This is a continuation of last week’s article recapping the first week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Two sweeps, three Game 7’s, and four division champs sent packing. What else you could ask for in an opening round of playoff hockey? Only three matchups featured a top seed advancing, as the underdogs ruled the day and busted every bracket imaginable in the opening fortnight of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This round represents the only time in major North American sports history that every division winner failed to advance to the second round, in a twist that only the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup could provide. Read up on all the excitement as the six remaining playoff series of the second week of the playoffs careened towards thrilling conclusions. 

The East

Toronto 3 – Boston 4

The Bruins returned to the Garden looking to command the series with one home ice with the series tied 2-2, while the Leafs attempted to bounce back from a poor showing in Game 4. Both netminders needed to prove their worth as they conceded a combined 10 goals in the previous contest, and the skaters of both teams looked to continue the success on offense.

It seems that the goalies took charge in Game 5 as the teams took to the ice in the third period with the score still 0-0. Both Rask and Andersen racked up just over 25 saves, as shots on goal dwindled in the opening frames. Auston Matthews broke the ice with his fourth goal of the series midway through the third, and Kasperi Kapanen caught the Bruins off guard with a second score just two minutes later. Rask headed to the bench, but final-minute goal by Krejci was not enough for Boston and the Leafs were poised to head back North wirh a 3-2 series lead.    

With the Bruins facing elimination in Toronto, desperation proved to be their greatest ally. That, and a Leafs penalty kill that had no luck stopping the Bruins PP. Morgan Rielly linked up with Nylander and Marleau to break the ice once again for the leafs, but the Boston man advantage led by Marchand, Pastrnak, and Bergeron put the Bruins up 2-1 at the end of the first period. Jake DeBrusk tacked on another for the lone score of the middle frame, and Auston Matthews’s fifth goal of the series wasn’t enough for Toronto to dispose of their postseason nemesis. Boston headed home with a 4-2 victory, peppering Matthews with 43 SOG to secure the win.

The Boston Bruins managed to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-game series (again)


For the third straight time these teams have tangled, Game 7 would be needed to decide who would advance to the second round. The first period began looking like a mirror image of Game 6, with both goaltenders making incredible saves, but it was Joakim Nordstrom who broke the ice in this one putting the home team up 1-0. Marcus Johansson scored unassisted and Boston headed to the break with a two-goal lead. John Tavares and the Leafs commanded the second period, but only managed a single goal and Boston took a 2-1 lead to the final period. Sean Kuraly successfully took the wind out of the Leafs’ already faltering sails with his first goal of the series, and the Bruins never looked back as they coasted to a 5-1 Game 7 victory. 

For the third straight time, Boston and Toronto take it to Game 7 and for the third straight time, Boston emerges victorious. While not as dramatic as the OT winner for Boston in 2013, this series pitted the rivals into an exciting matchup once again. Or, it would have been exciting if the Leafs hadn’t fallen completely flat in Game 7, with the sole representative of Canada left in the playoffs putting up little resistance as Boston coasted to a win. Toronto fails to make the second round once again (they haven’t been since 2004,) and Boston will head to a second series in back to back seasons. Toronto’s clock is ticking as this may be the last year that they can keep their young talent without the price tag going through the roof, and Boston’s playoff-experienced veterans once again prove their worth and resilience. Boston will take on a Columbus team that hasn’t played a game since April 16th and looks to use their experience to their advantage once again as the Blue Jackets play in their first-ever quarterfinal 


Game 1 in Boston will be at 6 p.m. CT on 4/25 on NBCSN

Game 2 in Boston will be at 7 p.m. CT on 4/27 on NBC

Game 3 in Columbus will be at 6 p.m. CT on 4/30 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Columbus will be at 6:30 p.m. CT on 5/2 on NBCSN

New York 4 – Pittsburgh 0

New York has the benefit of over a week’s while they waited for their opponent to be decided. This team has made it to the second round for the first time in 23 years, and the fans on Long Island couldn’t be happier. The Isles will face the Wild Card Hurricanes for a spot in the Easter Conference Final, and both teams have the grit and resiliency to make it there. While Coach Trotz was deprived of a chance to take on his former team, the Islanders should be excited to take on such a similar team to themselves in the quarterfinals. The Islanders will change arenas for the second round, moving from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center for the second and subsequent rounds. 


