UFHL Playoff Preview: Captivating Conference Finals En Route To Crowning Another New Klein Cup Champ

Updated: Jun 8

The NHL’s conference finals are going to be electric. It doesn’t get much better than McDavid versus MacKinnon as the high-scoring Oilers and Avs clash in a high-profile West final, while Vasilevskiy faces Shesterkin in a compelling East final — pitting the reigning Conn Smythe winner as last year’s playoff MVP against this year’s Vezina favourite and Hart finalist in a battle of Russian netminders. Vasilevskiy was snubbed in this year’s Vezina voting but is contending for the Conn Smythe again after starring in the Battle of Florida and closing out Toronto. Shesterkin was stellar against Carolina after finishing off Pittsburgh as the Rangers twice rallied to reach the third round.

Two-time defending champion Tampa Bay is still the team to beat there — the Lightning are still loaded with firepower and seemingly as hungry as ever, led by Stamkos — but the remaining challengers are certainly capable of coming out on top and capturing the Stanley Cup this year!

There is no longer repeat potential in the UFHL — let alone a threepeat, now sure to be crowning another new champion for the third time in as many years — but the matchups might be even better for the conference finals in the Klein Cup Playoffs!

We’ve got McDavid against Draisaitl in the Allan Conference — yes, an all-Oilers battle between the McDavid-led Yetis and the Draisaitl-driven Grizzlies, the two highest-scoring franchises through two rounds — while Norris finalists Hedman and Makar will meet in the Legends Conference, where it’ll be MacKinnon and Hedman teaming up for West Coast Express against Kucherov and Makar for Rock Republic in an ironic but fascinating game within the game. And, fittingly, the four remaining goaltenders wound up being rostered by the four remaining franchises — each with a starter for this Final Four. Both conferences will be captivating and close, thus tough to predict for entrants in the third annual UFHL/NHL Playoff Pool!

The Final Four finished 3, 5, 6 and 8 in the regular season standings, with the Grizzlies as the last remaining division winner after dethroning last year’s Klein Cup champion Red Army to reign supreme in the Gretzky Division. Grizzlies were fifth overall this year, with West Coast Express now the top seed from the regular season (3), while Rock Republic (6) and the underachieving Yetis (8) have also proven formidable every step of the way!

Here is a recap of the second-round results and a preview of the third-round matchups with the updated bracket for the Klein Cup Playoffs:

Second Round Results

Allan Conference

Gretzky Division Final

G1) Grizzlies defeated G2) Red Army 303.85-214.22

Lemieux Division Final

L3) Yetis defeated L1) Stingrays 333.19-210.61

Legends Conference

Howe Division Final

H2) West Coast Express defeated H1) Royals 257.69-228.13

Orr Division Final

O2) Rock Republic defeated O1) Titans 249.60-220.74

Third Round Matchups

Allan Conference Final

G1) Grizzlies vs. L3) Yetis

Legends Conference Final

H2) West Coast Express vs. O2) Rock Republic

Here is a closer look at how the franchises stack up heading into the third round, with a roster comparison followed by a bit of analysis.

NOTE: These four remaining playoff franchises are leasing players from the 16 non-playoff franchises and the 12 franchises that were eliminated through two rounds (listed in parenthesis).

Allan Conference Final

Grizzlies

Forwards (12)

Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Zack Kassian – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Zach Hyman – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Brutes)

Kailer Yamamoto – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Stallions)

Josh Archibald – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Crypto Knights)

Nazem Kadri – Colorado vs. Edmonton

Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Blades of Steel)

J.T. Compher – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Godfathers)

Artturi Lehkonen – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Red Army)

Alexis Lafreniere – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Red Army)

Filip Chytil – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Warriors)

Defenders (6)

Darnell Nurse – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Evan Bouchard – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Cody Ceci – Edmonton vs. Colorado (CanWest Generals)

Bowen Byram – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Red Army)

Erik Johnson – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Mystics)

Justin Braun – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Blades of Steel)

Goaltenders (1)

Igor Shesterkin – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Red Army)

Yetis

Forwards (14)

