If you're a fan of the Rangers, Capitals, Hurricanes or Devils, you're probably taking the same tack as the players. You're focused on Tuesday night's Game 7s, not thinking ahead to your potential second-round opponent. Maybe you're even spouting cliches about how you want to take it one shift at a time, or in your case, one handful of popcorn at a time while you watch the game.
But it doesn't hurt to take a sneak peek at what lies ahead for the second round, does it?
The Eastern Conference playoff picture is murkier than puddle water and won't be settled until the conclusion of both of Tuesday's games. The Rangers are trying to avoid wasting a 3-1 series lead in Washington (7 p.m. ET VERSUS, TSN, RDS, GCL) and the Devils and Hurricanes will conclude their back-and-forth series in New Jersey (7:30 p.m., VERSUS-JIP, TSN2, GCL).
There are four possible outcomes to Tuesday night's games, which means there are four possible sets of second-round matchups in the Eastern Conference. Let's take a look at each scenario and what it means for the next round:
Scenario 1: Capitals and Devils win
Some might say this is the most-likely scenario, since both teams have home-ice for their Game 7s. If Washington and New Jersey hold serve at home, then Boston would host Pittsburgh in the second round and the Capitals and Devils would open a second-round series in Washington.
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 New Jersey
The Bruins split the season series with the Penguins two games apiece with one of the Pens' wins coming in a shootout. The Capitals and Devils also split their four matchups, but both of New Jersey's wins came by way of the shootout.
Scenario 2: Capitals and Hurricanes win
This would leave us with an entirely different second round. As the top seed, Boston gets to face the lowest seed remaining, and in this scenario it's Carolina. That would set up a second-round showdown between Washington and Pittsburgh. Is there anyone out there against seeing Alex Ovechkin
battle Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
in a seven-game series? Probably Devils fans.
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 6 Carolina
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh
The Bruins dominated the Hurricanes, winning all four meetings by a combined score of 18-6. The Capitals took three of four from the Penguins, with their only loss in the season series coming in a shootout.
Scenario 3: Rangers and Devils win
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
has the ability to steal a game, and should he do so Tuesday night, the Rangers will head to Boston to face the top-seeded Bruins in the second round. A Rangers win coupled with a Devils win would result in New Jersey hosting Pittsburgh in Game 1.
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 7 N.Y. Rangers
No. 3 New Jersey vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh
The Bruins split the season series with the Rangers with all four contests being one-goal games. The Devils and Penguins also split their season series with each team winning three times.
Scenario 4: Rangers and Hurricanes win
Should the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds pull the upsets, the Rangers will head to Boston and the Penguins will have home-ice advantage in the second round against Carolina. In theory, fourth-seeded Pittsburgh can still have home-ice advantage through the East playoffs.
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 7 N.Y. Rangers
No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 6 Carolina
The Rangers and Bruins split their games. The Hurricanes and Penguins also split their four meetings.
Obviously the playoff contingencies are more complicated than instructions for putting together a bookshelf you bought from IKEA, but at least you have this handy chart for figuring things out. And when we're done building the second-round playoff matchups, there won't be any excess screws and bolts on your living room floor.
Contact Dave Lozo at firstname.lastname@example.org