Grading NHL Teams Early in 2nd Round of 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IMay 17, 2013

Grading NHL Teams Early in 2nd Round of 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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    Each remaining NHL playoff team has played at least one game in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings deserve high marks for their performance so far.

    There are only eight playoff teams left, and each game is extra critical going forward. While it is great to acknowledge what teams did in the first round, none of that matters now.

    Here is how each team stacks up early in the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Boston Bruins

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    Grade: B+

    The Boston Bruins defeated the New York Rangers, 3-2, in Game 1 on Thursday night, and they got better as the game progressed. The Bruins would have earned higher marks if they played a consistent game.

    Early on, the Rangers outshot the Bruins, and Boston looked passive and indecisive. As the game continued, though, the Bruins pestered Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with shots and generated more scoring chances.

    Once the Bruins started controlling play, it kept the Rangers on their heels, ultimately allowing Boston to win in overtime.

    For Game 2, the Bruins should look to get more shots on goal early because they are bound to get one by Lundqvist.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Grade: A-

    The Chicago Blackhawks played a great game against the Detroit Red Wings, and they ran away in the third period. The Blackhawks scored three unanswered goals to win Game 1, 4-1.

    Despite Chicago's win, the Red Wings outhit the Blackhawks, 43-24, and it took them some time to get their own hitting game going. While the win was the most important thing, there are areas the Blackhawks can improve upon for Game 2.

    Setting the tone physically is something the Blackhawks should look to do in Game 2, and they have the roster to do it.

    Until the third period, the Red Wings kept pace with the Blackhawks. Expect the same thing to happen in Game 2, where Detroit should come out swinging again.

    However, the Blackhawks remain a favorite in the Western Conference, and once Jonathan Toews gets going, they will be a very dangerous team.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Grade: C

    The Detroit Red Wings did all the right things against the Chicago Blackhawks for two-and-a-half periods, but they let the Blackhawks break open the game in the third period.

    For the first two periods, the Red Wings played physical hockey, blocked shots and limited scoring chances, but once the third period started, they looked like a different team in losing Game 1.

    If the Red Wings look at what they did right, they should be able to get back on track in Game 2. Getting physical and irritating the Blackhawks are the keys to knocking Chicago off its game. That should be the Red Wings' plan of attack.

    Mike Babcock is a cerebral coach who is one of the best in the NHL. Look for him to make the right adjustments for Game 2.

Los Angeles Kings

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    Grade: A

    The Los Angeles Kings are off to a solid start to the series as they head to San Jose for Game 3 with a 2-0 series lead. The Kings won Game 1 decisively, and their Game 2 win was equally impressive, as they trailed the Sharks late in the third period but clawed back to win.

    The Kings scored on the power play to tie the game with 1:43 to go and scored another power-play goal 22 seconds later to take a 4-3 lead. This sequence really illustrated how important a functioning power play is in the playoffs.

    Slava Voynov has made his impact known for the Kings (goal and assist in Game 1) and is a player to keep an eye on for the rest of the series. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have also stepped up and will be two critical players in this series.

    While Jonathan Quick has been good, the effort from the entire Los Angeles roster is the reason why the Kings lead this series.

New York Rangers

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    Grade: C

    The New York Rangers kept pace with the Boston Bruins during the better part of Game 1 but failed to earn a win.

    A late second-period goal and a goal in the opening seconds of the third period allowed the Rangers to take a 2-1 lead, but they coughed the lead up only minutes later.

    The Rangers generated chances but looked sluggish during the better part of the third period and in overtime.

    The Rangers outshot the Bruins, 21-20, during the first two periods, but in the final two periods, Boston outshot them, 28-14.

    Overall, the Rangers played a good first half of the game, but they need to remain disciplined and aware while on the ice. The Rangers failed to take a shot too many times, and Boston broke up scoring chances by forcing an extra pass.

    The Broadway Blueshirts illustrated that they know how to beat the Bruins, but they need to execute.

Ottawa Senators

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    Grade: D

    The Ottawa Senators had a poor showing on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as a lack of discipline and other mistakes resulted in a 4-1 loss.

    A Kyle Turris penalty at 1:12 of the first period gave the Penguins a power play, and Paul Martin took advantage for a 1-0 lead. The Penguins scored once more in the period and held a 2-1 lead after one period.

    The Senators also took a bad penalty late in the second period, and the Penguins capitalized on the power play again to extend their lead to 3-1, but the dagger came in the third period.

    Trailing 3-1, the Senators had an opportunity to pull within a goal on the power play, but a bad play by Jakob Silfverberg enabled the Penguins to start a two-on-one rush that ended with a short-handed goal by Pascal Dupuis.

    The Senators won't last long in this series if they allow the Penguins' power play to beat them. Remaining disciplined and aware while on the ice should help the Senators bounce back in Game 2.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Grade: A+

    The Pittsburgh Penguins played a complete Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators, receiving quality play on offense and defense, while their goaltending was a highlight of the night.

    Tomas Vokoun had another impressive performance, finishing Game 1 with 35 saves, including seven while short-handed.

    The Penguins connected on two power-play goals, and Pascal Dupuis scored a short-handed goal in the third period. Breaking down the Penguins' Game 1 performance, it is evident how much better they look when they can control the pressure and momentum.

    Against the New York Islanders they weren't able to do that effectively when Marc-Andre Fleury let in soft goals. Vokoun's strong play has helped set the tone, and the Penguins offense and defense have used that momentum to carry the play against the Senators.

San Jose Sharks

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    Grade: C-

    The San Jose Sharks lost Game 1 to the Los Angeles Kings despite taking 35 shots, as they could not get the puck past Jonathan Quick. The Sharks' power play was amazing against the Vancouver Canucks, but it was stagnant against the Kings.

    Things got even worse for the Sharks when two bad penalties late in the game cost them Game 2. The Sharks had controlled play, but the third period of Game 2 could prove to be the turning point of the series.

    In Game 2, they found a way to solve Quick, but late errors proved costly.

    What made matters worse was that the Sharks won faceoffs at a ratio greater than 2-to-1, but they couldn't win key draws in the third period while on the penalty kill.

    So far, the Sharks have had a tough time hanging on to the puck. In Game 1, the Sharks gave the puck away 11 times, and they gave it away 10 more times in Game 2.

    The Sharks will head back to San Jose trailing 2-0 and could be in trouble if they don't turn things around. Stealing a game on the road is always important in a series, but it is something the Sharks failed to do in Los Angeles.