The final series of the conference semifinals gets underway Saturday night as the Anaheim Ducks face off with the Los Angeles Kings. By all indications, the second round is well on its way to matching the memorable first round in terms of intensity and drama.
Perhaps the best part of the playoffs at this stage is that there are no more extreme long shots. Every team left standing has at least a reasonable chance of capturing the Stanley Cup, and that leads to a lot of close, hard-fought games, many of which this year have gone to overtime.
Hopefully that trend continues, as it's helping to showcase why the NHL postseason could very well be the best in North American sports. Let's check out the updated schedule for Round 2 along with a breakdown of the Stanley Cup odds.
Round 2 Schedule
|2014 NHL Playoffs - Round 2 Schedule|
|1||Canadiens 4, Bruins 3||May 1||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Bruins 5, Canadiens 3||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 3, Penguins 2||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||Blackhawks 5, Wild 2||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|
Stanley Cup Odds
|2014 Stanley Cup Odds|
|5||Los Angeles Kings||7-1|
|7||New York Rangers||10-1|
|Odds Shark (as of May 3 at 3 p.m. ET)|
The best value on the board would be either the Anaheim Ducks or the Los Angeles Kings. Both teams certainly have the talent necessary to win the Stanley Cup. Of course, the reason their odds are so high comparatively speaking is the fact that it's so difficult to figure out which team will survive the series.
Momentum is on Los Angeles' side after it fought all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to shock the San Jose Sharks in the opening round. The regular-season numbers favor Anaheim, though. It had 16 more points and, as John Buccigross of ESPN points out, had a strong record against the Kings:
Anybody who has a strong feeling about that series one way or the other can get some real good value before the series begins. Otherwise, the odds will drop once a team is able to gain control of what could very well be an extended battle.
There's also a school of thought that those two teams could wear each other down, opening the door for the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks looked terrific en route to a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in the first game of the other Western Conference series.
Patrick Kane continued his scorching start to the playoffs with a pair of third-period goals to swing the game in Chicago's favor. Add in strong play from Corey Crawford, and everything might be coming together at the right time for the Blackhawks once again.
Despite the 5-2 triumph, Jay Cohen of the Associated Press (via ABC News) passed along comments from Marian Hossa, who said there's definitely room for improvement moving forward: "We weren't as sharp as we'd like to be. But as the game went on we improved. But I still think we can play better than we did. Huge win for us."
Those who think the Ducks and Kings might end up canceling each other out with a long, physical series can get solid value in the Blackhawks.
The Boston Bruins were about 10 minutes away from losing their status as Eastern Conference and overall favorites. That was before a crucial furious comeback to level their series with the Montreal Canadiens at one.
Boston trailed 3-1 at the midway point of the third period. It then proceeded to score four goals over the next nine minutes to shock Montreal, which made the mistake of falling into a defensive shell and it couldn't find first gear again when it was necessary.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Bruins take control of the series after that emotional swing. They are the better overall team; it just took 110 minutes before that finally shined through to open the series. Expect them to look more like favorites moving forward.
That said, it always comes back to value. Given how the series has started, Boston probably doesn't provide a ton of it at this point since its odds are so low.