Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014: Updated Schedule and Predictions for Friday's Games

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2014

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 03:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a shot on goal against Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers during the game at Consol Energy Center on January 3, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Rangers 5-2.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The second round for the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs got off to a perfect start. The rival Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens battled into a second overtime before Montreal scored the winner. It was a continuation of a terrific opening round.

Two more series get underway Friday night with the Stanley Cup chase down to just eight teams. A pair of top contenders, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks, get their conference semifinal started as they try to avoid dropping the opener at home like Boston did.

Let's check out the complete schedule for the second round. It's followed by a look at each of the series openers on tap for Friday with predictions for each game.

 

Round 2 Schedule

2014 NHL Playoffs - Conference Semifinal
EAST
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
1Canadiens 4, Bruins 3May 17:30 p.m.NBCSN
2Canadiens at BruinsMay 312:30 p.m.NBC
3Bruins at CanadiensMay 67 p.m.NBCSN
4Bruins at CanadiensMay 87:30 p.m.NBCSN
5*Canadiens at BruinsMay 10TBDTBD
6*Bruins at CanadiensMay 12TBDTBD
7*Canadiens at BruinsMay 14TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
1Rangers at PenguinsMay 27 p.m.NBCSN
2Rangers at PenguinsMay 47:30 p.m.NBCSN
3Penguins at RangersMay 57:30 p.m.NBCSN
4Penguins at RangersMay 77:30 p.m.NBCSN
5*Rangers at PenguinsMay 9TBDTBD
6*Penguins at RangersMay 11TBDTBD
7*Rangers at PenguinsMay 13TBDTBD
WEST
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
1Wild at BlackhawksMay 29:30 p.m.NBCSN
2Wild at BlackhawksMay 43 p.m.NBC
3Blackhawks at WildMay 69 p.m.CNBC
4Blackhawks at WildMay 9TBDTBD
5*Wild at BlackhawksMay 11TBDTBD
6*Blackhawks at WildMay 13TBDTBD
7*Wild at BlackhawksMay 15TBDTBD
GameMatchupDateTime (ET)TV
1Kings at DucksMay 38 p.m.NBCSN
2Kings at DucksMay 510 p.m.NBCSN
3Ducks at KingsMay 810 p.m.NBCSN
4Ducks at KingsMay 10TBDTBD
5*Kings at DucksMay 12TBDTBD
6*Ducks at KingsMay 14TBDTBD
7*Kings at DucksMay 16TBDTBD
NHL.com, *Denotes if necessary

 

Friday Predictions

New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins

This series will be decided by two key factors. First, how much of an advantage do the Rangers hold in goal with Henrik Lundqvist going up against Marc-Andre Fleury, whose mundane playoff performance continued in Round 1. Second, can Pittsburgh's dynamic offense make up the difference.

New York was forced to survived a long, physical series to edge the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in the opening round. While that could be perceived as a negative, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault spun it into a positive that can help his team:

That may hold true over the duration of the series. For Game 1, however, the fact the Rangers just finished an emotional series two days ago helps Pittsburgh. The Penguins must come out aggressive and try to gain control quickly before New York settles in.

Ultimately, this series has all the hallmarks of one that's going to go six or seven games. The only exception would be if Fleury has an unexpectedly great series. Look for Pittsburgh to grab the early edge by charging out to an early lead, ultimately holding on in the third period.

Prediction: Penguins 3, Rangers 2

 

Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks

Much like the Rangers, the Minnesota Wild are coming off a seven-game series. They ended up eliminating the Colorado Avalanche, a team that won the Central Division during the regular season, but that doesn't mean their task is any easier against the Blackhawks.

In fact, the defending champions from Chicago are a more complete team than Colorado and have far more experience in these high-pressure situations. Minnesota will need to elevate its level of play in order to pull off the upset.

These two teams played in the opening round of last season's playoffs, and the Hawks advanced in five games. Adam Hoge of CBS Chicago is among those who believe the challenge will be more difficult this time around:

The Blackhawks certainly looked ready to make a serious bid for a second straight title over the final four games against the St. Louis Blues. With the offense clicking and Corey Crawford shining, Chicago should grab Game 1.

Prediction: Blackhawks 3, Wild 1