A capsule look at the second round of the NHL playoffs (all times EDT):
BOSTON vs MONTREAL
FIRST ROUND: Bruins beat Detroit in five games. Canadiens beat Tampa Bay in four games.
SEASON SERIES: Canadiens won 3-1.
STORY LINE: The Original Six teams are resuming their historic rivalry. Boston, the defending conference and 2011 Stanley Cup champions, was impressive in beating Detroit. The Bruins had 10 different scorers combine for 14 goals against the Red Wings while playing sound defence in front of a world-class goaltender. Montreal, the only Canadian-based team to earn a spot in the playoffs, was the only club to advance with a first-round sweep. The storied franchise is aiming for its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals in four years and just its second since hoisting the Stanley Cup in 1993.
BOSTON'S KEY PLAYER: Tuukka Rask. The goaltender gave up just six goals over five games against the Red Wings. Boston will be tough to beat if he can keep up his stellar play against a team that averaged four goals a game in sweeping Tampa Bay. Rask benefits from a defensive scheme that pushes opponents to the outside with skaters who aggressively use their sticks to snag pucks and block shots.
MONTREAL'S KEY PLAYER: Max Pacioretty. The team's leading scorer the last three regular seasons was relatively quiet against the Lightning, scoring one goal—albeit the game-winner in Game 4—and making one assist after a pointless post-season last year. The Habs have to get offensive production out of the 6-foot-2, 217-pound forward to beat the defensive-minded Bruins.
GAME 1: Thursday at Boston, 7:30 p.m.
PREDICTION: Bruins in 7.
PITTSBURGH vs. NEW YORK RANGERS
FIRST ROUND: Penguins beat Columbus in six games. Rangers beat Philadelphia in seven games.
SEASON SERIES: Tied 2-2.
STORY LINE: The Metropolitan-champion Penguins won their division by the largest margin in the NHL, earning 13 more points than the second-place Rangers. But Pittsburgh lost the series opener against New York 5-1 and was outscored 13-12 over four games. Pittsburgh may have rest on its side, having had three full days after eliminating the Blue Jackets. The Penguins will host Game 1 on Friday night, just two days after the Rangers' grueling series against the Flyers.
PITTSBURGH'S KEY PLAYER: Marc-Andre Fleury. The goaltender gave up 18 goals against Columbus, which scored three goals three times and four goals twice in the series. If Fleury does not fare better against the Rangers, he will likely be blamed in Pittsburgh for getting outplayed by New York's Henrik Lundqvist. He has not helped the Penguins win a game beyond the second round since helping them win the 2009 Stanley Cup.
NEW YORK'S KEY PLAYER: Brad Richards. The centre scored twice and had four assists in the opening round against the Flyers after averaging a career-low .62 points per game during the regular season. If Richards can keep producing, he'll give the Rangers a shot at advancing to the conference finals as he did two years ago with a team-high 15 points in the post-season.
GAME 1: Friday at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
PREDICTION: Rangers in 6.
ANAHEIM vs. LOS ANGELES
FIRST ROUND: Ducks beat Dallas in six games. Kings beat San Jose in seven games.
SEASON SERIES: Anaheim won 4-1.
STORY LINE: Los Angeles is the fourth NHL team—and only the second in nearly four decades—to come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. Two years ago, the Kings became the league's first No. 8 seeded team to win a Stanley Cup. Anaheim, meanwhile, may be rusty early in the series because it hasn't played since Sunday. The Ducks lead the conference in points during the regular season and are determined to make a run after losing the Western Conference finals last year.
ANAHEIM'S KEY PLAYER: Teemu Selanne. The 43-year-old Finnish Flash may benefit from the long break between series. Selanne also has plenty of motivation to do whatever it takes to win on and off the ice in what is expected to be his last year. He became the second oldest player to record a multi-assist game in the playoffs in Game 6 against the Stars.
LA'S KEY PLAYER: Jonathan Quick. The Stanley Cup-winning goaltender gave up a total of just two goals over the last three games against the Sharks, making a rare comeback possible. Quick led the Kings with his play, his words and actions in Game 7. If he can come close to sustaining his recent success, his team will likely get past its Southern California rival in their first post-season matchup.
GAME 1: Saturday at Anaheim, 8 p.m.
PREDICTION: Kings in 6.
CHICAGO vs. MINNESOTA
FIRST ROUND: Blackhawks beat St. Louis in six games. Wild beat Colorado in seven games.
SEASON SERIES: Minnesota won 3-2.
STORY LINE: Both teams know they can come back from a deficit in the series because each just did it. The Blackhawks opened with two overtime losses to the Blues, then won the next four games. The Wild lost their first two games against Colorado and were on the brink of elimination in Game 6 before scoring three goals to force a decisive matchup in which they sent the game to overtime with a late goal and won early in the extra period.
CHICAGO'S KEY PLAYER: Duncan Keith. The defenceman led the Blackhawks with five assists against St. Louis and tied Jonathan Toews with a team-high seven points. When Chicago won the Stanley Cup last year and four years ago, Keith was a pivotal player. He had 13 points and a plus-10 rating in the previous post-season and 17 points during the 2010 playoffs.
MINNESOTA'S KEY PLAYER: Mikko Koivu. The centre had the first of four game-tying goals for Minnesota against the Avs, and finished the series with six points after being held without a point last year in the playoffs. The Finn turned down a chance to play in the Olympics this year to help his surgically repaired right ankle heal, and putting his NHL team first might have helped the Wild advance in the playoffs for the first time since reaching the 2003 conference finals.
GAME 1: Friday at Chicago, 9:30 p.m.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 5.
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