Great eight: Remaining NHL playoff teams showcase intense rivalries

04/30/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Eight teams have been eliminated and 8 in remain in the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup. Let's take a look at the four series coming up in the quarterfinal round of the 2015 NHL Playoffs.
Eastern Conference: NY Rangers vs. Washington
How They Got Here: Rangers defeated Pittsburgh 4 to 1; Capitals defeated NY Islanders 4 to 3

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If familiarity breeds contempt, the Rangers and the Capitals should have a mighty hatred for each other. For the 4th time in the past 5 seasons, and for the 5th time in the past 7 seasons, these two teams will meet in the playoffs. The Rangers gave up 7 goals against versus Pittsburgh in the opening round, and held the Penguins to 1 goal in each of the final 3 games. All five games in the Rangers/Penguins series were one goal games with the final two going to overtime. The Capitals defeated the Islanders in a very physical opening round series. 4 of those 7 games were decided by one goal, with the teams splitting two overtime games. Nicklas Backstrom led the Capitals with 6 points in the opening round (3G/3A) and Alex Ovechkin, who netted 5 points (2G/3A). The Rangers were led by Derick Brassard (3G/1A), Rick Nash (1G/3A) and Ryan McDonagh (1G/3A), who netted 4 points each. The goaltenders for these two teams had strong first round performances as well. Henrik Lundqvist's 1.53 goals against average was the best of all goaltenders who played in 4 or more games in the opening round, while Braden Holtby's 1.63 mark was second best. Holtby leads all playoff remaining playoff goalies with a .943 save percentage, while Lundqvist comes in with a .939 save percentage. The injury news is mixed for the Rangers...they'll be without top line forward Mats Zucarello but will be getting defenseman Kevin Klein back from injury. Both teams power play percentage in the first round was fairly equal...Washington was 2 for 13 against the Islanders while the Rangers were 3 for 20 versus Pittsburgh. Both teams penalty kill was strong as well, the Rangers gave up 2 goals to the Penguins on 13 chances, while the Capitals were perfect against the Islanders, not giving up a power play goal in 14 chances. The Rangers won 3 of the 4 regular season matchups between these teams. The last 2 playoff series between these teams went to 7 games, with the Rangers winning both times.
Western Conference: Anaheim vs. Calgary
How They Got Here: Anaheim defeated Winnipeg 4 to 0; Calgary defeated Vancouver 4 to 2
The Calgary Flames first round playoff series win over Vancouver was their first playoff series win since 2004. To win this series, they'll need to win in Anaheim again, which hasn't happened since the 2006 playoffs. The Flames have won once in 23 games played in Anaheim since 2004. Perhaps a way to win for the Flames is to let the Ducks have the lead after 2 periods, since the Ducks came back after trailing going into the 3rd period in the first 3 games of their series versus the Jets. But the Flames came back after trailing going into the 3rd period twice in their series win over Vancouver. That shouldn't come as a surprise though, as Anaheim led the NHL in the regular season with 12 wins when trailing after 2 periods, while Calgary was second with 10 come back wins. Jiri Hudler (3G/3A) and Johnny Gaudreau (2G/4A) led Calgary in scoring in the opening round with 6 points each. David Jones was right behind them with 5 points (2G/3A). The Ducks were led by Corey Perry's 7 points (3G/4A) and Jakob Silfverberg's 6 points (2G/4A). The goaltending matchup will pit Frederik Anderson against Jonas Hiller. Both keepers had identical 2.20 goals against averages in the opening round, but Hiller posted a 3 and 2 record, while Andersen was perfect in his 4 starts. Of course revenge may be a motivating factor for Hiller, who was in goal for Anaheim in the playoffs last season and had played the previous 7 seasons for the Ducks. The Flames won all 3 of their games on home ice, but were 1 and 2 on the road. With the opening round sweep, the Ducks have had the longest layoff of any remaining playoff team. But that layoff should provide good news, as forward Nate Thompson and back up goalie John Gibson are both expected to be back from injury. Both teams played very physical opening round series, with the Calgary/Vancouver being so physical that the NHL told both teams to "tone down the hatred". When these teams last met in the playoffs in 2006, it was Anaheim who won in 7 games.

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