2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Recap and Conference Finals Preview

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The second round is in the books. The Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators dispatched the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues in six games, respectively, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks each went the distance in memorable seven-game series that brought the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers seasons to an abrupt halt.

The conference finals are set. Ottawa will take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the east, while Smashville sets its sights on squashing the Ducks out west.

But before we breakdown the conference final match-ups, let’s take a look back at the road to the 2017 Stanley Cup Championships:

Eastern Conference

Ottawa Senators def. New York Rangers to win series 4-2

Ottawa is not only the nation’s capital, it is Canada’s last hope in bringing its 24-year cup drought to an end this season.

Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with his teammates after defeating the New York Rangers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The quintessential definition of a team, the New York Rangers found out the hard way how deep the Senators are. The “comeback kids,” which held a lead in the series for just 13:10 heading into its convincing, series-clincher in Game 6, erased deficit after deficit en route to solving the Blueshirts in six.

Team captain Erik Karlsson, who is playing through multiple fractures in his foot, sets the example then set the tone in the series with his third-period game-winner in Game 1 before Jean-Gabriel Pageau put the team on his back with his four-goal effort in Game 2. The Rangers evened the series with wins in Games 3 and 4, but did not recover after Kyle Turris’ overtime winner in Game 5.

The team is rallying behind netminder Craig Anderson, whose wife is battling a rare form of cancer. Any team still alive in the playoff picture to this point has certainly carved out its place in the race, but a team playing for purpose, a team rallying behind a cause, is a dangerous opponent. Ottawa is playing inspired hockey at the moment and will continue to be a tough out in the playoffs.

The second-round triumph, which sends the Senators back to the conference finals for just the third time in franchise history and the first time since 2007, Ottawa remains on target to become the first Canadian team since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh Penguins def. Washington Capitals to win series 4-3

Pens vs. Caps, Sid vs. Ovi — fans got their fill and then some in a sensational series that went the distance in the east.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates by hoisting the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins showed why they remain the team to be beat while the Washington Capitals added yet another disappointing chapter to its legacy in a memorable playoff series that won’t soon be forgotten.

Pittsburgh improved to 4-0 against Washington, all-time, in Game 7 — something Ovechkin and Capitals’ fans would like to forget. The Penguins are also an incredible 6-0, all-time, on the road in Game 7’s… Let that sink in.

With 29 saves in the series clincher, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury continued to write his comeback story becoming the first goalie in franchise history to post a shutout in a Game 7 since Ken Wreggett accomplished the feat in 1995. Meanwhile, rookie Jake Guentzel surpassed Jaromir Jagr for the most points by a rookie in a single post-season with 14.

Kudos to Penguins’ coach Mike Sullivan. Lost in all the starpower of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, the Massachusetts native has done an extraordinary job of managing a team full of personality, especially in light of injuries to Kris Letang and 2016 playoff hero Matt Murray.

The key to a repeat is not “Sid the Kid” or “Phil the Thrill,” but rather the continued resurgence of “The Flower” in between the pipes and under-the-radar contributions from valuable role players like Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz.

First Round Recap and Second Round Preview

Western Conference

Nashville Predators def. St. Louis Blues to win series 4-2

Welcome to “Smashville.”

Nashville Predators defensemen Ryan Ellis (4) and Roman Josi (59) join goalie Pekka Rinne (35) to celebrate at the conclusion of Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, held on May 7, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Top to bottom, the most complete team still standing in the playoff picture, Nashville is epitome of unselfishness and it all starts with team captain Mike Fisher.

The Predators booked its first trip to the conference finals in franchise history with a systematic dismantling of the St. Louis Blues in six games and Nashville is thirsty for more.

Behind the likes of household names Pekka Rinne, Calle Jarnkrok, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, the Predators won its ninth straight game at home at Bridgestone Arena, rallying an atypical hockey community that could get used to this.

”It’s a big step for the franchise,” Josi said. ”This is such a great city, such a great hockey city, I think people finally recognize that. Our fans are unbelievable.”

After amassing 18 goals and 42 points during the regular season, Fisher did not register a single point in Nashville’s second round bout. All Carrie Underwood’s husband did do is amass 18 hits and seven blocked shots and win 59% of his face-offs while averaging nearly 17 minutes of ice time. One of the NHL’s best-kept secrets, Fisher’s grunt work opens it up for Nashville’s more offensively talented players such as to Ryan Johansen, James Neal and P.K. Subban to excel.

The result is an unselfish, team-first squad built for playoff success so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Anaheim Ducks def. Edmonton Oilers to win series 4-3

As much as the hockey world would have liked to see Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers skate on, experience prevailed over youthful exuberance in a seven-game series that should pay dividends down the line for one of the most exciting teams in the NHL.

Anaheim Ducks celebrate the go-ahead goal in the third period of Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs played against the Edmonton Oilers, on May 10, 2017, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Competing in a Game 7 on home ice for the fifth consecutive season, Nick Ritchie and Andrew Cogliano found the back of the net while John Gibson stood tall with 23 saves as the Ducks slipped past the Oilers by the slimmest of margins in a series that went to the brink before elimination.

Team captain Ryan Getzlaf and valuable role players Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg and face-off centerman extraordinaire Antione Vermette showed real moxie while its steady six of blueliners — Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Sami Vatanen, Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore continued to impress turning back wave after wave of Oilers’ offense. Considering 12-year NHL veteran Kevin Bieksa was a healthy scratch for all seven games of the series, the Ducks’ depth on defense is truly one to marvel.

For the Ducks, the triumph exorcises demons after falling short in each of its last four Game 7’s. The only team in NHL history to hoist the cup from the state of California, it reaches the conference finals for the fifth time in franchise history looking to capture its second Stanley Cup and first since 2007 when it defeated the Senators in five games. With Ottawa alive and well in the east, a rematch is a distinct possibility.

For the Oilers — and the Canadian Pacific Northwest — it hurts. Edmonton qualified for the post-season for the first time in 12 years, won a playoff series for the first time since 2005-06, but it still hurts. But the lessons learned will make McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Cam Talbot better players in the long run. A tough lesson to learn to be sure, but to be so close and fall short will pay dividends down the line for this up-and-coming collection of players.

Looking Ahead

Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Series Schedule

Game 1
Sat, May 13
Game 2
Mon, May 15
Game 3
Wed, May 17
Game 4
Fri, May 19
Game 5*
Sun, May 21
Game 6*
Tue, May 23
Game 7*
Thu, May 25

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks Series Schedule

Game 1
Fri, May 12
Game 2
Sun, May 14
Game 3
Tue, May 16
Game 4
Thu, May 18
Game 5*
Sat, May 20
Game 6*
Mon, May 22
Game 7*
Wed, May 24

* if necessary

Main Image: SAN JOSE, CA – JUNE 12: The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate after their 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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