2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Recap and Second Round Preview

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Oooovertime was the theme in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs as an NHL-record 18 of 42 games played went to sudden-death.

While the bonus coverage was great for fans, it likely took years off the lives of players and coaches which battled into the wee hours long after regulation expired, especially the Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs. The series saw five-of-six games go the extra session, tying an NHL record for overtime games in a single series.

The first round is in the books and it certainly wasn’t lacking in the upset department as the New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and exciting, young Edmonton Oilers played spoiler as half the series produced upsets.

The Predators swept a playoff series for the first time in franchise history, which was fitting as its opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, were swept for the first time in its franchise history, dating all the way back to 1926.

Here’s a recap of all eight first-round playoff series with an eye toward each of the second-round battles:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

New York Rangers def. Montreal Canadiens to win series 4-2

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers celebrates with teammate Ryan McDonagh #27 after defeating the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In the playoffs, all seeds go out the window.

The mighty Montreal Canadiens, the top team in the Atlantic Division, was awarded one of the top perches in the East, but once the puck drops in the Stanley Cup Playoffs it’s a brand new game.

The Rangers went into the lion’s den and pulled out a series-opening 2-1 triumph in Montreal thanks to Rick Nash’s game-winner, but the Canadiens stormed back and took each of the next two games to take a 2-1 series lead. Just when all seemed lost after Tomas Plekanec’s game-tying goal with 17 seconds left in the third set up Alexander Radulov for the overtime game-winner in Game 2, New York dug down deep to take each of the next three games in succession to take the series in six.

Henrik Lundqvist, whom many had written off at 35 years of age, was vintage Hank as “The King” was simply stellar in between the pipes yielding a total of 11 goals in the six-game set. His 31-save shutout in Game 1 set the tone.

Ottawa Senators def. Boston Bruins to win series 4-2

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

One of the hottest teams entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Senators continued to dictate play with a strong puck-possession game to send the Bruins home early in six games.

Erik Karlsson, who reportedly has been skating with two hairline fracture in his foot, continues to be the best-kept secrets outside the Nation’s Capital while Craig Anderson’s remarkable story is still being written in Ottawa.

The Senators dropped the first game at home, 2-1, before coming back to win each of the next three thanks to Bobby Ryan, who netted not one, but two game-winning goals. Ryan, who had just 13 goals and 25 points the entire regular season, was a player in the playoffs with four goals and seven points in the series.

All six games in the series were decided by one goal, including Clarke MacArthur’s overtime game-winner which clinched the series on Sunday.

With no shortage of stories and players to root for, the Senators may be Canada’s best bet to hoist the cup since the Montreal Canadiens last won it all in 1993.

Washington Capitals def. Toronto Maple Leafs to win series 4-2

The kids are alright.

Washington Capitals players celebrate after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While it didn’t produce the Leafs’ first playoff series win since 2002-03, the future is certainly bright in Toronto.

The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, the top team in the league during the regular season with 118 points and its No. 1 defense with a league-low 177 goals allowed, proved too much for Toronto, which lined up an incredible six rookies in the playoffs (Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Connor Brown, Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, Nikita Zaitsev).

One of the most memorable series in recent history, five of the six games went to overtime which tied an NHL record for a single series. All six games played were decided by one goal.

But in the end, experience trumped youthful exuberance as Tom Wilson, Marcus Johansson and the ever playoff-savvy Justin Williams delivered game-winning goals in overtime.

The NHL trade deadline acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk was a difference-maker for the Capitals, which have qualified for the playoffs 26 times in its 42-year history. Now, with the Leafs out of the way, Washington has confidence and can focus on bringing home its first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Pittsburgh Penguins def. Columbus Blue Jackets to win series 4-1

Pittsburgh Penguins Center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his goal with the bench in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 20, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This was supposed to be the Blue Jackets’ season but the playoffs were anything but.

Backed by the stellar play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus won a franchise-best 50 games during the regular season but the success did not transfer into the post-season as the Pittsburgh Penguins unleashed an offensive onslaught, bombarding Bobrovsky with 21 goals in a series that was over as soon as it started.

The top-ranked offense during the regular season with an NHL-best 278 goals-for, the Penguins continued to put the biscuit in the basket behind Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, getting sound secondary scoring from the likes of Bryan Rust (four goals), Scott Wilson, Patric Hornqvist and surprising rookie Jake Guentzel, who scored five goals in the series including a hat trick in Game 3’s 5-4 victory in overtime.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway, however, was the return to form of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Pittsburgh’s willingness to go back to him in light of Matt Murray’s 2016 playoff success.

The Penguins, the defending National Hockey League Stanley Cup Champions, remain the team to beat.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Nashville Predators def. Chicago Blackhawks to sweep series 4-0

Goalie Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammate P.K.Subban #76 after a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

It’s a brave new world. No one outside of Smashville gave the Preds a puncher’s chance against the mighty Blackhawks but that’s exactly what happened.

The top team in the West with a conference-high 109 points had absolutely nothing against the defensive-minded Predators which displayed a strong puck-possession game of keep away from the likes of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne was simply spectacular turning aside an astounding 113-of-116 shots while shutting out Chicago completely in Games 1 and 2. Rinne held the Blackhawks off the board for the first 141:04 of the series while “The Jofa Line” of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Victor Arvidsson dictated play. The trio combined for five goals and 10 assists in a playoff series that handed Nashville its first sweep in playoff history.

Center Mike Fisher continues to be one of the best two-way players in the game and stout defense from Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm rival the best top two defensive pairings in the league. Nashville will continue to be a tough out in playoff contention.

