04/16/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
Eight teams start their quest for the Cup on Wednesday. The other 8 start on Thursday. So here's a look at those four series that start on Day 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
#1 NY Rangers vs #8 Pittsburgh (Season Series: NY 3 to 1)
A rematch of last seasons 2nd round pits the President Trophy winning Rangers against the struggling Penguins. In last seasons playoffs, it was the Penguins who were favored. But the Rangers battled back from being down 3 games to 1 to win the series. The Penguins come into the playoffs having won only once in their final six games. And worse news for the Pens is they will be without Norris Trophy candidate, defenseman Kris Letang. Pittsburgh may also be without two other defensemen in Christian Ehrhoff and Derrick Pouliot, who both may not be ready for Game 1. The news on the injury front is better for the Rangers, as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist returned from injury to win 6 of his final 7 starts. The Rangers also won 6 of their final 7 regular season games. New York won 3 of the 4 regular season meetings, with the Penguins only win coming in a shootout. The Rangers outscored the Penguins 16 to 8 in those four games. New York also led the NHL in goal differential, finishing the regular season at +60. The determining factor of this series could be can Pittsburgh's depleted defense core keep the net area clear for Marc-Andre Fleury, who led the NHL this season with 10 shutouts. The Rangers Rick Nash scored a career high 42 goals this season, and led the Rangers with 7 points (4G/3A) in the four games versus Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby led the Penguins with 84 points (28G/56A) and finished 3rd in the NHL in scoring. These teams have met 5 times in the playoffs, with Pittsburgh winning 4 of the 5 playoff series.
#3 Tampa Bay vs #6 Detroit (Season Series: Tampa Bay 3 to 1)
Detroit is in the playoffs for the 24th straight season, and one of the guys who was a part of when the streak started, is now the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steve Yzerman will be trying to beat his former team in this opening round matchup. Tampa Bay set franchise records for points, wins, and home victories this season, and also led the league in average goals per game. The Lightning are led by Steven Stamkos, who finished second in the league in goal scoring, netting 43 goals. Tyler Johnson matched Stamkos with 72 points (29G/43A) to tie for the team lead in scoring. The Red Wings are led by the duo of Henrik Zetterberg (66 points) and Pavel Datsyuk (65 points). Tampa Bay won 3 of the 4 regular season meetings, led by Stamkos 4 goals. Detroit was led by Gustav Nyquist, who netted 6 points (2G/4A) in those four games. The biggest news heading into this series was Detroit's decision to start rookie Petr Mrazek in goal over Jimmy Howard. But Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop will also be making his first post season appearance as well. Detroit's power play finished 2nd in the regular season in conversion rate.
#2 St. Louis vs #6 Minnesota (Season Series: Minnesota 2 St. Louis 2)
Strong special teams will be on display in this opening round matchup. Minnesota has the NHL's top penalty killing unit, while St. Louis finished 4th best on the power play. The Wild gained 59 of their 100 points after January 15th, sparked by the play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who won 27 of his 38 starts after being acquired in a trade with Arizona. St. Louis will counter with a hot goalie of their own who's getting his first playoff experience as well. Rookie Jake Allen won 5 of his final starts to get the nod over Brian Elliott. Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues in goals (37) and total points (73) on the regular season, while Zach Parise led the Wild in both categories with 33 goals and 62 points. Tarasenko led the Blues with 5 points (3G/2A) in the four regular season games versus Minnesota. Justin Fontaine (1G/3A) and Charlie Coyle (4A) led the Wild in points against the Blues, while Parise scored 3 goals in the series. Dubnyk won 2 of his 3 starts versus St. Louis, while Allen won his only start against the Wild. The special teams edge may go to the Blues though, as St. Louis also had the NHL's 8th best penalty kill, while the Wild finished 27th on the power play.
#1 Anaheim vs #7 Winnipeg (Season Series: Anaheim 3 to 0)
The Jets are in the playoffs for the first time in Winnipeg. Well kind of. This version of the Jets are in the post season for the first time since returning to Winnipeg in 2011, but this will be the first time a playoff game will be played in Winnipeg since 1996, when the original version of the Jets moved to Phoenix. Anaheim swept the season series, but one win came in overtime and another in a shootout. Frederik Andersen won all 3 starts in goal against the Jets, while Ondrej Pavelec lost his two starts versus the Ducks. Winnipeg is led by Andrew Ladd who netted 62 regular season points (24G/38A) and Blake Wheeler who led the team in goal scoring with 26, and finished one point behind Ladd with 61. The Jets may also get another offensive boost, as Mathieu Perreault, who had 41 points (18G/23A) in 62 games, may be able to play for the first time since being injured in February. Anaheim is led by Ryan Getzlaf's 70 points (25G/45A) and Corey Perry's 33 goals. Winnipeg was the NHL's most penalized team during the regular season, and also led the league in shorthanded goals.
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