All four series in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway, and even though the Chicago Blackhawks currently have a 2-0 series lead on the Minnesota Wild, nearly every game has been tight and exciting and each series is full of storylines.
As we get ready to see the Anaheim Ducks try to rebound from their Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and watch the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers shift their series to Madison Square Garden, here are some of the things I'm thinking about.
THE HABS COULD RUE GAME 2
Back when I was coaching the Kings in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, we took Game 1 in Montreal but we lost Game 2 because of a famous penalty given to Marty McSorley because of an illegal stick late in the third period. I'll tell you, I went out to the press after that game and said the exact same things the Montreal Canadiens players were saying after Game 2 against the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
"We came here to get a split. We got a split. Now we're going home with home-ice advantage."
I said those words, but I knew in my gut that we had blown a golden opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. I guarantee you that Canadiens coach Michel Therrien knows they blew a golden opportunity to beat the Bruins. Montreal didn't deserve to win Game 1, but it did in double overtime. In Game 2 the Canadiens were probably the better team and had a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes left in the game. Boston had absolutely nothing going on. They had the Bruins on the ropes and could have taken a 2-0 lead back to Montreal, and they couldn't do it.
Just like me sitting out in front of the media saying, "We came here for a split, so we're happy," those people are lying. They know they had a golden opportunity to take control of that series.
THE DUCKS WILL BE FINE
If the Kings have proven anything to us, it's that we can never have a reason to doubt them. With this current group Los Angeles has won the Stanley Cup, and just this past round it made a historic comeback against the San Jose Sharks. I don't think we can have any question of the Kings' character, and on Saturday night we saw evidence of that again when they won a game they probably shouldn't have. I don't think anyone who saw that game would say the Ducks weren't the better team. It's a tribute to the Kings' character that they stuck it out, weathered the storm and stole a game they didn't deserve.
That kind of a loss could be devastating for the Ducks, who were just seven seconds away from taking a 1-0 series lead and not only lost the game, but wasted a great performance by Jonas Hiller in his first start of the postseason. I don't think it will be though. The Ducks did take a tough loss, but they've got guys who have won in that dressing room. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Francois Beauchemin were all on that 2007 team that won the Cup in Anaheim, and there is plenty of other experience throughout the lineup. I think they have the leadership to right the ship and even this series in Game 2.
This is a team full of players that have been through it. I know coach Bruce Boudreau hasn't won the Stanley Cup, but he's won as a coach in the ECHL and the American Hockey League, and winning is winning. I know from my experience, winning a Memorial Cup was just as tough for me as winning at the American League, which was just as tough as reaching the Cup Final in 1993. Boudreau has been there before and he'll know what to do. Losing Game 1 the way Anaheim did is tough, but I don't foresee any panic.
POWER OUTAGE IN THE EAST
The Rangers' current power play struggles in these playoffs are no secret. New York has gone 0-for-29 with the extra man since scoring on a solid three of eight opportunities over the first two games of the postseason. Typically that would spell doom, though the Bruins did win the Cup in 2011 with a sub-par power play, but I don't think the Rangers need to regain their power-play form to get by the Penguins.
The Penguins played a strong game Sunday night when they desperately needed it, and they did capitalize on the power play late in the third, but this was close right until Evgeni Malkin's empty-netter gave Pittsburgh a three-goal lead. The Penguins still haven't distinguished themselves like we expect them to. They're a team that's not great with a great lineup, but the big issue for the Pens is their power play isn't really going so great either at the moment. If Pittsburgh can't get going with its power play to take advantage of the Rangers' special teams struggles, that makes this a 5-on-5 series, and I think the Rangers will win that handily.
Until Sunday night, the Penguins really looked out of sync. They haven't been moving the puck particularly well, they haven't been checking particularly well and their power play hasn't been nearly as scary as it was during the regular season when it led the League. If Pittsburgh gets stuck in a 5-on-5 series with a team that plays as well at even strength as the Rangers do, it might not be pretty. If Pittsburgh's power play doesn't get going in a big way, even if New York's power play remains terrible, I think it could set the Rangers up nicely. The Penguins need a power play to win. The Rangers don't.
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