And just like that, after the NHL spoils us with six-plus hours of games from coast to coast every night for two weeks, including 16 overtime games, we are cold-turkey jolted into two days without games.
And then, just two games per night at most.
This is the harsh comedown for the addict to a busy NHL season. The first two rounds were awesome in their own weird way, with tons of one-goal games and overtimes despite two sweeps and two more near-sweeps.
Tonight the engine starts back up again with the two Western Conference series, continuing the process of narrowing down the teams and the number of games left before the weather gets really warm and we start worrying about teenagers, expansion draft and free agency rules.
Below are polls for the second round, which you can discuss away in comments. But first, here are results from our first-round polls:
Smurfs vs. Canadiens
- Poll winner: Canadiens, 75% (top pick: Habs in 6 games, 44%)
- Reality: Something awful. (Redpants in six)
Bruins vs. Senators
- Poll winner: Bruins, 65% (top pick: Bruins in 6 games, 30%)
- Reality: Senators pull it out in six.
Capitals vs. Leafs
- Poll winner: Caps, 96%(!) (top pick: Caps in 5, 66%)
- Reality: Caps win in six.
Penguins vs. Blue Jackets
- Poll winner: Pens, 61% (top pick: Pens in 6, 30%)
- Reality: Boo. Pens in five.
So congratulations to everyone who got the two easy series right.
And now for our Western polls from round one...trick question! It was never posted. Stuff’s been busy. Or we fell asleep. But the Western series were cool, even the sweep.
Second Round Polls
Rangers vs. Senators
Start with a really interesting undercard. The Sens are the home team again, by virtue of the Metro being too strong to fit all of its good teams in the non-wild card sector.
The Sens were widely expected to lose to the Bruins, but Erik Karlsson is a magician (even with a broken foot) and Bobby Ryan woke up. Just like the first round, Vegas is betting against the Sens, with the masses flocking toward Broadway and Henrik Lundqvist.
Random prediction: NY Post columns alternately fawn over, then call too old, Lundqvist depending on the game while completely misreading what else happens on the ice.
Senators vs. Rangers 2017: Who wins?
This poll is closed
Senators in 7
Senators in 6
Senators in 5
Senators in 4 (yay!)
Smurfs in 4
Rags in 5
Redpants in 6
Ex-Oilers in 7
- 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
Capitals vs. Penguins
Then we move on to the widely anointed Pre-Stanley Cup Final Pre-Final, the second-round matchup between honestly the league’s two scariest teams. If the Penguins were fully healthy — Kris Letang is out for the season and others are hobbled -- this would be epic might vs. might, the President’s Trophy-winning Capitals vs. the Stanley Cup-defending champion Penguins.
Instead, expectations for the Pens are a little reduced, while the Capitals have suffered a similar dent to their reputation after struggling against the upstart 8-seed Leafs in the first round.
But we’ve seen that story before. (Alas, we’ve seen it all too closely with the Isles recently having hard-fought first-round losses against both of these teams.) By several measures this should be the Capitals’ series, and indeed their year. But the Penguins’ championship rep, the Capitals’ own playoff demons, and sure go ahead and throw a “President’s Cup curse” in there, all cast this one as more of a toss-up than the numbers would otherwise suggest.
Suffice to say, this could live up to the hype as the best series of this year’s postseason.
Random Prediction: Shattenkirk realizes playing third-pair + offensive specialist on a winning team is okay after all.
Capitals vs. Penguins 2017: Who wins?
This poll is closed
Capitals in 7: Everything is wrong.
Capitals in 6: Everything is wrong.
Capitals in 5: Everything is wrong.
Capitals in 4: Everything is wrong.
Penguins in 4: Everything is still wrong.
Penguins in 5: Everything is still wrong.
Penguins in 6: Everything is still wrong.
Penguins in 7: Everything is still wrong.
- 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
Now to the previously dominant Western Conference, where the Kings and Blackhawks have taken the majority of the Cups since 2010, yet have each fallen flat the last couple of years.
So we are left with some curious survivors:
After Nashville steamrolled the Hawks in the first round, it might surprise you to realize St. Louis is the home team here. Yes, they had the better regular season record, pushing the Preds to the wild card position, where Nashville smoked one of its historic demons.
Yet the Blues survived a scary first-round matchup with the Wild by collapsing-and-praying with Jake Allen standing on his head, and being “opportunistic” with their own offensive chances while being outplayed more often than not.
The Predators are fast and scary. The Blues are balanced, big and dull. The two teams swapped positions for much of the season, including into the final weeks.
In no way would I bet on the Blues here (I’m a fan of the Isles and Blues, thus I expect full-on disaster at every turn), but the teams have been close enough where standout performances or implosions by either goalie could easily turn it.
Random prediction: Deadspin captures social media clip of Blues fan saying something racist about P.K. Subban.
Blues vs. Predators 2017: Who wins?
This poll is closed
Blues in 7
Blues in 6
Blues in 5
Blues in 4
Predators in 7
Predators in 6
Predators in 5
Predators in 4
- 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
Thank Bossy we have an all-West coast(ish) series here, thus ensuring a decent time spread for Western games all the way through this round. None of this “oh, this game starts at 6, and the other concurrent one starts at 6:30” crap like in the East.
This should be crazy: The Ducks are always “a presence” in the playoffs, even though they’ve generally disappointed every year since their ‘07 Cup. They’ve changed coaches (again) and approaches (again) but still have Getzlaf and Perry. They swept the Flames, yet every game was close.
Vegas favors them (barely) to win this series and to make the final, but...I got nothing.
The Oilers have Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot, period. That seems to be enough to put any series in question. As an up-and-coming (read: they have McDavid) team, they’ve already broken the “young upstart scares favored opponent but still loses in first round” script that the Leafs followed to a “t.”
Random prediction: Kesler breaks McDavid’s hand, suspension debate ensues.
Ducks vs. Oilers 2017: Who wins?
This poll is closed
Ducks in 7
Ducks in 6
Ducks in 5
Ducks in 4
Oilers in 4
Oilers in 5
Oilers in 6
Oilers in 7
- 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
Questions for LHH Readers
That’s enough of all that. Let us know your thoughts on each series below, and consider this tonight’s game-watching thread.
On that note: Do y’all want a discussion thread for each night of the playoffs? Sometimes they get lots of comments and discussion, sometimes it’s crickets. (We understand; it hurts to watch the playoffs sometimes.)
Either way, let us know.