Game 1 in Brooklyn will be at 6 p.m. CT on 4/26 on NBCSN

Game 2 in Brooklyn will be at 2 p.m. CT on 4/28 on NBC

Game 3 in Raleigh will be at 6 p.m. CT on 5/1 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Raleigh will be at 6 p.m. CT on 5/3 on NBCSN

Washington 3 – Carolina 4

Game 4 wasted no time in getting the largest crowd in the NHL on their feet as Warren Foegele took the opening faceoff for an icebreaking goal just 17 seconds into the game, and the Hurricanes looked to even the series. Alex Ovechkin netted the equalizer midway through the second period on the lethal Washington power play, but Carolina’s Teravainen stole the show with his eventual game-winning goal with 30 seconds left in the second period. Mrazek built his wall and stopped every remaining Washington shot to rack up 31 saves and tie the series 2-2 as the Canes hit the road for Game 5. 

Home ice continued to be the friendliest of confines as the defending champs blew the doors off of their division rival in Game 5 on the back of one of the best power plays in the league. Nick Backstrom got his fourth and fifth goal of the series and by the time the final horn blew, the Caps prevailed 6-0 with three goals on the man advantage. The Washington forwards flexed their might as Backstrom and Ovechkin racked up four and three points respectively, and the Caps looked to close out the series in Raleigh.

Washington had quieted the ‘Caniacs’ in PNC Arena by the end of the first period as Ovechkin picked up his fourth goal of the series and led the game 2-1. It was Teuvo Teravainen who shifted the tide with the lone score of the middle frame with some help from Sebastian Aho. Facing elimination, the Canes headed to the third period tied 2-2. Carolina rose to the occasion and Staal, Williams, and Hamilton all beat out Holtby as Mrazek held down the Hurricane net. The Canes take Game 6 5-2, and force a Game 7 in the nation’s capital. 

Carolina knocked off the defending champs with a double-overtime victory in Game 7


With the home team winning convincingly in the first six games, and the Capitals netting two goals in the first half of the first period, it looked like the defending champs were poised to make another trip to the second round. That quickly changed as the infallible Caps PP conceded a shorty to Aho, and Washington’s work was immediately cut out for them. Kusnetsov extended the lead with an assist from Hagelin, but Teravainen’s third of the series cut the deficit back to one. With the last chance for the Hurricanes in the final period, Jordan Staal set the scene for an epic finish with his third goal of the series to set the score equal to the series: 3-3.

The teams headed to overtime. Both Mrazek and Holtby maintained a tight grip as shot after shot was turned away or covered up and the game dragged on into the night with both teams knotted 3-3. 20 extra minutes wasn’t enough and the teams headed to the locker rooms for a fourth intermission. It took another 10 minutes of play for a winner to finally be crowned. Brock McGinn snuck his way into Holtby’s crease to redirect a Justin Williams pass into the back of the net. The Canes escaped DC with the first road win by either team and the Capitals became the fourth and final division winner to be bounced out of the first round. 

The Hurricanes rode a wave of momentum into the playoffs, and didn’t let an 0-2 deficit in the series stand in the way of their first trip to the second round since 2009, and the defending champs were shown the exit in the first round for the first time since 2013. Carolina is set to meet up with an Islanders team that hasn’t played since April 16th. The Hurricanes have just the right stuff to tangle with the best of the league, and they share a similarity with their second-round opponents: These squads are built for the playoffs. This quarterfinal will be one to behold for two teams that have escaped the basement and have advanced to the final eight. 


Game 1 in Brooklyn will be at 6 p.m. CT on 4/26 on NBCSN

Game 2 in Brooklyn will be at 2 p.m. CT on 4/28 on NBC

Game 3 in Raleigh will be at 6 p.m. CT on 5/1 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Raleigh will be at 6 p.m. CT on 5/3 on NBCSN

Tampa Bay 0 – Columbus 4

Columbus gets a well-deserved break following their sweep of the President’s Trophy winners, but their opponent will not have the same luxury as the Bruins took their series to seven. After completing the sweep to lock up the first series win in franchise history, the Jackets are anxious to take on a perennial blue blood in Boston. It’s safe to say that the Blue Jackets are a team that no one wants to face right now, as they put the clamp on the NHL points leader and made mincemeat of a Vezina trophy finalist. Look for the playoff experience of Boston to collide with the freshman Jackets in an action-packed series that only the Stanley Cup Playoffs can provide.