Connor McDavid – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Jesse Puljujarvi – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Warren Foegele – Edmonton vs. Colorado

Evander Kane – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Ice Vikings)

Ryan McLeod – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Assassins)

Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Dynasty)

Ross Colton – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Brutes)

Brandon Hagel – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Ice Vikings)

Patrick Maroon – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Stingrays)

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Duckman’s Domination)

Chris Kreider – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Godfathers)

Mika Zibanejad – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Ice Vikings)

Ryan Strome – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Ice Vikings)

Ryan Reaves – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Snipers)

Defenders (6)

Duncan Keith – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Snipers)

Kris Russell – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Eliminators)

Erik Cernak – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Stingrays)

Zach Bogosian – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Stingrays)

Ryan Lindgren – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay

Adam Fox – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Stingrays)

Goaltenders (1)

Mike Smith – Edmonton vs. Colorado

ANALYSIS: This matchup has the makings of an all-timer — one that will have UFHL fans reminiscing for decades to come! Once the Oilers emerged from the Battle of Alberta, it was evident that the Grizzlies and Yetis were on a collision course. And when the Rangers prevailed in Game 7, this result became a coin flip of sorts — a real pick ’em! No real favourite, no real underdog, just a real awesome matchup on paper. A dream matchup that could go either way! If the Rangers can take Tampa into deep waters and potentially go the distance or pull the upset, that probably bodes well for the Yetis. But if the Lightning make short work of the Rangers like they did the Panthers, then the advantage shifts to the Grizzlies — and their Avs could be the difference in that scenario, especially if Colorado ousts Edmonton. Those results will impact this outcome, no doubt. For now, flip a coin before the puck drops and enjoy what should be a legendary showdown!

Legends Conference Final

West Coast Express

Forwards (11)

Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Gators)

Mikko Rantanen – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Godfathers)

Valeri Nichushkin – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Royals)

Andrew Cogliano – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Norse Stars)

Nico Sturm – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Dynasty)

Ondrej Palat – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Royals)

Corey Perry – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Royals)

Alex Barre-Boulet – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Gators)

Artemi Panarin – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Outlaws)

Andrew Copp – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Outlaws)

Kaapo Kakko – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Blizzard)

Defenders (4)

Tyson Barrie – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Gators)

Devon Toews – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Warriors)

Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Mystics)

Braden Schneider – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Norse Stars)

Goaltenders (1)

Darcy Kuemper – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Duckman’s Domination)

Rock Republic

Forwards (13)

Alex Newhook – Colorado vs. Edmonton

Darren Helm – Colorado vs. Edmonton

Andre Burakovsky – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Titans)

Logan O’Connor – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Titans)

Nicolas Aube-Kubel – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Titans)

Derek Ryan – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Warriors)

Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Bentley Jacks)

Anthony Cirelli – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Monarchs)

Alex Killorn – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Dynasty)

Nick Paul – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Kamikaze)

Brayden Point – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Strong Island)

Frank Vatrano – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Bentley Jacks)

Kevin Rooney – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Dynasty)

Defenders (8)

Cale Makar – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Titans)

Josh Manson – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Kamikaze)

Samuel Girard – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Brutes)

Brett Kulak – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Strong Island)

Mikhail Sergachev – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Strong Island)

Ryan McDonagh – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Assassins)

Jacob Trouba – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Kamikaze)

K’Andre Miller – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Bentley Jacks)

Goaltenders (1)

Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Titans)

