That first round was fun, wasn't it? Usually the first round is the most fun of all of them, but I have a funny feeling that the second round (or division finals as they should be called) will be just as good if not better. It probably has something to do with the rematches we'll be seeing, but even then the matchups are still good on their own. So here are the preview for the next 4 series in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Capitals/Rangers: If you're feeling a strong sense of deja vu, you're likely not the only one. The Rangers and Capitals have played in the playoffs what seems like every year since 2008, and since none of those series have a truly distinct characters, they all blend together. It's like old Patrick Division mush. Will this year be any different? The Capitals look like they have a resourcefullness they didn't have under messrs Boudreau, Hunter and Oates, and credit Barry Trotz for a lot of that (and Evgeny Kuznetsov). Even though they put their Game 7 demons behind them against the Islanders, they still don't make series easy on themselves. The Rangers played a quite mediocre brand of hockey against Pittsburgh, but won in 5 games since the Penguins were icing the Owen Sound Attack's blueline instead of an NHL unit. If the Rangers play like that against the Capitals, they'll lose. They also couldn't score, and without Mats Zuccarello, scoring may be even harder to come by. But, something is telling me that's unlikely. Every team on its way to the Cup needs a scare, and the Rangers look like they've had one. They're just a bit deeper than the Capitals in every position, and that should be enough to push them through.
Lightning/Canadiens: In the playoffs one season ago, the Canadiens dispatched the Ben Bishop-less Lightning in a sweep. This regular season, the Bolts played the Habs 5 times, and won all 5. Carey Price seemed to be fooled by the Lightning in the games he played against them this season, rare for the goaltender that might well win both the Vezina and the Hart. But the Habs showed something extra when they played the Senators; an extra bit of guile that it seemed they lacked when they faced adversity. Then again, so did the Lightning with their Game 7 win over Detroit. What's amazing is that the Lightning won this series with Steven Stamkos notching only 3 assists, no goals. If he's truly not hurt, the goals will come at some point. He played well against Montreal during the regular season meetings. At some point, Price will come back down to earth just enough to where their lack of scoring will finally nip them in the back. If the Triplets continue to play as they have so far, it will be here.
Wild/Blackhawks: Another series that might induce a strong case of deja vu, because these teams are becoming quite familiar with each other in postseason play. In a season where there was no distinct Cup favorite, the Blackhawks became to many the most solid team in the Western Conference. With Patrick Kane back, and almost looking like himself, the Hawks are playing like a true Cup contender again. But don't discount the Wild. They're an incredibly difficult team to play against, and with the commemorative blu-ray stories of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter now starting to really motivate the Wild, they have a good chance. They've learned plenty on how to play the Blackhawks from the last 2 series against them, and with a bit more scoring depth and a red hot Devan Dubnyk, they could easily get past Chicago. But, these Blackhawks look like the Blackhawks of old, and that's not good for Minnesota. While the Wild have a better chance than they've ever had, it doesn't seem like they have enough to beat Chicago.
Flames/Ducks: So what happens when you put two teams against each other who have a strong knack for crazy comebacks? Nobody scores until overtime? While that would be fun,it's unlikely. But the major difference between Calgary and Anaheim is that the Flames are a young team that doesn't take no for an answer, and the Ducks are a veteran team that doesn't care that they started out a game poorly. The veterans absolutely tore through the upstart kids that were the Winnipeg Jets (with ruthless precision), and it feels like the same is going to happen to the Flames. Jiri Hudler, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are all fun to watch individually, and more fun to watch when they play together, but there's something quite business-like about how this Ducks team has gone about its business. It feels like the Flames have run into a buzzsaw, which means everyone is going to hate Ryan Kesler even more than they do now. It's fun to have a pantomime villain in the playoffs, and the Ducks will cement that reputation if they end the Flames' magic carpet ride.
Picks: NYR over WSH in 6
TB over MTL in 6.
CHI over MIN in 6
ANA over CGY in 6