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|
|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|
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
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