If one round is good, a second must be better. It’ll be hard to top the awesome first round of the NHL playoffs, but they’ll try. We’ve got four series and some great rivalries renewed. Let’s get right to it.
Boston vs. Montreal
How the Bruins got here: Beat Detroit four games to one.
What’s going right: The B’s defense has been excellent so far. The worst defensive performance of the playoffs was giving up a pair of goals in game three’s overtime win. Boston will use a strong defense to try and stifle a Montreal attack that found its legs against Tampa Bay. Tuuka Rask is playing some all-world goalie, right now. The Big Bad Bruins will look to use their muscle to grind the Canadiens down.
What’s going wrong: Not much. The only thing I may have a problem with is the creativity of their scoring. Boston is looking for a little more scoring from guys like Brad Marchand. The other problem I had is Milan Lucic getting off lightly after splitting Danny DeKeyser’s uprights.
How the Canadiens got here: Swept Tampa Bay in four straight.
What’s going right: Everything seemingly clicked for Habs in their stunning sweep of the Lightning. Montreal used its strong third line of Lars Eller, Rene Borque and Brian Gionta to ride the lightning. Carey Price didn’t have his Olympic-best, but he did make key saves. It also helped that Ben Bishop was injured for Tampa Bay.
What’s going wrong: Sweeps are nice, but that could lead to some problems for Les Habitantes. It’s always the old issue of rest vs. rust for the Canadiens. The Bruins did put away the Red Wings on Sunday, but the Canadiens have been off since April 22. It’ll be crucial for them to get off to a good start.
Prediction: Pain…. That’s always the case with the Bruins and Canadiens in the playoffs. I’ll give it Boston in six.
Pittsburgh vs. New York
How the Penguins got here: Beat a scrappy Columbus team four games to two.
What’s going right: Pittsburgh did what it normally does and put up a ton of goals. The Penguins made life difficult for the usually reliable goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The last game was capped by a hat trick from the revived Evgeni Malkin. The Pens offense depth has served them very well the last few seasons.
What’s going wrong: One name… Marc-Andre Fleury. While his defense has done some silly things in this serious, it’s MAF that’s had some real head-scratching plays in the opening round. His miscues have cost the Penguins a couple of games, and the Rangers are the type of team that will cash in if he gets yips again.
How the Rangers got here: Survived a seven-game series with Philadelphia four games to three.
What’s going right: The Rangers used their previous game seven experiences to fend off the Flyers. New York got multiple goals from multiple lines and their depth shone late. Martin St. Louis is finally playing up to his potential. The Rangers also have arguably the best goalie in the league in Henrik Lundqvist.
What’s going wrong: I said the Rangers would win in seven not because the Flyers were that good. It’s because the Rangers have penchant for not closing series when they’ve got the chance. In the last 12 opportunities that New York has had a 3-2 lead, they’ve lost. The Rangers need to perhaps need to remember this speech from the classic movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” on how to close.
Prediction: I think the Rangers have enough offense and goaltending to upset Pittsburgh, but this one’s going seven.
Chicago vs. Minnesota
How the Blackhawks got here: Rallying past St. Louis for a 4-2 series win.
What’s going right: After a slow start, the top line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp got rolling and crushed the Blues in the last four games. Corey Crawford showed why he’s one of the most underappreciated goalies in the league after raising his game. The champs seemingly rallied after Brent Seabrook got (justifiably) suspended.
What’s going wrong: The penalty kill was great in game six, but Chicago’s PK had some agonizing performances early against St. Louis. The Wild’s power play my not be as intimidating as the Blues, but it has come up with some goals. Chicago can’t be letting a team like Minnesota have chances to stay alive.
How the Wild got here: Upsetting Colorado in seventh game to win 4-3.
What’s going right: Despite all of the problems that have befallen the team, the Wild just found ways to win. They have plenty of forward depth that gave them goals from unlikely heroes. Also, Ryan Suter showed why he deserved that huge contract. The Xcel Energy Center also was a fortress in the win over the Avalanche as the Wild won all three games there.
What’s going wrong: The Wild are on their fourth and fifth goalies after Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) have been ruled out. Minnesota went with Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper, but Kuemper left game seven after an apparent concussion. Bryz will probably have the number one job for now, but the duties could fall to John Curry. Having a goaltending issue is not the problem you want to have against Chicago.
Prediction: The Wild deserve all the credit for getting this far, but the Hawks will be too much and take this in five. Sorry Minnesota, but get used to hearing this song.
Anaheim vs. Los Angeles
How the Ducks got here: Beat a game Dallas squad four games to two.
What’s going right: The power play was excellent in the series against the Stars. Anaheim tallied a playoff-best seven goals with the extra skater. The Kings need to be wary of taking silly penalties because the Ducks can cash in.
What’s going wrong: The Ducks did win the series, but it was a lot more difficult than most thought. Anaheim won three of the four games by a single goal, and they were outplayed a lot of times in even strength situations. The inexperience of the Stars probably cost them.
How the Kings got here: An epic comeback to win four straight and beat San Jose 4-3.
What’s going right: Coach Daryl Sutter made line changes at key points in the series as he shifted around Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. Also, Jonathan Quick found himself after a horrible first three games and became the brick wall we all know.
What’s going wrong: Not much as of late, but the first three games were a nightmare in silver (and black and white). The usual strong Kings defense leaked goals and caused Quick to get pulled for Martin Jones in game one. The Sharks may not have had that killer instinct, but the Ducks will get on you if the Kings get down.
Prediction: Forget Rage Against Machine’s album. This is the real Battle of Los Angeles. This goes seven and the Kings win it.
That’s it for today. I’ll keeping you abreast of what goes down in round two. Take care, everyone. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter @DanMountSports.
Dan Mount is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com.