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NHL 2013 Conference Finals Preview -- and Picks From Steven R. McQueen

05/31/2013 04:19 EDT | Updated 07/31/2013 05:12 EDT
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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 28: Goaltender Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates with teammates Drew Doughty #8 and Matt Greene #2 after the Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals to advance to the Western Conference Finals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 28, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Western Conference Semifinal

#7 Detroit Red Wings vs. #1 Chicago Blackhawks

Detroit let this series slip away by failing to close out Game 6. Game 6 was crucial, as the reality is a team is not going to roll into the Madhouse on Madison and steal a Game 7.

After a slow start and being outcoached early in the series, coach Quenneville finally found his thinking cap and started making the necessary adjustments to free up his Captain Jonathan Toews. Once he regained his composure, Toews showed in this series why he wears the "C."

Western Conference Semifinal

#6 San Jose Sharks vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings

The turning point in the series was the Raffi Torres hit, and suspension that followed. The Sharks gave the Kings all they could handle, but in the end could not match L.A.'s physicality. Having Torres in the lineup gave the Sharks some bite and an edge that has been missing from the mental makeup of San Jose.

Eastern Conference Final

#4 Boston Bruins vs. #1 Pittsburgh Penguins

Offense vs. Defense is the story in this series.

Pittsburgh is too deep offensively to be stopped. Additionally, they now have a goaltender, Tomas Vokoun, who gives his team stability on the defensive end and will not lose games for them. As a result, we are really seeing Pittsburgh's offensive machine blossom as they can now create offensively without worrying that the ref might be pulling their next turnover out of the back of their net.

Prediction: I like Chara, a.k.a. the "Human Eraser," and the B's 1st line, but Pittsburgh has too many offensive weapons. I see Pittsburgh taking this series.

Western Conference Final

#5 Los Angeles Kings vs. #1 Chicago Blackhawks

Both teams were pushed to their limits mentally and emotionally, coming off of nail biting Game 7s. L.A.'s physical style of play, where all four lines are attacking and contributing, might be too much for the Blackhawks to handle.

Prediction: I expect Toews to see a healthy dose of Mike Richards, and for Jonathan Quick to continue to be the X-factor for L.A. With Quick in net, it's as if the ice crew constructed a brick wall in the crease, and painted it black and silver with a #32.

Coaching Changes

We now live in a day and age where people do not want wait for anything. High speed internet, instant messaging, and the ability to download music and movies in seconds are just a few of the necessities we not only take for granted but expect! So it comes as no surprise that there's increased pressure on athletes and coaches to perform at a high level. Nobody likes to see anyone lose their jobs but let's be real. We are in the business of winning! Players, coaches, and general managers all need to be held accountable in the same regard. It is good for the game that coaches and managers are no longer on a lifetime scholarship plan regardless of their record. It means owners are now paying attention to their customers and product on the ice instead of blindly signing off on checks.

There are many reasons a coach may be fired:

Sometimes after a long tenure it's time for a different voice in the room [Lindy Ruff, BUF].

Sometimes GMs cannot fire themselves [Alain Vigneault, VAN].

Sometimes new General Managers want their own guy [Glen Gulutzan, DAL].

And sometimes, the coach's post-game quotes become a bigger story than the outcome of the game [John Tortorella, NYR].

Just because these coaches were fired does not mean they are bad coaches. It just means their time coaching that specific team is up. I am sure they will all resurface in an arena near you!

Awards Talk

Jack Adams Award (presented to the Head Coach who has contributed the most to his team's success): Bruce Boudreau (Anaheim Ducks), Paul MacLean (Ottawa Senators), Joel Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks)

Coaches in this league are any combination of psychologists, bench tacticians, step-fathers, or all of the above. The best coaches understand that ideally the room takes ownership, and the coach is just there to serve as a General. We know coaches are hired to be fired, but expect these coaches to be back with their respective clubs next season.

Chicago was obviously the best regular season team in the league this year. Their 21-0-3 run is worthy of recognition in itself. Quenneville did a great job with his Presidents' Trophy winning team. Sometimes just knowing when to make sure you do not interfere is a worthy trait of a good coach.

Anaheim came out of nowhere this season, and were it not for Chicago's incredible start, they may have run away with the West. Boudreau proved this year that what he did in Washington was no fluke, potty mouth and all!

Prediction: Respect the 'stache.

Paul MacLean will take home the hardware. This team battled injuries all season, losing key players Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, and Craig Anderson. When a team loses three key pieces, who just aren't the best players on your team but among the elite in the entire league, and still makes the Playoffs, you know the coach is doing something right.

MacLean pushes all the right buttons as a coach, and knows how to motivate his team. Additionally, Daniel Alfredsson's leadership is crucial as team Captain. He does a great job leading his team as an extension of this coaching staff.

Honorable Mention: It should be noted that Darryl Sutter did a great job guiding his L.A. Kings early on this season. Sutter, who has a rep as a tough guy but clearly has players who love playing for him, did a tremendous job with this team early. With the Kings battling injuries to key players Mitchell and Greene, while Quick recovered from off-season back surgery, Sutter was a calming influence while the team took some time to find its game, incorporating a few younger players into the lineup.

Hockeywood Update

Yes, we've already caught up with the beautiful and very talented Vanessa Williams. This week I am doing all young female hockey fans a solid.

I caught up with Steven R. McQueen, hunk and heart-throb from the CW's Vampire Diaries. Steven is from L.A., but spends a lot of time on set in Atlanta.

McQueen's pick to win the Cup?

"Obviously I see the Kings winning the Cup, but I'm disappointed the Wings never made it to the Western Conference Final." McQueen said. "My dad won a Cup when he played with Detroit and it would've been cool to see both teams he played for playing for a chance to get to the Stanley Cup Final."

For all of you hockey fans who didn't know, Steven's step-dad is Mr. Hockeywood himself, Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille. Yeah I said it. The Great One might have been the catalyst to hockey taking off in the Southwest but "Lucky" and "L.A. Kings" go together like Apple Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream.

You can follow Steven on Twitter @McQueeninchains.

That is all for this week. Stay tuned throughout Playoffs for updates every Friday. And remember -- Sleep is for the Off Season!

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