Proving once again that there's nothing better than postseason hockey, the Stanley Cup playoffs are escalating quickly. The first round was a fantastic warm-up act for the conference semifinals.
Of the four series going on, two are tied at one game each and one has played a single game that went to overtime. Every time you turn on these games, drama is happening.
Making things even better for the NHL, at least from a marketing perspective, is the fact that the teams still playing are located in markets such as Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
It's a great time to be a fan of the NHL, and you hope these series get dragged out as long as possible. To further enhance the buildup, here is an updated bracket and TV schedule for the games in the conference semifinals.
|1||Canadiens beat Bruins, 4-3||May 1||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Bruins beat Canadiens, 5-3||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 beat Penguins, 3-2||May 2||7 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Penguins beat Rangers, 3-0||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 beat Wild, 5-2||May 2||9:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2||Blackhawks beat Wild, 4-1||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 beat Ducks, 3-2||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|
Source: NHL.com. *Denotes if necessary
What to Watch For on Monday
Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers (Series tied 1-1)
The biggest story for the Penguins in this postseason has been the disappearance of Sidney Crosby's offensive game.
Crosby hasn't scored a goal in 13 playoff games. He's also been struggling in other areas, putting up a minus-three plus/minus rating in Game 1 against New York.
Crosby looked much more effective in Game 2, showing burst and quickness, but it's not yet time to declare that he's back to his old tricks. If he really is catching fire, the Penguins are going to make quick work of the Rangers.
A major problem New York faces moving forward is taking advantage of power-play opportunities. Henrik Lundqvist has given the Rangers a chance to win both of these games, saving 66 out of 70 shots, but there's no consistency to this offense.
The Rangers have been held scoreless with a man advantage in their last 29 attempts. If they want to have any shot against Pittsburgh moving forward, especially with an improving Crosby, taking advantage of those situations is critical.
Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim Mighty Ducks (Kings lead series 1-0)
The Kings and the Ducks are playing catch-up in the only conference semifinal series to have played just one game. If the rest of this series is anything like Game 1, it's going to be special.
Marian Gaborik played hero for Los Angeles in the first game, scoring the tying goal in the final seconds of regulation and winning the game 12 minutes into overtime. That's been the story this postseason for the Kings, who spotted San Jose a 3-0 series lead before winning four straight.
The difference for the Kings has been goaltending. Jonathan Quick looked lost on an island in the first three games against San Jose, allowing 16 goals on 108 shots. He found himself in a hurry, virtually saving Los Angeles' season in the process.
It's hard to know how Anaheim feels heading into Game 2. On the one hand, the Ducks had Game 1 won and should be leading this series. They just have to finish better in order to keep the Kings down.
On the other hand, losing in heartbreaking fashion the way they did can be difficult to come back from. The Ducks weren't the best team in the Western Conference by accident. They have to finish better, clearly, but they faced adversity against Dallas in the first round and scored 11 times in the final two games to close out the series.
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