 

Game 1 in Boston will be at 6 p.m. CT on 4/25 on NBCSN

Game 2 in Boston will be at 7 p.m. CT on 4/27 on NBC

Game 3 in Columbus will be at 6 p.m. CT on 4/30 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Columbus will be at 6:30 p.m. CT on 5/2 on NBCSN

The West

Nashville 2Dallas 4

After a backbreaking Game 4 defeat in Dallas, the Predators returned home with the series tied 2-2. After conceding four goals in the first period of Game 4, Pekka Rinne found himself on the bench in the playoffs once again in a sight all too familiar to Preds fans. Nashville needed to capitalize on their electric home crowd to swing the series back in the favor and let home ice do the heavy lifting, and Dallas looked to snuff out a Predators rally by silencing the crowd in Smashville. 

Nashville looked to have things back on track as Game 5 began, with the traditional catfish tossed on the ice and an early goal by playoff breakout player Rocco Grimaldi. Jason Dickinson stole the momentum back with the equalizing goal as the first period drew to a close. The Dallas top line squandered all doubts about this Stars team with a second period to remember, with Benn, Radulov, and Seguin combining for seven points in the period, as Dallas took a 4-2 lead into the final frame. Dickinson tacked on another score unassisted a quick two minutes into third period Dallas, and a late score from Turris wasn’t enough to start a Preds rally as the Stars put this one to bed and forced Nashville into an elimination scenario on the road. 

After Games 4 and 5 spiraled into a string of defensive miscues and net crashes, Game 6 returned the series to form and set up what this matchup was always purported to be: a battle of goaltending giants. With reigning Vezina trophy winner Pekka Rinne and Vezina trophy finalist Ben Bishop in the cages, it was no wonder that the first three games were all low-scoring, one-goal games. Both netminders saved their best performance for last as the final game of the series rested on the pads of the all-stars between the pipes.

The Dallas Stars celebrate eliminating Nashville in a double-overtime victory in Game 6


Game 6 set itself up for greatness Monday night, as Dallas looked to close out a playoff series at home for the first time since 2008. Desperation struck early for the Predators as Austin Watson deflected a PK Subban slapshot into the back of the net to beat out Bishop and break the ice in Big D. Both goalies continued to steal the show as the game remained scoreless until Blake Comeau snuck one past Rinne to equalize early in the second period.

Both goalies built up their walls and sent the elimination game to overtime after 35 long minutes of scoreless play. OT was more of the same as both Rinne and Bishop had dialed in and made miraculous saves to extend the game deeper into the night. Exhausted, Nashville finally slipped up and a one-timer off the stick of Klingberg, assisted by the dominant Radulov and Seguin, sent the Stars on to the second round.

While the goaltenders stole the show in the final contest, the biggest story of the series was the complete dominance of the top Dallas line over Nashville’s. The size and strength of Dallas’s Seguin, Benn, and Radulov completely handcuffed the Nashville forecheck, and allowed Dallas to stifle any attempts at a Nashville comeback once Dallas got ahead in all 4 of their wins. While Dallas did their best to halt the Predators’ attack, Nashville did its fair share as well. The Preds went 0/15 on power plays across the whole series, including a man advantage to close out the final seconds of regulation in Game 6 that came up empty. 

Dallas wins their first playoff series since their last trip to the postseason in 2016, and Nashville fails to make it to the second round for the first time since 2015. Dallas will play divisional foe St. Louis in the second round after they completing a six-game upset of their own over Winnipeg. 


Game 1 in St. Louis will be at 8:30 p.m. CT on 4/25 on NBCSN

Game 2 in St. Louis will be at 2 p.m. CT on 4/27 on NBC

Game 3 in Dallas will be at 7 p.m. CT on 4/29 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Dallas will be at 8:30 p.m. CT on 5/1 on NBCSN

Calgary 1 – Colorado 4

After winning three in a row of the back of an explosive performance from their top line, Colorado threw the Flames into an elimination game in the Saddledome on Friday night. Calgary’s play had been uninspired at best after their shutout win in Game 1, with all-star Johnny Gaudreau proving to be a non-factor since the opening contest. With the top seed in the East falling in historic fashion, and all the momentum in the Avs’ favor, this seemed like Colorado’s series to lose as the heat turned up in Calgary Friday night. 

The Colorado top line refused to let their feet off the gas, opening the first period with two goals from Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. The Saddledome felt silent until T.J. Brodie scored with 6 seconds left in the period to give the Flames some hope heading into the break. The second period belonged to Grubauer and the Avs defense as they locked down the Flames and opened up the game to let Colin Wilson score two to put Colorado up 4-1. Any hopes of a Flames comeback were dashed as Rantanen scored his fifth goal in as many games a minute into the third period and the Avs coasted into the second round with a 5-1 victory. 

