburgh’s talent up front makes the difference in this series.

O’Brien: Pens in 6

The Boston Bruins match up remarkably well against the Penguins, but all-world firepower plus the steadiness of Vokoun equals paydirt for Pittsburgh.

Dadoun: Pens in 6

The Penguins are scoring like it’s the 1980s. This will be Rask’s greatest challenge yet and while I think he’ll look good at times, I don’t think it’ll be enough.

Tucker: Pens in 6

Goaltending is an aspect of the game the Bruins have the advantage in. But the great equalizer to goaltending is a star like Crosby. Expect a tight series but Penguins prevail.

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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