ANALYSIS: This is the battle of the reinforcements, with West Coast Express now icing an entirely leased lineup, while Rock Republic only owns two skaters in veteran Darren Helm — who scored the overtime winner to send Colorado to the conference final — and rookie Alex Newhook, the pride of The Rock (also known as Newfoundland, which is home to Rock Republic too). Aside from that odd couple — depth forwards for the Avs that are 14 years apart — Rock Republic’s ringers are all reinforcements thanks to the UFHL’s innovative playoff leasing system, where advancing franchises add players from eliminated opponents. Whoever wins here — and it promises to be another entertaining matchup — will have plenty of others to thank. They will also have plenty of fans in the form of other franchises hoping for leasing payouts from the winner. Rock Republic has the manpower advantage here but will be without Sam Girard, who will miss the rest of the playoffs with a broken sternum, and potentially Brayden Point, who missed last round’s sweep with a lower-body injury and remains questionable going forward. Without those two impact players, this matchup becomes much closer and could swing in favour of West Coast Express if MacKinnon proves unstoppable against Edmonton and Panarin rises to the occasion for the Rangers in facing fellow Russian sensation Kucherov — both in the NHL and here in the UFHL too. That could bring the best out of Panarin, but if he can’t beat Vasilevskiy and Makar matches Hedman’s production, that aforementioned manpower advantage could be the deciding factor for Rock Republic. If defence and goaltending truly wins championships, Rock Republic might be the new favourite to hoist the Klein Cup — especially if Edmonton doesn’t make it out of the West as the underdog there! If the Oilers pull off that upset, the balance of power would tilt to the Allan Conference winner, but all four franchises are legitimate contenders entering this round!

 

Leasing Breakdown

NOTE: These 16 non-playoff franchises and the 12 franchises eliminated through two rounds are loaning players to the four remaining playoff franchises (listed in parenthesis). These franchises are listed from most players remaining in the Klein Cup Playoffs to the least.

Titans

Forwards (3)

Andre Burakovsky – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Rock Republic)

Logan O’Connor – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Rock Republic)

Nicolas Aube-Kubel – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Rock Republic)

Defenders (1)

Cale Makar – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Rock Republic)

Goaltenders (1)

Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Rock Republic)

Stingrays

Forwards (1)

Patrick Maroon – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Yetis)

Defenders (3)

Erik Cernak – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Yetis)

Zach Bogosian – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Yetis)

Adam Fox – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Yetis)

Goaltenders (0)

None

Ice Vikings

Forwards (4)

Mika Zibanejad – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Yetis)

Ryan Strome – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Yetis)

Brandon Hagel – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Yetis)

Evander Kane – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Yetis)

Defenders (0)

None

Goaltenders (0)

None

Red Army

Forwards (2)

Artturi Lehkonen – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Grizzlies)

Alexis Lafreniere – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Grizzlies)

Defenders (1)

Bowen Byram – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Grizzlies)

Goaltenders (1)

Igor Shesterkin – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Grizzlies)

Dynasty

Forwards (4)

Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Yetis)

Alex Killorn – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Rock Republic)

Kevin Rooney – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Rock Republic)

Nico Sturm – Colorado vs. Edmonton (West Coast Express)

Defenders (0)

None

Goaltenders (0)

None

Royals

Forwards (3)

Ondrej Palat – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (West Coast Express)

Corey Perry – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (West Coast Express)

Valeri Nichushkin – Colorado vs. Edmonton (West Coast Express)

Defenders (0)

None

Goaltenders (0)

None

Gators

Forwards (2)

Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado vs. Edmonton (West Coast Express)

Alex Barre-Boulet – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (West Coast Express)

Defenders (1)

Tyson Barrie – Edmonton vs. Colorado (West Coast Express)

Goaltenders (0)

None

Kamikaze

Forwards (1)

Nick Paul – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Rock Republic)

Defenders (2)

Jacob Trouba – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Rock Republic)

Josh Manson – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Rock Republic)

Goaltenders (0)

None

Godfathers

Forwards (3)

J.T. Compher – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Grizzlies)

Mikko Rantanen – Colorado vs. Edmonton (West Coast Express)

Chris Kreider – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Yetis)

Defenders (0)

None

Goaltenders (0)

None

Bentley Jacks

Forwards (2)

Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Rock Republic)

Frank Vatrano – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Rock Republic)

Defenders (1)

K’Andre Miller – New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay (Rock Republic)

Goaltenders (0)

None

Brutes

Forwards (2)

Ross Colton – Tampa Bay vs. New York Rangers (Yetis)

Zach Hyman – Edmonton vs. Colorado (Grizzlies)

Defenders (1)

Samuel Girard – Colorado vs. Edmonton (Rock Republic)

Goaltenders (0)

None