As the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, the contenders emerge from an exciting first round vying for a cup. It’s a dogfight to say the least, as many teams seemed poised for a Stanley Cup run. Here’s how they stack up.
1. Washington Capitals – Ovechkin and Holtby are playing at the top of their game, but the Caps took 6 games to win a series against Philly many thought they’d sweep. Will they perform similar against a much more talented team- the Penguins?
2. Dallas Stars – In a hard fought series vs. Minnesota, Dallas advanced to the second round for the first time since 2008. Jamie Benn is playing absolutely out of his mind right now, there’s no questioning that, but there many ask- can the defense and goaltending finally hush the critics and slow down a St. Louis team they struggled with in the regular season?
3. St. Louis Blues – St. Louis finally exorcised their playoff burdens by knocking off the defending champion Blackhawks in seven games. Though they nearly blew a 3-1 series lead, the defense is playing excellent and the Blues have scored the most timely goals of any team in the playoffs, stepping up when it counts. They’ll need to keep that up if they’re planning on moving past Dallas.
4. San Jose Sharks– Upset alert! San Jose knocked off Pacific division rival Los Angeles in five games. Pavelski, Burns and even longtime Shark Patrick Marleau have stepped it up big time, as San Jose knocked off a team many had picked for a Stanley Cup run.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning – It was a bit of a surprise how well Tampa played without Stamkos against Detroit in the first round. Kucherov, a big time playoff performer last season, leads his team in goals, while Big Ben Bishop has looked as good as he was last season on Tampa’s cup run. Watch out, Washington, the defending Eastern Conference champions are dangerous.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins – This rank is a bit misleading as the Pens handled business pretty easily in the first round vs. the Rangers. Despite still being banged up, Pittsburgh has been so hot for about a month now and has emerged as a contender in the East. Penguins/Caps will be a great series.
7. Nashville Predators– Nashville and Anaheim was the closest series so far, aside from St.Louis and Chicago. Forsberg, Neal and Weber have played well in a series many chalked up easily to Anaheim. They played well against the Ducks in game seven, and, who knows, a surprise run to the conference finals could be impending.
8. New York Islanders– Someone had to be 8th. And they played well against Florida. The Isles advanced to round for the first time in 23 years, which is impressive. But will their run be halted by a hot Tampa team with Stamkos’ return looming?
Second round match-ups
Washington vs. Philadelphia
Dallas vs. St. Louis
Tampa Bay vs. New York
San José vs. Nashville