The first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs reminded fans of what's so great about the chase for the Stanley Cup with a multitude of overtime games and three series that went the distance.
Now the question becomes whether the conference semifinals can live up to the same standard.
Based on the matchups, the chances are good that they will. In the East, the Boston Bruins take on the rival Montreal Canadiens while star power will take center stage as the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the New York Rangers.
In the West, the reigning champion Chicago Blackhawks look to continue their repeat bid against the Minnesota Wild while the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings fight to survive the difficult Pacific Division portion of the bracket.
Let's check out the complete schedule for the second round, including television info, followed by a power ranking of all four series as teams bid for a spot in the conference finals.
Round 2 Schedule
|2014 NHL Playoffs - Second Round|
|1||Canadiens 4, Bruins 3||May 1||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Canadiens at Bruins||May 3||12:30 p.m.||NBC|
|3||Bruins at Canadiens||May 6||7 p.m.||NBCSN|
|4||Bruins at Canadiens||May 8||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|5*||Canadiens at Bruins||May 10||TBD||TBD|
|6*||Bruins at Canadiens||May 12||TBD||TBD|
|7*||Canadiens at Bruins||May 14||TBD||TBD|
|1||Rangers at Penguins||May 2||7 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Rangers at Penguins||May 4||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|3||Penguins at Rangers||May 5||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|4||Penguins at Rangers||May 7||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|5*||Rangers at Penguins||May 9||TBD||TBD|
|6*||Penguins at Rangers||May 11||TBD||TBD|
|7*||Rangers at Penguins||May 13||TBD||TBD|
|1||Wild at Blackhawks||May 2||9:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Wild at Blackhawks||May 4||3 p.m.||NBC|
|3||Blackhawks at Wild||May 6||9 p.m.||CNBC|
|4||Blackhawks at Wild||May 9||TBD||TBD|
|5*||Wild at Blackhawks||May 11||TBD||TBD|
|6*||Blackhawks at Wild||May 13||TBD||TBD|
|7*||Wild at Blackhawks||May 15||TBD||TBD|
|1||Kings at Ducks||May 3||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Kings at Ducks||May 5||10 p.m.||NBCSN|
|3||Ducks at Kings||May 8||10 p.m.||NBCSN|
|4||Ducks at Kings||May 10||TBD||TBD|
|5*||Kings at Ducks||May 12||TBD||TBD|
|6*||Ducks at Kings||May 14||TBD||TBD|
|7*||Kings at Ducks||May 16||TBD||TBD|
|NHL.com; *Denotes if necessary|
Series Power Rankings
1. Bruins vs. Canadiens
The best word to describe this series would probably be "intense." In an era when rivalries aren't as prevalent, the one between Boston and Montreal continues to thrive.
Having them face off up to seven straight times should lead to plenty of drama.
One of the biggest keys for both teams is finding a way to channel that added emotion in a positive way. Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com passed along comments from Brad Marchand, who talked about having to keep their eye on the ultimate goal:
It's a longstanding rivalry and it goes back so far, so many years. The fans love it, the media loves it and obviously we love being out against them, but we can't let that get in our way of the real goal and we need to make sure we have a really good game every time we step on the ice.
In order for Montreal to pull off the upset, it's going to need an even better offensive performance than it got in a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That means more production from Thomas Vanek and Max Pacioretty, among others.
However, it's an uphill battle with Tuukka Rask playing so well.
2. Penguins vs. Rangers
One constant across the sports spectrum is the importance of star power. It should be on full display in this series, as the Penguins led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal take on Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist.
Diehard hockey fans are always going to watch, but this is the type of series that can demand a mainstream audience as well.
Hopefully, the matchup develops to allow the skilled players on both sides to shine rather than turning into a grind-it-out series.
Add in the fact that the Rangers are capable of giving the Penguins a very tough series after edging the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games, and it has all the makings of a long, exciting series.
The difference could very well be Marc-Andre Fleury, who was shaky in net for Pittsburgh in Round 1.
3. Ducks vs. Kings
The battle of California is interesting because neither the Ducks nor the Kings were at their best in the opening round. Anaheim was almost forced to a seventh game by the Dallas Stars before a late comeback in Game 6 and Los Angeles had to come back from a 3-0 deficit against the San Jose Sharks.
Both teams certainly have enough talent to challenge for the Cup, but it comes down to which team is able to showcase that type of ability in Round 2.
As John Buccigross of ESPN points out, if the regular season, is any indication it will be the Ducks:
Anaheim ranked inside the top 10 in both goals scored and goals allowed during the regular season. Expect the defense to bounce back after a mediocre series against Dallas, which should be the difference in a series that goes at least six games.
4. Blackhawks vs. Wild
Minnesota took advantage of a favorable matchup against an extremely talented Colorado Avalanche team that wasn't quite ready for the rigors of postseason hockey.
It won't be as lucky against the Blackhawks, who are obviously a battle-tested squad.
Chicago came through the most difficult first-round series by ousting the St. Louis Blues in six games. Corey Crawford once again came through on the big stage, showing why he might be the most important player on a team with plenty of other big names.
Ultimately, the Wild will struggle to match the Hawks' firepower—especially if Crawford continues to be at the top of his game.
Chicago should advance in five games, which won't leave the series enough time to leave the same type of impact as some of the others.
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