The second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing. On Wednesday, May 7, 2014 the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Rangers 4-2 to take commanding 3-games-to-1 lead in their series.
Here is a look at all four second round playoff series now in progress:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers (Penguins lead series 3 games to 1) - After the Rangers triumphed in a tough first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Penguins were less than stellar in their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the powerful Pens appeared vulnerable. Such was not the case. As it turned out, it was the Rangers who have been unable to carry any momentum into this series, while the Pens found their game, and are really putting on a clinic against New York. The Blueshirts have rendered the play of their brilliant goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, completely meaningless. After a scrappy 3-2 OT win in Game one, the Rangers offense went MIA. Over the next three games, they were shutout twice, and outscored by a margin of 9-2. The Rangers are now on the brink of elimination. New Head coach Alain Vigneault was supposed to be the answer to the Rangers' woes, as it was widely believed that former Head coach John Tortorella ran a system which stifled the team's offensive creativity. That theory can now go by the wayside. This series is not quite over, but there is nothing to indicate that the Rangers are capable of turning this thing around. The bigger question is, with Brandon Dubinsky now in Columbus, and Ryan Callahan now in Tampa Bay, who exactly are the leaders of this current New York squad ?
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens (Canadiens lead series 2-1) - This is perhaps the most surprising series of the second round of the playoffs. Not only do the Canadiens lead 2 games to 1 over the heavily favored Bruins, but were it not for a weird sequence of odd plays and bounces in Game two, they would have a 3-0 series lead. If Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban goes on to truly become a dominant NHL defenseman, it will be this playoff year, and in particular, this playoff series which will be remembered as the turning point in his career. He has clearly put this team on his shoulders. Yes, Subban is the reigning Norris trophy winner, but truly becoming a dominant player is a matter of will and attitude, as much as it is about God-given talent. Having the skill is one thing, but having the will, is something altogether different. It is that rare quality which separates the great from the very good. If Subban and his Habs can keep up the intensity and bring this series home, a new era of hockey will have arrived in Montreal. The task will not be an easy one; the most difficult games are coming up, and the Bruins have been through it all before.
Anaheim Ducks vs Los Angeles Kings (Kings lead series 2-0) - So far, this battle for Southern Cal has been a one-sided affair. Though the Ducks have played a disciplined style, which has limited the Kings' scoring chances, while Anaheim has been patient and tried to take advantage of what little the Kings' stingy defense gives. In Game 1, Anaheim was just 7 seconds away from victory when Marian Gaborik spoiled the party, and then scored again in OT to snatch an almost certain win away from the Ducks. Gaborik also opened the scoring in Game 2, with a goal just 34 secs into the contest. The Kings went on to win 3-1, despite being outshot 37-17. One of the main keys has been Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick has been almost flawless since Game 4 of the first round series against San Jose. Including the last four games of the first round series, and the first two games of this series, the Kings have won six straight games, while Quick has yielded only 8 goals. That is the main problem facing the Ducks. Even when they do have a good scoring opportunity, they have not been able to solve the puzzle that is Jonathan Quick.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild (Blackhawks lead series 2-1) - When the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in Game 2 to take a 2 games to none lead in the series, it looked like it was lights out for the Wild. The Wild had been outplayed in both games, and Chicago was rolling, having outscored their opponent by a combined score of 9-3. Then the series moved to Minnesota for Game 3, where a nervous sellout crowd waited anxiously through two scoreless periods. The third period began, and in a flash, the game was over. Erik Haula scored just 1:41 into the third, and Mikael Granlund added another at 4:18. In the end, it was the home team winning 4-0. This sets the table for a most memorable Game 4 in Minnesota on Friday, May 9. Remember, the Wild dropped the first two games of their opening round series vs Colorado, before coming back to win 4 of the next 5, and eliminate the Avalanche. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champs, and have a more talented roster, but if they take this Minnesota team too lightly, they could get bounced.