NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round Two

NHL Playoff Tickets

We are now in week 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  What started as the top 16 teams in the NHL has been whittled down to 8 teams, all vying for a chance at the Cup.

These have been some of the most exciting and up and down playoffs in recent memory.  Here’s a look at the Division Final Series currently underway:

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

The Wild are coming off a 7 game thriller against the Colorado Avalanche, who were the top seed in that series, and are seemingly still trying to find their bearings against the Chicago Blackhawks, who defeated the St. Louis Blues in 6 games.   The Wild have yet to find goals in the first two periods of the series and have lost both games in Chicago’s United Center.  The teams are heading back to St. Paul for two games at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday and Friday.

This is the same situation in which the Wild found itself last year against the Blackhawks in the quarterfinals, the Wild down by two games and faced with a must-win Game 3 at home.  The Wild won their first home game of the series last year but the Hawks defeated them in five games en route to the Stanley Cup.  This year, however, the Wild are 3-0 at home and have outscored their opponent 8-3 in these playoffs.

NHL Playoff tickets available here for Blackhawks vs. Wild Division Final Series.

LA Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks

The LA Kings are doing something truly magical.  After dropping 0-3 to the San Jose Sharks in the semifinals, the Kings have been on a tear.  Not only did they become just the 4th team in NHL history to win their series, they haven’t lost since.  The Kings are now leading their Pacific Division Final Series 2-0 against the Conference leading Anaheim Ducks.

Down 2-1 in Game 1 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Kings forward Marion Gaborik found a way to score with just 7 seconds on the clock to force overtime.  He did it again at the 12 minute mark to seal the comeback victory for LA.  He then scored 34 seconds into game 2 to help propel his team to their 6th consecutive victory.

It is the first time the Ducks and Kings have met in the playoffs and while Anaheim, who defeated the Dallas Stars in 6 games in round 1, might have held the regular season edge, both in terms of the standings and winning 4 of 5 meetings between the clubs, the playoffs have seemingly leveled the playing field.  Both have talented, physically punishing rosters balanced out by youth and veteran leadership.  The Ducks, however, will have to win in LA if they want a chance at the series.

Ducks vs. Kings Game three is on Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

NHL Playoff tickets available here for Kings vs. Ducks Division Final Series.

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The New York Rangers appear to be just the opponents the Pittsburgh Penguins needed to elevate their game.  The two teams split their four regular season meetings, with each winning a game in a shootout, but the Penguins now have a 2-1 lead in the series after shutting out the Rangers in Games 2 & 3.

The Rangers took an early 2-0 in game 1 only to have the Penguins storm back in the 2nd frame.  Rangers forward Derick Brassard won it at the 3 minute mark of overtime, despite being outshot 36-27 on the game.  The Pens made no mistakes in Game 2 and found goals when they needed them, at the 10 minute mark of the 2nd to break a scoreless tie and then late in the 3rd before an empty net goal by Evgeni Malkin sealed the victory.  The Penguins only mustered 15 shots in Game 3 but capitalized on a frustrated Rangers team with goals from captain Sidney Crosby, his first of the playoffs, and Jussi Jokinen.

Game 4 is at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

NHL Playoff tickets available here for Rangers vs. Penguins Division Final Series.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins

Even if you’re not a fan of either team, it’s hard to deny this rivalry is exciting.  The two teams hate each other and with the series tied at 1-1 heading into Montrea’s raucous Bell Centre, the inevitable Bruins trash talk, meant to get the Habs off their game, has already started.

In both games the Habs have managed to dominate on the scoreboard for two periods before the Bruins show up for work in the 3rd.  In Game 1 the Bs tied it to force overtime and Subban’s overtime blast beat Rask for the first win of the series.  Game 2 was another story: the Habs played considerably better but the Bruins, as they are wont to do, showed up for the 3rd and scored 4 goals in 8 minutes to tie the series at 1 with a 5-3 final score.

Expect fans to blow the roof off of the Bell Centre for Games 3 & 4 on Tuesday and Thursday respectively as Habs fans have waited over a week to welcome their team home for Round 2.

NHL Playoff tickets are available here for Canadiens vs. Bruins Division Final Series.