NHL Playoffs: What to Watch in the Second Round

The N.H.L.’s second round offers bad blood, new blood, potential Cinderella stories and tales of resiliency. The Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins will square off in the main event, a matchup of the teams with the two best records in the league. The second round begins with two Western Conference games on Wednesday. A complete schedule can be found here.

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

In what is easily the fiercest and longest-standing rivalry of the second round, Washington (55-19-8) seeks to exorcise various demons against Pittsburgh (50-21-11), the defending Stanley Cup champion. The Penguins, reinforced with a healthier roster than they have had in months, ended the Columbus Blue Jackets’ franchise-best season in five games in the first round. The top-seeded Capitals got all they could handle from the young, inexperienced Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ottawa Senators vs. Rangers

The Senators (44-28-10) have embodied persistence. Their goaltender Craig Anderson missed two months of the season after his wife, Nicholle, learned she had cancer. In the first round, he limited the Boston Bruins to fewer than two goals per game. Wing Bobby Ryan scored 13 goals during the season, less than one for every $500,000 of his salary. But he popped in four goals in the first round, including two game-winners. The Rangers (48-28-6) emerged from a chippy, low-scoring series with Montreal after six games. They won two games at home, where they had struggled, and two in Montreal, where Henrik Lundqvist had been beleaguered for most of his career. After an erratic regular season, Lundqvist was in vintage form against the Canadiens, rendering their captain, Max Pacioretty, among others, ineffective during the series.

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

The two top teams in the Pacific Division, which were separated by only two points in the standings, collide for a trip to the conference finals. Anaheim (46-23-13) vanquished the Calgary Flames in a four-game sweep, thanks to diligent work and fortuitous bounces. Edmonton (47-26-9) responded to a 7-0 bombardment by San Jose in Game 4 of their series with consecutive wins that ousted the Sharks, the defending conference champions.

The Oilers won three of five regular-season meetings, including two overtime victories. Edmonton center Connor McDavid, the brightest young star in the NHL, won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer, and he is also the favorite to claim the Hart Trophy as most valuable player after leading the Oilers to their first playoff appearance since 2006.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

These teams won their first-round series without home-ice advantage and behind superlative goaltending. St. Louis (46-29-7) eliminated the Minnesota Wild by winning three one-goal games, including two in overtime. Nashville (41-29-12) throttled the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in a sweep even more stunning in execution than it was on paper. The Predators, the playoff team with the worst record, outscored the Blackhawks, 13-3. Nashville’s defensive structure was nearly impeccable, and goalie Pekka Rinne posted two shutouts in four games with a .976 save percentage. To further humiliate the heavily favored Blackhawks, Rinne added two assists, meaning he had as many points as any Chicago player.

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