St. Louis Blues def. Minnesota Wild to win series 4-1

Members of the St. Louis Blues celebrate the game-winning goal by teammate Magnus Paajarvi in Game 5 of the Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center on April 14, 2017 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Blues defeated the Wild 4-3 in overtime to win the series 4-1. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Revenge is a dish best served cold, preferably on ice and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Mike Yeo was handed the keys while Bruce Boudreau was shown the door as the Blues sent the Wild packing in a quick playoff series that was decided in five out west.

Yeo, the head coach of the Minnesota Wild from 2011-16, took the reigns as head coach of the Blues in February and instantly injected life into a team that quietly entered the playoff race on a 7-1-2 tear in its last 10.

Still, the results have to be considered a surprising one for a St. Louis franchise still in search of its first Stanley Cup since its inception in 1967. Goaltender Jake Allen was solid if not spectacular yielding just eight goals on 182 shots. Allen’s 51-save performance in the team’s 2-1 overtime victory in Game 1 set the tone for the series.

Role players —  household names to be sure — namely Game 1 hero Joel Edmundson, Game 5 hero Magnus Paajarvi as well as Vladimir Sobotka, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko and Alexander Steen did their best as actors in a supporting role while Vladimir Tarasenko and a healthy Paul Stastny also got in on the action.

Anaheim Ducks def. Calgary Flames to sweep series 4-0

The Anaheim Ducks move on to the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs after sweeping the Calgary Flames on April 19, 2017 at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Clint Trahan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It was quick — and for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim — relatively painless.

The Ducks are seemingly always in the mix. Entering the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on an 8-0-2 run over its last 10, Anaheim bowled over the Flames in four in another series that was over as soon as it started.

Jakob Silfverberg, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry delivered the game-winners in each of the first three games decided by one goal, respectively, while a healthy John Gibson, aside from a hiccup in Game 3, returned to form for an Anaheim team that is built to go deep in the playoffs.

Even the loss of quarterback Cam Fowler on defense after his knee-on-knee hit on April 4 was shrugged off thanks to the Shea Theodore coming out party. Those on the east coast may not be totally familiar with his play but Rickard Rakell, who led the team in scoring with 33 goals during the season, continues to be one of the NHL’s best-kept secrets with two goals and five points in the series.

With Fowler back skating and expected to make his playoff debut in the second round, the Ducks are a favorite out west, poised to seize its first Stanley Cup since 2006-07.

Edmonton Oilers def. San Jose Sharks to win series 4-2

The Edmonton Oilers celebrate their victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on April 20, 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Well, to say this was upset would be an understatement.

Out with the old and in with the new was the theme for this series as the Oilers continued its resurgence, overcoming a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 by taking four-of-the-next-five games to win its first playoff series in 12 years.

After failing to even qualify for the post-season since the 2005-06 season, Edmonton is one of the best stories in the National Hockey League thanks to a young, exciting, fun-to-watch assembling of players highlighted by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Throw in a coming-into-his own forward in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, valuable role players in Milan Lucic, Zack Kassian and Patrick Maroon along with one of best rising young netminders in the league in Cam Talbot, the sky is the limit in Alberta.

Talbot posted back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3, rebounded from a forgettable performance in Game 4, and came back strong shutting down the defending Western Conference champion Sharks in the finals two games to secure the series.

Perhaps that is the Oilers biggest strength — too young, too naive to dwell on the past, only the ability to look toward the future.

LOOKING AHEAD

Welcome to the Elite Eight.

The Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs ensues beginning on Wednesday of this week with a host of intriguing match-ups on paper. Here’s a brief look at all of the second-round bouts with schedule and television broadcast information:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Thursday, April 27, 7pm: Rangers @ Senators | CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports

Saturday, April 29, 3pm: Rangers @ Senators | NBC, CBC, TVA Sports

Tuesday, May 2, 7pm: Senators @ Rangers | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Thursday, May 4, 7:30pm: Senators @ Rangers | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Saturday, May 6, TBD: Rangers @ Senators | TBD

*Tuesday, May 9, TBD: Senators @ Rangers | TBD

*Thursday, May 11, TBD: Rangers @ Senators | TBD

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Thursday, April 27, 7:30pm: Penguins @ Capitals | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports

Saturday, April 29, 8pm: Penguins @ Capitals | NBC, CBC, TVA Sports

Monday, May 1, 7:30pm: Capitals @ Penguins | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Wednesday, May 3, 7:30pm: Capitals @ Penguins | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Saturday, May 6, TBD: Penguins @ Capitals | TBD

*Monday, May 8, TBD: Capitals @ Penguins | TBD

*Wednesday, May 10, TBD: Penguins @ Capitals | TBD

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Wednesday, April 26, 8pm: Predators @ Blues | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Friday, April 28, 8pm: Predators @ Blues | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Sunday, April 30, 3pm: Blues @ Predators | NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports

Tuesday, May 2, 9:30pm: Blues @ Predators | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports

*Friday, May 5, TBD: Predators @ Blues | TBD

*Sunday, May 7, TBD: Blues @ Predators | TBD

*Tuesday, May 9, TBD: Predators @ Blues | TBD

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks

Wednesday, April 26, 10:30pm: Oilers @ Ducks | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports

Friday, April 28, 10:30pm: Oilers @ Ducks | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports

Sunday, April 30, 7pm: Ducks @ Oilers | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports

Wednesday, May 3, 10pm: Ducks @ Oilers | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports

*Friday, May 5, TBD: Oilers @ Ducks | TBD

*Sunday, May 7, TBD: Ducks @ Oilers | TBD

*Wednesday, May 10, TBD: Oilers @ Ducks | TBD

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

Main Image: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers and Leon Draisaitl #29 celebrate next to Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks after McDavid scored an empty net goal at the end of the third period against the San Jose Sharks during Game Six of the Western Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 22, 2017 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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