Predicting Winners for Saturday's 2nd-Round NHL Playoff Games
Both 2013 NHL playoff contests on May 25 are elimination games. The Detroit Red Wings have put the Chicago Blackhawks in a corner and the Boston Bruins will take another crack at closing out the New York Rangers.
In other words, it's a great day to be a hockey fan.
Both games are packed to the brim with storylines and intrigue and should be nail-biters in every respect. These are proud teams that are on the brink of elimination—the 'Hawks and Rangers both had Stanley Cup aspirations at the beginning of 2013.
Now they are stripped to a "one game at a time" mentality, hoping just to play hockey once more this season.
New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Where Series Stands: The New York Rangers managed to hijack Game 4, giving themselves a little bit of life in the series. The deficit is still 3-1 for the Blueshirts, though.
New York Strengths: Guts and goaltending. In Game 4, the Rangers went down by two goals, stormed back, and went down a goal again, only to even things back. Then to find the will to win in overtime—that's a gutsy game. The goals weren't pretty, but they were enough support to get Henrik Lundqvist the victory.
Boston Strengths: Depth and time. The Boston Bruins knew it'd be tough to eliminate the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and the fluky goals that they gave up made matters much harder. Between Tuukka Rask's gaffe and a weak play by Zdeno Chara that ended up in the back of the net, things couldn't have gone more sideways for the B's. Games like this don't typically happen twice in a row, however, and the Bruins have time on their side here.
New York X-Factor: Brad Richards. Say what you will about Coach John Tortorella, he managed to milk a win out of his team in Game 4, and he did so with (allegedly) one of his best offensive weapons in a press box high above ice level. Still, Richards has a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe trophy and a lot of pride. There's no way Torts doesn't insert him back into the lineup after the benching and subsequent wake-up call.
Boston X-Factor: Tyler Seguin. He finally scored a goal in Game 4 after taking more than 40 shots before finding the back of the net in these playoffs. With the pressure of the first goal off the back of the 21-year-old, more are sure to come—likely before the end of this series.
Prediction: I hate pitching in against an underdog. My heart says Rangers and my brain says Bruins. The B's aren't likely to let New York climb back into this thing after what happened in Round 1. They'll come up with their best effort of the series, Rask will be much better and they'll close out the feisty Rangers.
Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks
Where Series Stands: The Detroit Red Wings handed the Chicago Blackhawks their first three-game losing streak of 2013 after winning Game 4, going up 3-1 on the Presidents' Trophy winners.
Detroit Strengths: Momentum and mind games. The Wings have found a way into the minds of Chicago's top players, frustrating them into retaliatory penalties and ref-blaming. The Wings have now won five of their last six and have the 'Hawks on the ropes. Detroit has had different players score timely goals every night, giving Jimmy Howard all the support he needs to win games.
Chicago Strengths: No more pressure. At this juncture, no one expects the Blackhawks to win. Everyone expected them to win Game 1...and Games 2 and 3 and 4 for that matter. Now they find themselves down 3-1, and the pressure is off. The Stanley Cup pressure is off. Now all that matters is Game 5. If the 'Hawks can focus and just keep this one game in front of them, they have a chance to make this a more interesting series.
Detroit X-Factor: Pavel Datsyuk. The pressure hasn't been on him to score every game, and while he's looking outstanding in this series, he only has one goal to show for it. Players like Gustav Nyquist have picked up the scoring slack, allowing Datsyuk (and Henrik Zetterberg) to shut down Chicago's top guys. He's bound to score again sooner or later, though.
Chicago X-Factor: Jonathan Toews (still). Captain Serious was anything but in Game 4, taking six penalty minutes in the second period alone that ultimately led to a power-play goal for Detroit. Guys like Toews are hard to keep down forever, though, and he's yet to score a goal in the playoffs. For the 'Hawks to stay alive, they're going to need a big game from Toews in the offensive zone.
Prediction: The 'Hawks are reeling and haven't dealt with this kind of adversity all season. To think that they'll suddenly be able to hit the kill-switch and play desperate after months of chill hockey is asking too much. Detroit closes out Chicago and advances to the Western Conference Final.