Nothing has come easy for any team in the second round of the 2014 NHL playoffs.
After the New York Rangers won Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, every series is officially coming down to the wire.
Following up a shocking opening round in which only one team swept, every series has been tightly contested in the second round. The Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings are knotted up at two wins apiece while the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks are one win away from clinching.
With the entire season nearly down to just four teams, let's take a look at Monday's slate and predictions for the pivotal games. A full bracket for the postseason can be found on NHL.com.
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra
Just one more win.
That's all the Bruins need to secure their second consecutive berth to the Eastern Conference Final. But facing an arduous task of ousting the Montreal Canadiens means this series is all but over.
In a chippy series between both sides, one of the biggest surprises has been Carl Soderberg's line for Boston. Soderberg has six points in the first two rounds, including three points in Saturday's win.
Head coach Claude Julien says the Bruins have depended on the line, per Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe:
Carl Soderberg’s line has been arguably our best line so far in this series. They make things happen. Got to give them a lot of credit. That certainly takes a lot of pressure off the other lines.
You just kind of roll with it. It’s amazing what a little confidence can do with a line.
While P.K. Subban has shown flashes of brilliance and grittiness throughout the series, the Bruins have the Habs' number lately. With a star-studded roster that knows how to close out a series, expect the Bruins to do just that Monday night.
Consider this: The Bruins are 6-0 this postseason when scoring first. The Canadiens are 1-3 when their opponent scores first. If Boston takes the early lead, the Bruins will be skating for another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
Prediction: Bruins 3, Canadiens 1
Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings: 10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra
If any franchise knows how lethal a team can be when coming from behind, it's the Los Angeles Kings.
In the opening round, the Kings came back from a 3-0 deficit to advance by winning the next four straight. Yet, after having a 2-0 series lead, the Kings have allowed the Anaheim Ducks to knot things up at 2-2 after four games.
The series is now heading back to Anaheim, and the Ducks have all the momentum in their direction. But with the way the matchup has gone thus far, the Kings might have the upper hand on the road, as SportsCenter points out:
After putting together a huge performance in his first postseason start in Game 4, John Gibson might once again be the difference maker in this pivotal matchup.
If Jonathan Quick can put together a full game like he did in the second and third periods Saturday, this will be a defensive showdown. With experience in clutch situations, expect the Kings to come out on top yet again, pushing the Ducks to the brink.
Prediction: Kings 2, Ducks 1 (OT)
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