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NHL Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview

In seemingly a blink of an eye, the first round of the 2017 NHL playoffs has come and gone. Now that the second round is upon us, let’s check out how the first round played out. My selections were:

  • Montreal in 6.
  • Pittsburgh in 6.
  • Toronto in 7.
  • Ottawa in 6.

The only series I picked completely correctly was the Ottawa series since they beat Boston 4-2. Pittsburgh was also correct, yet only took 5 games to eliminate the Columbus Blue Jackets. Montreal and Toronto were both eliminated in 6 games by New York and Washington, respectively. So, 50% success rate so far in terms of selections.

As for the second round, the New York Rangers now move on to face the Ottawa Senators and the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals will play the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

New York Rangers (WC1) vs Ottawa Senators (2nd Atlantic)

Season series: 2-1 Ottawa

[the_ad id=”384″]The New York Rangers come into the second round after a strong, physical battle with the Atlantic Division-winning Montreal Canadiens to face the underestimated Ottawa Senators. Although the Rangers finished the season with more total points (103 to Ottawa’s 98), Ottawa actually starts the series at home since they finished higher in their division thanks to the NHL’s strange playoff seeding format. Ottawa will be tasked with trying to beat the virtually impenetrable Henrik Lundqvist, who enters round two with a GAA of 1.70 and save percentage of .947%, both 3rd among goaltenders who have played more than one game. Still the Sens, no matter much people want to write them off, just refuse to go away and are playing with determination this post-season, influenced by a comeback from Clarke McArthur and the strength and professionalism shown by Craig Anderson in a difficult time. Most people are jumping to pick the Rangers in this series but I wouldn’t be so quick to write this Sens team off.

Storyline to watch: Henrik Lundqvist. The King will basically dictate how this series plays out. He is one of those players who seriously ups his game in the playoffs and this year doesn’t seem to be any different. If the Senators can find a way to get in his face and get him off his game, they’ll have a good chance at advancing.

Ottawa wins 4-2

Washington Capitals (1st Metro) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (2nd Metro)

Season series: 2-2

[the_ad id=”693″]This series hasn’t even started and already it has the makings for a classic. This will mark the third time since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin came into the league that these two teams have met in the playoffs, the Penguins having won both other times, 4-3 in 2009 and 4-2 in 2016. Interestingly enough, both times Washington has come into the series as the higher seed. This season, however, the teams split the four games with two apiece, but Washington won two in regulation while Pittsburgh took one in overtime and the other in a shootout. There is really no clear cut favorite between these two teams since they are both offensive juggernauts who play tight defensively and have stellar goaltending. The Penguins boast the playoff leading scorer Evgeni Malkin who has a ridiculous 11 points in 5 games, but Washington has the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner and 2017 finalist Braden Holtby guarding their net. In terms of special teams, once again the teams are neck in neck with both having the exact same PK at 83.3%, but Pittsburgh has a slight edge in in the powerplay department at 33.3% compared to Washington’s 29.4%. This series has 7 games written all over it and, to be perfectly honest, I have no idea how it’s going to go down, but it’s going to come down who makes the least amount of mistakes.

Storyline to Watch: While the obvious storyline here is 8 vs. 87, the real storyline to watch that will be the difference is the goaltending duel. Braden Holtby has proven to be a top 3 goaltender in the NHL and his counterpart,  Marc-Andre Fleury has been playing with a chip on his shoulder since Matt Murray went down to injury.

Pittsburgh wins 4-3

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