Second Round Playoff Primer

Did you catch your breath from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs yet?

If you need a refresher on who to watch for, check back to our in depth Stanley Cup preview here.  If not, it is time to look ahead to Round 2.

EAST

New York Rangers vs Ottawa Senators

Rangers – The Rangers advanced to the second round after defeating the Montreal Canadiens in 6 games in round one.  In what was possibly the most physical series of the opening round, the thing that kept the Rangers alive was their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist.  They will need the King to keep doing his thing, and the Rangers will need to get score some timely goals against a pesky Senators that has some solid goaltending of their own and a solid defensive scheme.

Senators – The Senators defeated the Boston Bruins in 6 games in the first round, highly in part due to the superb play of defenseman Erik Karlsson.  There’s no other way to really put it, Erik Karlsson is a beast.  After the Senators clinched a spot in round 2, Karlsson revealed he had been playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel.  And he still made it look this easy.

What to Watch for – Both of these teams were labeled as underdogs in the first round, and both of these teams wrote their own script as they rode the hot goaltending of Lundqvist and the Senators’ Craig Anderson.  It is definitely the least hyped series of the second round but it has the potential to be a real tight, back and forth affair.  Expect 7, close games, and get ready for more overtimes.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals

Penguins – The Penguins showed why they are a real threat to win back to back Cups with a short 5 game series victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.  They survived an initial scare before the puck was even dropped for their first game as their goaltender Matt Murray was hurt during warm ups.  But it was a good thing they had Marc-Andre Fleury waiting in the wings, as he came out and looked sharp, along with the rest of the Pens.

Capitals – Washington fans received another scare from their Capitals in what was supposed to be a quick opening round series with the baby boomers Toronto Maple Leafs.  They would find themselves down 2-1 in the series after dropping games 2 and 3, but reel off 3 straight, very close games, to advance to round 2.  Even though the games were tight, these Capitals should feel good about their game heading into this epic clash of the top 2 teams in the NHL during the regular season.

What to Watch for – Take your pick.  Ovechkin vs Crosby, Defending Champs vs Second Round Disappointments, Top Two Teams vs Why Are We Playing Each Other in the Second Round arguments.  Yes, with the current playoff things like the top two teams facing off in round 2 will happen, but you have to defeat them eventually right? Might as well get it done sooner rather than later and provide some entertaining hockey to the masses.  As many story lines as there are in this one, it most likely will come down to the team that has their depth step up, because hockey can’t have nice things.  Tom Wilson was a Leaf killer for the Caps, look for him to plow the Pens into tomorrow and attempt to chip in a few goals.  For the Pens, the line of Sheary-Crosby-Guentzel is pure dynamite, but with that line likely getting much deserved defensive attention, look for others to provide some depth scoring.

WEST

Nashville Predators vs St. Louis Blues

Predators – Don’t look now, but the Predators might just be the team to beat.  They whooped the Cup favorite Chicago Blackhawks in a sweeping effort and did so with an ease.  At times, it looked as though the two teams had switched sweaters, it was that dominate.  It started from their net out, with netminder Pekka Rinne stopping virtually everything.  Then, with possibly the most well rounded defense in the playoffs, they transitioned the puck up to their forwards quickly, and in the offensive zone, they were quick with the puck, and at some points, cocky.  This lead to plenty of goals for the Preds and lots of brooms in Smashville.

Blues –   In a series basically split 50/50, it was the Blues that tamed the Wild in 5 games.  All the games were very close and had the Wild taken game 5, many would have said they would have had the momentum and could have come back.  Not to overlook however is the Blues composer and execution in the series, which they led 3 games to none going into game 4.  That and their puck stopper Jake Allen has silenced all his critics and has proved to be the goalie the Blues hoped he would be, a playoff performer.

What to Watch for – These two Central teams are playing their best hockey when it matters most.  A sweep of the Blackhawks is no joke, nor is giving up only 1 goal in the first 3 games against a talented Wild team.  Look for plenty of fast pace action with two goalies that are feeling it on the back end making high end saves.  The name of the game will be speed and transition; how fast one team can get into their offensive zone from their own defensive zone, and which team will be able to shut down the other teams speed first.  Look for this high flying second round match up to be very entertaining.

Edmonton Oilers vs Anaheim Ducks

Oilers – The first playoff series for the Oilers in a decade was a success, as they defeated the defending Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks in 6 games.  It didn’t come without an adventure though, as they would surrender game 1 to the Sharks at home in overtime, then get drubbed in game 4 in San Jose by the score of 7-0.  The McDavid led Oilers handled the adversity and now look to drive deeper into the postseason.

Ducks – The Ducks held the other sweep in the first round, by defeating the Calgary Flames in 4.  As strange as it may sound, it could have been the other way, but the Ducks got some playoff bounces when they needed them and battled back when the series looked like it was about to take a turn for the worse.  When the series shifted to Calgary for game 3, the Ducks saw the Flames go up 4-1 after some costly penalties.  They proceeded to switch goaltenders, and ended up winning the game 5-4 in overtime.  They wouldn’t look back and finished off the Flames in four.

What to Watch for – What happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object.  The Anaheim Ducks have only lost 2 regulation games since the beginning of March, and both of those were only by a goal.  Oilers netminder Cam Talbot has now played a total of 79 games in the regular season and playoffs combined.  If the Oilers want to get past this red hot Ducks team, they will need a more complete game from their group than they showed against the Sharks.  It can be done, but the Ducks will look to use their own speed and power to out muscle the young McDavid bunch from Edmonton.