The Avalanche eliminated the top seed in the West with a Game 5 victory in Calgary


The one-dimensional style of play that Colorado brought to the postseason was not without its critics, but with MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Rantanen on that line, it may be the only dimension that the Avs need. The trio combined for nine goals in five games, and they came at the right time as well, with Colorado scoring two OT winners. Calgary has a lot to think about this offseason, as they become the second top-seeded team to lose four straight to a wild card. 

The Flames meet the same fate as the last time they made a run for the cup when they were swept by Anaheim in 2017, and Colorado advances to the second round for the first time since 2008. A well-rested Colorado will take on San Jose in the wake of their Game 7 victory. 


Game 1 in San Jose will be at 9 p.m. CT on 4/26 on NBCSN

Game 2 in San Jose will be at 8:30 p.m. CT on 4/28 on NBCSN

Game 3 in Denver will be at 9 p.m. CT on 4/30 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Denver will be at 9 p.m. CT on 5/2 on NBCSN

Winnipeg 2 – St. Louis 4

With an identical regular season points total and the road team prevailing in the first four tilts, these two teams seemed almost like a mirror image of one another. Both teams are fueled by explosive offensive bruisers and superb goaltending, making these teams an exciting postseason matchup. Due to their similarities, it’s no surprise that the Jets returned to the hangar for Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. St. Louis looked to continue the trend of silencing the white out crowds of the Iceplex, and Winnipeg set their sights on a third straight victory. 

Game 5 wasted no time in cranking up the excitement, as Adam Lowry took the opening faceoff for a score just 12 ticks into the first period. Later in the frame, Kevin Hayes connected off of a Byfuglien pass to put the Jets up 2-0, and it looked like Winnipeg had finally cracked the code of the previously infallible Binnington. Binnington responded to this adversity by digging in the crease and posting a 31-save shutout to close out the rest of the game, and let his offense finish the job. Ryan O’Reilly pulled the Blues within one in the opening minutes of the third on a power play score, with Perron and Schenn with the assists. Schenn netted the equalizer at the midway point of the third period and both teams seemed content to head to overtime tied 2-2. Jaden Schwartz had other plans as he scored the go-ahead goal for St. Louis with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, and the Blues escaped with their third win in Winnipeg. 

Patrik Laine looks on as the St. Louis Blues celebrate their victory and winning the series in game six of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Enterprise Center


Game 6 gave the chance to eliminate the Jets on home ice, a chance that they quickly capitalized on as Jaden Schwartz took the opening faceoff for a goal with an assist from Brayden Schenn to put the Blues up 1-0. Schwartz added insult to injury with a PP goal midway through the second period, a period in which the Jets only mustered six shots on goal. As the game moved to the third, Schwartz completed the hat trick with an assist from Pietrangelo and the Blues coasted to a 3-2 victory despite a late surge from the Jets. 

An uninspired Game 6 from Winnipeg did not do much to prevent their elimination at the hands of the Blues, who are arguably the hottest team in hockey following their dramatic win of this series. Binnington was only required to make 20 saves in Game 6 as the Jets offense fell completely flat and the stars of St. Louis put the Blues in the driver’s seat. The lack of fight put up by Winnipeg in the final two games allowed the grit of St. Louis to be seen as they proved themselves to be a team built for a deep playoff run. 

Winnipeg gets bounced from the first round after making a Western Conference Final appearance last season in a year where they won the first playoff game in franchise history, and St. Louis advances to the second round for the second time in three years as they fell to Nashville in six in 2017. St. Louis will be matched up with Dallas for the quarterfinals, a team that mirrors the Blues in more ways than one. Both the Stars and the Blues are built around their Vezina-caliber goaltending and their dynamic top lines, both of which will be on full display when the two teams link up in the second round. 


Game 1 in St. Louis will be at 8:30 p.m. CT on 4/25 on NBCSN

Game 2 in St. Louis will be at 2 p.m. CT on 4/27 on NBC

Game 3 in Dallas will be at 7 p.m. CT on 4/29 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Dallas will be at 8:30 p.m. CT on 5/1 on NBCSN

San Jose 4 – Vegas 3

San Jose faced elimination on home ice in Game 5 as it looked like Vegas had gotten the better of them for the second year in a row. Vegas came into the tank after a big win in Game 4 that put the Sharks on the brink, and San Jose looked to do anything possible to claw themselves out the hole.

