After stunning the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in seven games, the Washington Capitals will now face the top seeded New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs. The Rangers are a coming off a seven game series of their own, where they defeated the Ottawa Senators. Although both teams have their own offensive stars, the real match up to watch will be the goaltenders. Hart finalist Henrik Lundqvist, who has a losing record of 19-23 in the postseason, hopes to continue his stellar play that led the Rangers to the top seed in the East. On the Capitals side, rookie Braden Holtby has played well above expectations with a .940 save percentage in the first round. The series will begin with Game One today at 3:00.
#5 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
The Flyers and Devils certainly know each other pretty well. After splitting the season series in six games this year, the two teams will now try to win a seven game series in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Philadelphia is the only team that has had some rest in the East since they eliminated Pittsburgh in six games about a week ago. Although each team has won two of the four playoff match ups in their histories, the Flyers have taken the two most recent. Philadelphia will be looking to get offensive production from Claude Giroux, who tallied 14 points in the first round. That led all NHL players in the first round. In addition to Giroux, Martin Brodeur will have to be his team’s best penalty killer as the Flyers scored 12 goals with the man advantage against Pittsburgh. The Flyers will also have to hope that they get good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov, who was a little shaky at times against the Penguins. Game One will start at 3:00 on Sunday.
#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
After upsetting the top seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round, the Los Angeles Kings now have to face the St. Louis Blues, who knocked out the San Jose Sharks. The Kings and Blues play a very similar defensive style and rely on their goaltenders pretty heavily. This will be the third time that these two teams have met in the postseason in NHL history. The Blues swept the Kings in the first two playoff meetings. Led by Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles hopes to change history to move on to the Western Conference Finals. With Jaroslav Halak injured, Brian Elliot will likely start in goal for the Blues. Since both teams have good goaltending, the series may come down to who can step up offensively. Blues forward Andy McDonald tallied four goals and four assists in five playoff games against the Sharks. Expect Kings captain Dustin Brown to continue his stellar play from the first round. Brown scored four goals (two shorthanded), put 25 shots on goal, and racked up 21 hits. The series will start tonight at 7:30.
The Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators have to be pretty happy with their performances in the first round. Nashville took out the Detroit Red Wings while Phoenix eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago and Detroit have both won the Stanley Cup in the last five years. By knocking out two good NHL franchises, the Predators and Coyotes hope to take the next step into the Western Conference Finals. To no surprise, the key battle will come from the men in the masks. Vezina finalist Pekka Rinne has been nothing short of spectacular all season long, but his teammates hope that can continue in the second round. Although Nashville allowed 160 shots on goal in the first round, only nine got past Rinne. Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith will need to hold the fort for Phoenix in order for them to advance. Smith, who fell out of favor in Tampa Bay, has re-established himself in Phoenix after only allowing 12 of the 241 shots on goal go past him against the Blackhawks. Ray Whitney scored an overtime goal in Game One last night to give the Coyotes a 1-0 series lead. Game Two will start at 8:00 on Sunday night.