What a great 1st round. Only one sweep and three Game 7’s. The Game 7’s were pretty underwhelming until the Bruins made their comeback. The Capitals laid an egg at home and the Ducks did their usual, not show up in the beginning and then try to comeback when it’s too late. The interesting thing is that two of the home teams lost in Game 7 and the Bruins almost made it all three. The Ducks and Capitals both won Game 5 but they still couldn’t get it done in Game 6 or 7. On to the 2nd round were it looks likely we will get a Penguins vs Blackhawks match-up unless the Bruins or Kings decide to bring their A game. We also have two original six match-ups in the 2nd round. The top 7 goalies in playoff GAA% all advance. The only other one is Jimmy Howard at 14th overall. And yes the Maple Leafs are still cursed.

1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 7 Ottawa Senators

Season Series: 3-0 Penguins
Playoff Series History: 2-1 Penguins
What We Learned: Goaltending is the Senators strength and the Penguins weakness
Star to Watch: James Neal only played in 4 games in the previous round and still doesn’t seem like himself. If he can regain his past scoring prowess the Penguins will be even more potent.
X-Factor: Will Jean-Gabriel Pageau score any more goals? Or was his hat trick a one hit wonder? Tune in and find out! The Senators showed they could generate goals but I wonder how much of that was attributed to the Canadiens poor play and somewhat average goaltending, and really bad goaltending once Carey Price was gone.
Goalie Problem: Well I told you the Marc-Andre Fleury problem would rear it’s ugliness. The Penguins did they only thing they could do, and should have done awhile ago, and benched him. Tomas Vokoun bailed out the Penguins and he now has the highest SV% in the playoffs. He will tangle with the man who has the 2nd highest SV%, Craig Anderson. Anderson was phenomenal against he Canadiens. He will be tested significantly more by the Penguins more diverse and plentiful sniping options.
Fun Fact: The Penguins and the Senators are the two highest scoring teams in the playoffs so far.
Prediction: It will be really fun to watch two top goalies face off against two high scoring teams. If the Penguins start Vokoun and keep starting him the Penguins should really have no problem in this series. Penguins in 5. If they start Fleury, why the heck would you?, then Senators in 6.

4 Boston Bruins vs. 6 New York Rangers

Season Series: 2-1 Rangers
Playoff Series History: 6-3 Bruins
What We Learned: Never count out the Bruins or the Rangers
Star to Watch: Jaromir Jagr has only 4 points and no goals in the playoffs, not exactly what the Bruins signed up for when they acquired him. Only the Bruins top line has really produced anything so far. Even worse is that Tyler Seguin has only 1 assist, although it was on the Game 7 OT winner.
X-Factor: Derick Brassard is not a well known name but he has led the Rangers so far in scoring. Can he keep it going? If the Rangers hope to upset the Bruins he will need to continue to produce. Rick Nash and Brad Richards haven’t produce much. If they show up, that could tip things in the Rangers favor.
Goalie Problem: Tuukka Rask has played well so far but he needs to control his rebounds better. Henrik Lundqvist is one of the main reasons the Rangers were able to advance to the 2nd round. Rask will need to bring his A game for the Bruins to advance.
Fun Fact: The Bruins (300) and Rangers (287) have almost 600 hits in the playoffs combined.
Prediction: The Bruins showed a lot of heart and determination in making their comeback against the Maple Leafs in Game 7 after no rest. The Rangers hope to return to the Conference Finals and finish where they left off. The Rangers are also the lowest the lowest scoring team left in the playoffs something that won’t cut it against a more complete team. If the Bruins start getting their depth scoring back, watch out. Conversely if the Rangers wake up and start scoring, watch out. I’m going to go with the Bruins in 7 just because they seem like the more complete team and I think the Game 7 win helped their confidence immensely. I’d say the same for the Rangers big Game 7 win but the Capitals didn’t really show up.

1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 7 Detroit Red Wings

Season Series: 4-0 Blackhawks
Playoff Series History: 8-7 Blackhawks
What We Learned: The Blackhawks are looking for challenge and the Red Wings are lucky to be alive
Star to Watch: Patrick Kane, if you can believe it, has no goals. Will he continue to not find the net or will he catch on fire? He was instrumental the year the Blackhawks won the cup but he had only 1 goal in the previous two post seasons in which the Blackhawks lost in the 1st round.
X-Factor: How do the Red Wings do it? The just barely got into the playoffs. They just barely beat the Ducks in the previous series and they got most of their wins in close overtime games. If they can build off of that they might be able to eke out a tough series against a tough Blackhawks team.
Goalie Problem: Corey Crawford rebounded well from his sub-par performance against the Coyotes last year. He should be able to keep it going against an opportunistic Red Wings club. Jimmy Howard played okay against the Ducks. He did pretty well under siege at the end of certain games and not so much in others. But he will be tested even more against the Blackhawks.
Fun Fact: The Red Wings have the worst SV% of the remaining teams the Blackhawks have the best.
Prediction: The Blackhawks have pretty much owned the Red Wings recently and this series should be no different. Crawford is a significantly better goalie than Howard. The Blackhawks are also more loaded overall. The key to this series is the Blackhawks ability to keep the Red Wings out of the crease and away from Crawford. Blackhawks in 6.

5 Los Angeles Kings vs. 6 San Jose Sharks

Season Series: 2-2
Playoff Series History: 1-0 Sharks
What We Learned: Both teams come in having won 4 playoff games in a row and have great goaltending
Star to Watch: Dustin Brown is the heart and soul of this team but he has only two points to show for it. While he has done other things, like stir up penalties and hit people hard, he tied for the team lead in scoring last post season with Anze Kopitar. Kopitar also doesn’t seem himself. They will both need to be engaged in this series.
X-Factor: Ironically this Sharks team seems like one of their best ever However, if you shut down Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski there isn’t much scoring left to be had. The Sharks will need to get deeper this series. Maybe Joe Thornton will score another important goal…. don’t get your hopes up to much though.
Goalie Problem: Jonathan Quick and Antti Niemi both played exceptionally in the 1st round. Quick got off to a rough start in St. Louis but rebounded nicely. Niemi was solid throughout the series making the Canucks look amateurish at times. They both have won a Stanley Cup already in their short careers. They haven’t faced each other in the playoffs yet, so this should be a fun match-up.
Fun Fact: The Sharks have won 9% more face-offs (56% to 47%) than the Kings have in the playoffs so far
Prediction: The Sharks have played really well under the radar now that the pressure to perform is off them. Still they way the Kings bounced back after losing the 1st two games in the series compares to their magical run last year. This should be the best 2nd round series. Kings in 7.

Alex MuellerPlayoff PreviewsAntti Niemi,Anze Kopitar,Boston Bruins,Brad Richards,Carey Price,Chicago Blackhawks,Corey Crawford,Craig Anderson,Derick Brassard,Detroit Red Wings,Dustin Brown,Henrik Lundqvist,Jaromir Jagr,Jimmy Howard,Joe Pavelski,Joe Thornton,Jonathan Quick,Logan Couture,Los Angeles Kings,Marc-Andre Fleury,New York Rangers,Ottawa Senators,Patrick Kane,Patrick Marleau,Pittsburgh Penguins,Rick Nash,San Jose Sharks,Stanley Cup,Tomas Vokoun,Tuukka Rask,Tyler Seguin
What a great 1st round. Only one sweep and three Game 7's. The Game 7's were pretty underwhelming until the Bruins made their comeback. The Capitals laid an egg at home and the Ducks did their usual, not show up in the beginning and then try to comeback when...