By: Sydney Fann
The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is roughly halfway over, yet the winners of each series are hardly decided. And yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins are up 3-1 on the Washington Capitals in their series, but to say that the Presidents’ Trophy winners are done might be a mistake. It’s not unheard of for a team that’s been down 3-1 to come back and win 4-3, although it is difficult. The other three series are at the same splits of 2-1, so anything could happen.
St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars: This series has been a rather even one, with the exception of game 3’s domination of the Stars by the Blues. It seemed that after game 3 the Blues would take control of the series but that hasn’t been the case since the series is now tied 2-2. The big factor that will probably determine the winner of the series is the goalie situation. The Blues’ Brian Elliott has been in net for every playoff game, and has looked great in almost all of them. The Stars on the other hand have shifted between playing Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, who both played in the disastrous game 3. If Brian Elliott keeps playing like he has this series and the Dallas goalies don’t play lights out hockey, it only makes sense that the St. Louis Blues take the series.
Nashville Predators vs. San Jose Sharks: The Predators were pretty middle-of-the-pack this season, much like the Sharks, but the Preds were in the powerhouse Central Division rather than the sleeper Pacific. The fact that the Predators beat the Ducks, the Pacific Division leader, shows that while this team might not have stood out in the regular season, they’re prepared to make a difference in the playoffs. That determination might prove to be difficult to overcome for the Sharks. Although, the Sharks had no problem beating the Kings, winning the series 4-1, so perhaps the Sharks have what it takes to get to the Conference Final. Ultimately, the Predators might have more fight in them and take the series.
New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Islanders just missed out on getting a third division spot, and it appears that that anger at losing out on a better positioning has propelled them to a spot in the semifinals. The Lightning easily won their series, beating new division rival Detroit Red Wings 4-1. This series is a matchup of two teams that have taken a while to get to where they are, and it will be a hard fought series. The Lightning could have more of a drive to win, especially since they lost the Stanley Cup last year. That desire to get back to the finals for a second chance will probably make a huge difference in the series and the Lightning will beat the Islanders.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals: At the start of the playoffs, most people would have pegged the Capitals as a for-sure Stanley Cup contender. However, they are on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 to the Penguins. The Penguins had a late season hot streak and shot up in the standings, a hot streak they rode straight to the semifinals, easily beating the Rangers 4-1 in the quarterfinals. It might seem like the Capitals are goners, but there’s always a chance that that regular season fire will come back for an all-or-nothing push to get into the conference finals. While it would be nice to see the Capitals move on to the next round, a 3 game deficit might to too much to overcome. The Penguins seem to have this series locked up.
The playoffs are and always have been a crazy, surprising, and long competition. It’s full of twists and turns, and anything is possible. Who knows, maybe an underdog will surprise everyone and win the Stanley Cup.