Two of the NHL's most valuable players, goalie Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and defenseman Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, have guided their teams to the Eastern Conference Second Round, where they will face each other for the second time ever in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers defeated the Senators in seven games in 2012.
[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Senators series coverage]
According to the numbers, the outcome of this series could be decided once again by either Lundqvist or Karlsson, who were brilliant in the first round.
Here are five interesting stats about this series:
1. Derick Brassard vs. Mika Zibanejad
On July 18, 2016, the Rangers traded Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators for Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. After the first round of the playoffs, each player is leading his team in scoring.
Brassard had eight points (two goals, six assists) in six games against the Boston Bruins, and his linemate Bobby Ryan had four goals and three assists in six games. This is a big improvement from the regular season, when Brassard had 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 81 games, which ranked fifth on the Senators, and Ryan had 13 goals and 12 assists in 62 games, which ranked 10th.
Video: OTT@BOS, Gm3: Brassard slams home Ryan's nice dish
Zibanejad has enjoyed a similar improvement. In the regular season, he finished 10th on the Rangers with 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 56 games, but he's leading them in the playoffs with four points (one goal, three assists) in six games against the Montreal Canadiens.
Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Zibanejad buries shot for OT win
2. Erik Karlsson
Karlsson ranked fourth in the regular season with an average of 26:50 minutes per game, and first in the opening round of the playoffs with 30:23.
The Senators scored 11 goals when Karlsson was on the ice in the first round, which trails Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins (12).
Karlsson was named as a finalist for the Norris Trophy for the third consecutive season and for the fourth time in the past six seasons. He won the award in 2011-12 and 2014-15.
Video: OTT@BOS, GM 4: Ryan nets Karlsson's perfect pass
3. Too many shots against
With respect to shot-based metrics, the Rangers and the Senators were the only teams who finished in the bottom-third of the League in the regular season to qualify for the playoffs.
The Rangers were outshot 3,823-3,520 in even-strength shot attempts for an SAT of minus-303 that ranked last among playoff teams, and 27th in the NHL. The Senators ranked second-last among playoff teams, and 23rd in the League, with an SAT of minus-202.
4. Whatever it takes
The Senators and the Rangers have been successful without spending the bulk of their games in the offensive zone and/or in possession of the puck but have a greater reliance on playing a physically effective game.
The Senators ranked fourth in the regular season with 2,114 hits, and third with 1,352 blocked shots. In the playoffs, the Rangers rank first with 285 hits, and their 133 blocked shots were second to the San Jose Sharks (134).
Rangers forward Jesper Fast is a role player capable of making a difference in this series. Fast had three points (two goals, one assist) in six games against the Canadiens, tied defenseman Nick Holden for the Rangers lead with 24 hits, and led their forwards with 2:27 shorthanded minutes per game.
Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Fast buries Zibanejad's feed for SHG
5. Henrik Lundqvist
Another way for teams to be successful without dominating the shot clock is with an outstanding performance from the goaltender.
Lundqvist won the battle of the goalies against Carey Price in the first round and had his best save percentage in any six-game stretch of the season (.947).
That level of play wouldn't have been unusual in his prime, but Lundqvist had his first below-average season of his career, which ended with an .886 save percentage over the final six games of the regular season.
Will Lundqvist stay hot against the Senators? After his best six-game stretch of the regular season, which was his .939 save percentage from Nov. 1-15, his save percentage dropped to .902 over the following six games.
Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Lundqvist uses pad for clutch save