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SportThe 10 best player matchups in the NHL Conference Finals

21:00  10 may  2019
21:00  10 may  2019 Source:   yardbarker.com

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The 10 best player matchups in the NHL Conference Finals © Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Then there were four.

These are probably not the Conference Final matchups you were expecting at the start of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, let alone at the start of the regular season. But they should be two outstanding series, as the San Jose Sharks take on the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference, while the Boston Bruins face the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference, with the former a rematch of the 2015-16 Western Conference Final that the Sharks won in six games.

Carolina and St. Louis have been two of the best teams in the NHL since the start of January, while the Bruins and Sharks have been at the top of the league standings from almost the start.

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There are five key matchups that could decide the Eastern Conference Final between the Tampa Ovechkin's best opportunity may be when Tampa Bay is shorthanded. The Lightning have allowed Point has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 games, tied with Steven Stamkos for second on the All NHL team jerseys customized with NHL players ' names and numbers are officially licensed by the

So, what makes a "best matchup "? Best matchups aren't necessarily the most entertaining or Now we come to the second of the 10 best conference final matchups of all time. It's not often that a player has such an opportunity to prove himself against the supposed best in the league and

Who ends up winning each one might come down to one or two individual matchups throughout each series. So let's take a look at 10 of those matchups that could end up playing big roles.

1. Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) vs. Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues)

The Sharks were so determined to get Burns on the ice against Colorado's best players in Round 2 that they actually limited his time on the power play to free him up for more minutes at even strength. Do not be surprised if they take that path again in the Conference Finals. While the Blues do not have anyone on the same level as Nathan MacKinnon for Burns to contend with, Vladimir Tarasenko isn't far off that. He's their most dangerous player and is probably going to see an awful lot of the Sharks' Norris Trophy finalist blue liner.

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The matchups for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals have been set and the schedule released. It’s hard to imagine, when the The Senators were the Comeback Kids at times in the second round versus the New York Rangers, getting the best of Henrik Lundqvist in a six-game series.

2. Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) vs. Sebastian Aho (Carolina Hurricane)

It is practically a given that Bergeron, one of the NHL's best two-way centers, is going to be given the task of shadowing and shutting down the other team's best player. For the Hurricanes, that is definitely Aho. He may not be a household name across the NHL yet, but he is well on his way to becoming one and a deep run by the Hurricanes is just the thing to get him there. If he gets the best of Bergeron in this series, he will quickly go from being considered one of the NHL's best young players to, quite simply, one of the NHL's best players.

3. Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins) vs. everybody (Carolina Hurricanes)

When you go against Marchand, you go against two players. First, you have to find a way to shut down the offense, and that is not an easy task. Marchand has been one of the 10 best offensive players in the league for more than four years now and played at his absolute best this season, topping the 100-point mark for the first time in his career. That alone makes him a handful. As if that is not enough, you have to deal with the pest in him that is going to do everything in his power to get under your skin. We saw that on display in Round 2 when he punched Columbus' Scott Harrington in the back of the head and tried to break Cam Atkinson's stick by stomping on it off a faceoff. Which player on Carolina is going to have to deal with all of that? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

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4. Martin Jones (San Jose Sharks) vs. Jordan Binnington (St. Louis Blues)

Always one of the biggest matchups in any postseasons series: the goalies. On the San Jose side, we have Jones, who was absolutely dreadful during the regular season and almost as bad through his first four postseason games. But something clicked for him late in Round 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights and sent him on a hot streak that has helped carry the Sharks through to the Western Conference Final. On the St. Louis side, Jordan Binnington finally showed some cracks against the Dallas Stars before rebounding in Games 6 and 7 to slam the door shut and help carry the Blues to their second Western Conference Final in four years.

5. Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins) vs. Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney (Carolina Hurricanes)

This could be a career-defining series for Rask in Boston. He always seems to be the scapegoat when things go wrong for the Bruins in the playoffs, but taking the team to a Stanley Cup Final for the second time in his career would go a long way toward silencing his critics. For the Hurricanes, the hope is that Mrazek (assuming he is ready to return to the lineup) or McElhinney can sustain their current level of play. With their defense, the Hurricanes don't need their goalies to steal the series; they simply need them to keep doing what they are doing.

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6. Erik Karlsson (San Jose Sharks) vs. St. Louis' penalty kill

As mentioned in the Burns vs. Tarasenko section above, the Sharks have been splitting up the Karlsson-Burns duo on the power play and have been leaning toward giving Karlsson the bulk of the power play minutes, at least early on the man advantage. He is one of the best in the business (one of the best ever, actually) and is going to give a Blues PK unit that has struggled a bit this postseason quite a challenge.

7. Ryan O'Reilly (St. Louis Blues) vs. Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks)

O'Reilly's addition was a huge part of the Blues' offseason plan and has been everything they could have hoped for in his first year with the team. He is a great combination of top-line offense and shutdown defense and is probably going to see an awful lot of Logan Couture in the Western Conference Final. Couture has been one of the league's best postseason performers since he became a regular in the Sharks lineup, and any path to a Blues victory is going to have to involve shutting him down.

8. Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes) vs. Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins)

These are the top defenders on each team, but we will have to wait until Game 2 to actually see both of them on the ice. McAvoy is suspended for Game 1 for a hit to the head of Columbus' Josh Anderson in Boston's Game 6 series-clinching win against the Blue Jackets. Slavin is an outstanding defensive player who has also emerged as one of the Hurricanes' best playmakers in the postseason. If you don't know him yet, you soon will.

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9.  Tomas Hertl (San Jose Sharks) vs. the Blues' center depth

This seems like an area where the Sharks could have a pretty significant advantage. The Blues have one outstanding center in O'Reilly, and they can match him up against any one of the Sharks' top players. It is a fair assumption to think he will get a lot of time against Couture. But the Sharks have multiple lines that can hurt you, and the Blues simply can't use O'Reilly against all of them. That is going to put a ton of pressure on Tyler Bozak, Brayden Schenn, and Oskar Sundqvist

10. Teuvo Teravainen (Carolina Hurricanes) vs. David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins)

These are two of the best young wingers in the NHL, and the performance of each one could play a significant role in the outcome of the series. Teravainen has been great all season for the Hurricanes, and his line, which also includes Jordan Staal and Nino Niederreiter, has been a steamroller in the postseason. On the other side, Pastrnak was a beast during the regular season with 38 goals (his third straight year with at least 35 goals) and 81 points in only 66 games. His postseason play, however, has been a little inconsistent. The overall production has still been there and he has scored some big goals, but he has looked shaky at times with the puck. When he is on his game though, he is a true difference-maker.

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