Gopher Hockey will feature two alums in the 2014 Stanley Cup Conference Finals as Thomas Vanek and the Montreal Canadiens will take on the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals while Nick Leddy and the Chicago Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals.
Vanek will be making his third career conference finals appearance and his first with Montreal. The nine-year NHL veteran previously reached the conference finals in his first two NHL seasons, losing to Edmonton in seven games in his rookie year of 2006 and then Ottawa in six games in 2007.
The Austrian forward, who started this season with Buffalo before being dealt to the New York Islanders and then again to Montreal, has eight points (five goals, three assists) so far this postseason in 11 games while his best statistical playoff year was 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 16 games in 2007. Vanek has 28 points (20 goals, eight assists) in 47 career playoff games.
Leddy, meanwhile, has made the playoffs in each of his four NHL seasons including last year when the defenseman helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup in six games over Boston. This season marks Leddy's second appearance in the Western Conference Finals with the former Gopher tallying two assists in 11 playoff games for the Blackhawks this year. Leddy has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 47 career playoff games.
After 16 Gopher Hockey alums skated in the NHL during the regular season, eight earned berths to the Stanley Cup playoffs - Vanek, Leddy, Erik Haula (MIN), Keith Ballard (MIN), Paul Martin (PIT), Alex Goligoski (DAL), Erik Johnson (COL) and Jordan Leopold (STL). Gophers alum and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards also led his team to the playoffs as did newly appointed Philadelphia Flyers president Paul Holmgren.