The NHL Playoffs are entering the second round after one of the best single rounds in the history of the league, after 18 contests went into overtime — a record for a single round. Though it will be hard to match the exhilaration that the opening slate gave us, there are some great matchups coming that will make the playoff beard turn even more grey.
Take a look at the four series below, where you will find schedules and predictions for each. We are just a couple weeks away from the Conference Finals now, and the chase for the Cup is going to become even more intense as we continue to see the play on the ice go forward.
New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators
This series may look to favor the Senators as they hold home-ice advantage, but the Rangers are the far better team at this point in the season and it is because of one man: Henrik Lundqvist. The King has officially returned to the form we saw a couple of years ago, and that will make it hard for the Sens to get any offense going.
The Rangers on the other hand, will have no problem scoring as they were one of the best offensive units in the league this season. Though they weren't as lethal against the Canadiens in round one, that was because they were taking on one of the best goalies in the game in Carey Price.
Ottawa has some defensive pieces to make this interesting, but the Rangers should take this one and await a divisional rival for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
You want a blood bath to watch this coming week? Look no further than what is becoming the premier rivalry in the game, as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin meet once again in the playoffs following a Penguins win last year in this very round.
Looking at the first round for both teams, the Pens were clearly the better team. They took out a very good Columbus squad in five contests, and it wasn't very close for much of the series. Washington however, was pushed to the brink by an upstart Toronto club, going six games and having five enter overtime. While the Caps ended up outlasting the young guns of Toronto, that series is more a prediction of what is to come.
The Penguins are the Maple Leafs to a much higher level, using speed and attacking ability to keep coming at teams when they start to wear down. Look for plenty of first period slumps for the Pens, and then have them come back in the latter stages of the game to claim victory.
Sorry Ovechkin, but Sid still owns you when it comes to postseason laurels.
Prediction: Penguins in 6
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks
This series should be one of the more fun ones to watch as plenty of offensive ability takes the ice on both sides of the bench. The series pits together one of the more experienced teams in the league — Anaheim — with one of the blossoming clubs in the game — Edmonton.
While the Ducks are probably the favorite, the Oilers are actually the better team in my opinion because of the youth and ability to keep fighting knowing the pressure really may not be on them as much as it is for the Ducks. The Ducks are notorious for choking in the playoffs, and another result similar to that of the past might be in the future.
Connor McDavid is the future of the league, and he gets one step closer to his first Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Oilers in 7
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Of the Western Conference matchups, this is the most likely to produce a Stanley Cup winner after the opening slate both of these teams just endured and showed off to the general public.
St. Louis took one of the favorites for the Cup, Minnesota, out in five games with the power of Jake Allen being the difference in net as the Wild could not score any more than I can when playing NHL 17. The Predators relied on their own goaltender — Pekka Rinne — similarly to how the Blues relied on Allen, but they were facing a much better team in Chicago who was the favorite to come out of the Western Conference.
After short series for both sides, this one could go long as both are not quite yet fatigued due to long opening rounds. Goaltending is going to be the difference in this series, but the deciding factor when making my picks goes to the talent on offense, and that leads me to believe the Predators will meet the Oilers in the conference finals.
Prediction: Predators in 5