Rangers in 6
They say familiarity breeds content, and the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals have gotten to know each other quite a bit in the playoffs. This is the fifth time in seven years the two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; three of the previous four meetings went the full seven games, while each team has won two postseason meetings. The Rangers needed just five games to eliminate the Penguins, but all four wins were 2-1 nail biters for fans of the Blueshirts. The Capitals meanwhile had a seven game battle with the Islanders. If the Capitals are to have a chance to win this series, they will need big numbers from Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. All three had big goals against the Islanders and will need to not miss opportunities like the Penguins did. The Rangers will need to get more scoring in this round, as their power play struggled in the opening round, as the Penguins found a way to slow down Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis. The Rangers have home ice throughout the playoffs, but they may be an even stronger team on the road, this makes the task harder for the Capitals, who don’t always play their best hockey at the Verizon Center. The key will ultimately be in between the pipes and Henrik Lundqvist who looks healthy give the Rangers a big edge.
Ducks in 7
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, players don’t need extra motivation, but for Calgary Flames Goalie Jonas Hiller this series is personal. Hiller was with the Ducks for seven years before losing the job in the playoffs last year. Following the season Anaheim let Jonas Hiller walk away and sign with the Flames. This series has an almost David and Goliath feel to it. The Flames have talent, but it is still young and raw for the most part, while the Ducks are loaded and coming off an impressive four game sweep of the Jets in the first round. The Ducks were strongest when it mattered most outscoring the Jets 9-1 in the third period, as they had three come from behind victories. The Flames burnt up the ice in the first round, beating the Canucks in six game in a high scoring series, with Jiri Hudler and Rookie Johnny Gaudreau each having big series. The Ducks are also to light the lamp and Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg are all off to big starts. Even in the Ducks sweep of the Jets, Goalie Frederik Andersen was shaky at times. With the Flames speed I think this series will be a battle for the Ducks. In the end the series will be decided by experience and that edge belongs to Anaheim in a big way.
Canadiens in 7
The Montreal Canadiens edged the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Atlantic Division by two points. Those two points may just decide who goes to to the Eastern Conference Finals. Last see the Canadiens faced the Lightning in the opening round and swept a wounded team. The Lightning got revenge in the regular season and dominated the Canadiens, winning all five matchups by a combined score of 21-8. The Habs defense is too good to let that happen now, especially after Carey Price dominated the Senators in the first round. The Lightning got to the second round by surviving a seven game battle with the Red Wings, in which they were frustrated by Goalie Petr Marazek. If Tampa is going to be the Canadiens they are going to have to lift their play to a higher level. Tyler Johnson was the savior for the Lightning scoring six goals, including two huge goals in their Game 6 win. One player who will need to step it up is Steven Stamkos who failed to net a goal against Detroit. Overall I like the balance of the Canadiens and the ability of P.K. Subban to agitate on defense and getting the big goal when the game is on the line. I see Carey Price getting at least one or two shutouts and I see Tampa in an impossible situation with Game 7 in Montreal.
Blackhawks in 5
The Minnesota Wild got big goals from Zach Parise and big saves from Goalie Devan Dubnyk to stun the Blues in the first round. If the Wild are to upset the Chicago Blackhawks they are going to have to play even better in the second round. The Blackhawks had their ups and downs against the Predators in the opening round, but with two big comeback wins showed the grit need to survive the two month gauntlet known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks are seeking to reach the Western Conference Finals for a third straight season, and could be peaking at the right time. After missing nearly two months with a broken collarbone, Patrick Kane was terrific, netting two goals with five assists, while Jonathan Toews led the way with three goals and five assists. Defensemen Duncan Keith was also strong, with seven points. The only concern for Chicago is their goaltending as Corey Crawford was benched in Game 1 after allowing three quick goals. Scott Darling enabled them to come back and win the game, but himself was benched after a poor Game 5 and allowing three goals in Game 6. One of the Blackhawks goalies will need to step up and take the mantle, but at this stage in the playoffs the Blackhawks have been down this road before and should win the series.