Tomas Hertl got the party started with his third goal of the series just over a minute after the opening puck drop, continuing the theme of teams scoring early that had been one of the most prevalent aspects of the series. Logan Couture netted his third goal of the series as well to put the Sharks up 2-0. Vegas’s Reilly Smith scored with the man advantage to cut the lead in half with 30 seconds to play in the first period. Goodrow regained the two-goal lead 12 minutes into the second and the Sharks entered the final frame up 3-1. When Jon Marchessault scored on the PP halfway through the third period, it looked like a patented Sharks collapse was imminent, but Tomas Hertl’s fourth goal of the series allowed the Sharks to play another day and win 5-2. 

Vegas looked to seal the deal on home ice as the Sharks came to town looking to extend the series. The first period was relatively quiet and looked like a scoreless affair, until Couture struck for his fourth goal of the series with 10 seconds left in the period to give the Sharks a lead at intermission. Marchessault was able to answer thanks to an assist from Will Karlsson to tie the game at one, and there it sat for the remainder of the second period and into the third. The horn blew at the end of regulation with no winner declared, so the teams headed to OT knotted 1-1. Both goalies stood on their heads as Martin Jones racked up an unbelievable 59 saves before all was said and done, but it was Fleury who would land on the final highlight reel as a shorthanded goal from Hertl (his fifth goal of the series) silenced the crowd in Vegas and set up a pivotal Game 7 in San Jose. 

It looked like the gas had run out of the tank for the Sharks as Game 7 rolled deeper into the night, with Vegas scoring at the 10-minute mark of the first two period and Pacioretty striking quickly in the third for his fifth of the series to put the Knights up 3-0. The sluggish Sharks finally got the shot in the arm they needed as Cody Eakin’s crosscheck of Pavelski sent the San Jose center crashing to the ice bruised and bloodied, and Eakin’s Knights were tagged with a five-minute major. 


San Jose celebrates their overtime-winning goal to secure a Game 7 victory


What happened next was possibly the most improbable occurrence in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Logan Couture took the opening faceoff of the PP for a score less than 10 seconds into the penalty, Knights lead 3-1. A quick 40 seconds later, Hertl found the back of the net for the sixth time in the series, Knights lead 3-2. Two minutes after that, Logan Couture got his sixth of the series with an assist from Brent Burns, tie game. The Sharks weren’t content with that and Labanc and Meier hooked up for the fourth score of the power play to put the Sharks up 4-3 with just minutes left to play. Five minutes, four scores. It looked like San Jose was poised to coast to a Game 7 victory after one of the most unbelievable comebacks in postseason history, but the Knights had other plans as they opted to yank Fleury and sent everything they had at the net in the final ticks of the clock. With an empty net and six forwards on the ice, Vegas somehow managed to equalize with less than a minute to play. Marchessault with his fourth of the series. 

Tempers flared in OT as both teams crashed the net and came up empty time and time again. Jones and Fleury returned to Game 6 form and the extra frame drug into the night with chance after chance being turned aside. It was Vegas who ran out of steam first, as their defense just couldn’t quite track Barclay Goodrow as he crashed the net and sent Fleury sprawling as he pushed one in for the series-clinching goal. Just like that, Vegas’s 3-1 lead had disappeared and San Jose had their sights locked on a return to the Cup Final. 

Vegas’s second season doesn’t go as well as the first, but the bar was set pretty high for the defending Western Conference Champions. As for San Jose, a near collapse as the team won three elimination games in a row silenced the doubters for now, but the second round has proved the biggest hurdle for the Sharks in the past. San Jose will be matched up with Colorado in the second round, a Colorado team with the benefit of almost a week of extra rest after disposing of Calgary in five. Both teams bring an explosive top line and power play to the ice, but the edge in defense and goaltending clearly goes to San Jose.  Look for home ice to play a huge role in this quarterfinal series as stealing a road win may equate to stealing the whole series. 


Game 1 in San Jose will be at 9 p.m. CT on 4/26 on NBCSN

Game 2 in San Jose will be at 8:30 p.m. CT on 4/28 on NBCSN

Game 3 in Denver will be at 9 p.m. CT on 4/30 on NBCSN

Game 4 in Denver will be at 9 p.m. CT on 5/2 on NBCSN