The 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs second round begins Tuesday night with plenty of intriguing matchups between both players and teams. The playoff field has been cut to eight, with each organization eyeing a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
Although each of these teams have advanced past the opening round, things only get more difficult from here.
With only 12 wins separating each of the teams from the Cup title, these are the matchups that will help determine their conference semifinal outcome.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
Matchup: Matt Cooke vs. Erik Karlsson
The series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators seems like a one-sided affair on paper. However, in the playoffs you can throw that right out the window.
The No. 1-seeded Penguins are definitely the favorite heading into Game 1, but the Senators cannot be counted out. The No. 7 Senators looked great in the first round, knocking off rival Montreal with ease.
The matchup on the ice to watch in this series is that of Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. In February, the two had an incident where Cooke’s skate lacerated Karlsson’s Achilles.
Although it may have been incidental, in the NHL no one ever forgets plays like these. Ottawa players will be eyeing to punish Matt Cooke from the first drop of the puck.
Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
Matchup: Boston forwards vs. Henrik Lundqvist
The other Eastern Conference Semifinal involves two of the Original Six. The Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers will add another chapter to their rivalry with this year’s matchup.
The most interesting competition will occur between the Bruins offensive powers against New York’s stellar goaltending.
Boston’s David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron all had great opening rounds. In the playoffs the three have combined for 24 points.
On the other end, Henrik Lundqvist has been just as good for the blue shirts. In his last five games, he’s surrendered only 8 goals, including shutouts in both Game 6 and 7.
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
Matchup: Jonathan Quick vs. Antti Niemi
The Los Angeles Kings are successful to this point in their defense of last year’s Stanley Cup title. In the first round they knocked off the St. Louis Blues in six games.
The San Jose Sharks advanced into the conference semis with an impressive sweep of the higher-rated Vancouver Canucks.
Something both teams had in common in their first-round series was fantastic play between the pipes.
Antti Niemi recorded 118 saves in the opening round while posting a 1.86 goals against average. Even though the Sharks didn’t have trouble scoring, they’ll rely on Niemi to play great again.
The Kings’ Jonathan Quick has so far duplicated his 2012 postseason performance that led him to winning the Cup. Through six games, he’s recorded a shutout and only given up 10 goals.
The better goalie in this series will be on the team that advances.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Matchup: Jonathan Toews vs. Henrik Zetterberg
Another Original Six matchup will take place in the Western Conference Semifinals when the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings hit the ice.
These teams are two of the more storied franchises in the history of sports and will be looking to add another trophy to their collections.
Although there are many stars to watch in this series, the clash to watch will be between each sides’ captain.
Center Henrik Zetterberg was great for Detroit in the first round. He scored three goals and had five assists while recording a plus-three rating.
Jonathan Toews only recorded two points in the Blackhawks first series, but that doesn’t justify his worth. Despite not scoring a goal, Chicago’s captain played well against Minnesota and helped his team take the series in five.