This is where we separate the men from the boys
Second Round Preview
Similarly to the first round, the second round is known as the Divisional Finals.
I’m a few days late to posting this, but thankfully, it doesn’t change any of my picks.
Eastern Conference Atlantic Division Finals
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (Series tied 1-1)
Montreal won Game 1 in a double OT thriller from a SNIPE from PK Subban. (I won’t get into the horrible reactions from the Bruins’ fans though). This is the NHL’s most-played playoff matchup between two Original Six rivals, this being the 34th meeting. The Bruins won the last meeting in seven games in 2011 while the Habs won three of the four regular season game this season. Game 1 showcased everything this series will be: physical. There 101 hits in the first game and only 64 in the second. (Note: I had written everything up to here Saturday before Game 2, but the beautiful weather and the golf course were calling my name). When I left my house to be out in that gorgeous Saturday afternoon weather, the Canadiens were leading Game 2 3-1 with about 12 minutes to go. As we all know, the Bruins changed that almost instantly, scoring four-straight, unanswered goals to win 5-3. This series showcases two of the league’s best goaltenders in Carey Price and Tuukka Rask. Rask is the favorite for the Vezina Trophy (Most Valuable Goaltender) while Carey Price would have been a finalist if not for a slow start. The Canadiens are the only serious threat to the Bruins returning to the Stanley Cup Finals however, I’m sticking to my original Cup pick: Bruins in six.
Metropolitan Division Finals
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers (Series tied 1-1)
Henrik Lundqvist anchored the Rangers to a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 Friday night stopping 34 of 36 Pittsburgh shots. While Hank was able to make 32 saves Sunday night, the Rangers’ offense was stonewalled by a rare Marc-Andre Fleury playoff shutout as the Pens won 3-0. Evgeni Malkin scored his 4th goal of the playoffs Sunday (1st of the series) while Sidney Crosby still has yet to find the back of the next this postseason. Sid the Kid has six assists, 26 shots, and is -5 in eight playoff games so far. The Penguins have been able to find ways to win without Crosby scoring but that can only last for so long. The Rangers’ main issue is their power play. Ever since starting their series against the Flyers 3 for 8 on the man advantage, the Rangers have not scored a power play in their last 29 attempts. Obviously, that needs to change if they want to move on. Surprisingly, this only the fifth time these two teams have met in the playoffs, most recently was in 2008. Pittsburgh has won all four of the previous series but that changes this year: Rangers in Seven.
Western Conference Central Division Finals
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild (Chicago leads 2-0)
You need to give the Wild a lot of credit for upsetting the Av’s in the first round, especially because of how they always were able to rally out of a deficit, on the road, where they had been awful during the regular season. In Game 1, Minnesota seriously made me think their miracle road run was continuing, but Patrick Kane made sure they wouldn’t:
Sidenote: How was this only 10th on the Sportscenter Top 10 Friday night? Sure, Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beater was unreal, but this was better than most of the 2nd-9th plays.
That was the first Kane’s two goals on the night in a 5-2 Blackhawks win. The Hawks once again dominated Game 2 on Sunday in a 4-1 win as the series moves to Minnesota with Chicago leading two games to none. Frankly, this doesn’t surprise anyone. Again, you need to give Minnesota a lot of credit for coming this far, but has been and still is the Blackhawks’ to lose. While Chicago was so-so on the road in the regular season, they clearly have Bryz’s number: Blackhawks in five. Chicago won the only other playoff matchup last year in five games as well.
Pacific Division Finals
Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings (LA leads 1-0)
In the last round’s preview, I asserted my love for the new playoff format because it solidifies the rivalries of the California teams as that was the second time the Kings played the Sharks. Well this is an even larger case in point, LA and Anaheim (a city whose baseball team uses LA as apart of its name) HAVE NEVER MET IN THE PLAYOFFS. Granted, both the Sharks and Ducks have only been enfranchised for 20+ years compared to LA’s 45+ years, but the crosstown rivalry is going becoming more intense. LA rallied with seven seconds left to force overtime and to then win Game 1 3-2. Both the game-tying and game-winning goals came from the stick of trade deadline acquisition Marian Gaborik. The Kings have the potential to grind out this series but the Ducks have the edge, even being down a game currently. The Ducks won four of five in the regular season but this series will be much closer: Ducks in seven.
Disagree? Think we’ll see the same final four teams as last year? Let me know in the comments below.