Records: Bruins 28-14- 6, Rangers 26-18- 4.
Last playoff meeting: In the first round of the 1973 playoffs when the Rangers won in five games.
How they got here: The Bruins needed seven games (and massive comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7); the Rangers beat the Washington Capitals in seven.
Why the Bruins will win: Let’s start with Patrice Bergeron (pictured, center), who just a month ago was a question mark because of his latest concussion. In Game 7 against the Leafs on Monday, Bergeron not only capped a three-goal, third-period comeback, but he also scored the game-winner in OT. The Bruins' David Krejci was the NHL's leading scorer in the first round with 13 points. Krejci and linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have a combined 29 points and are a plus-29. Sure, Zdeno Chara has played a ton of minutes (nearly 29 a game so far), but he’s shown he can handle it.
Why the Rangers will win: When you can advance to the second round with only one goal from Brad Richards and none from Rick Nash, you know goalie Henrik Lundqvist (pictured, left) is on his game. Lundqvist closed out the first round with consecutive shutouts of the Capitals. He’s (finally) developed the rep as a solid playoff performer. He won’t always get the five goals of support like Game 7, but the Rangers could be unstoppable if the third and fourth lines remain steady as the top two lines contribute more. And getting healthy quickly wouldn't hurt.
Prediction: It hasn’t been a good idea to bet against Lundqvist of late. He’ll outduel his counterpart, Tuukka Rask, and that could be enough. Rangers in 6.
Bring on Round 2
So here's what we saw in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs: Big upsets (Red Wings bounce Ducks in 7, Senators eliminate Canadiens), surprising finishes (Bruins rally from three goals to beat Leafs in OT in Game 7), a champion's will (Kings battle back from 0-2 to win four straight vs. Blues), bad goalies (Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Nabokov), amazing goalies (Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Niemi), bad luck (Minnesota Wild goalies), star power (Marian Hossa), tradition trumping all (Red Wings), an opportunistic goalie (Tomas Vokoun), a war (Game 3: Senators vs. Canadiens) ... feeling caught up yet? More fun is in store for the second round. Let's get at it!
West: 5 Kings vs. 6 Sharks
Records: Kings 27-16-5, Sharks 25-16-7
Last playoff meeting: The Kings lost to the Sharks in six games in the first round in 2011.
How they got here: Sharks swept the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks and the Kings beat St. Louis Blues in six games.
Why the Sharks will win: It’s not easy to sweep any team in the playoffs, but the Sharks sure did make it look easy against the Canucks. The Sharks have a Cup-winning goalie in Antti Niemi and they need him to bring it against LA. Fans in SJ believe these aren’t the playoff chokers of old. Logan Couture (pictured, center) has a lot to do with that. The 24-year-old had three goals and five assists in the Vancouver series and his passion rubs off on the entire team. San Jose hasn't played a game since May 7 and will need to get the wheels moving in Game 1.
Why the Kings will win: Just like it’s not easy to sweep a team in the playoffs it’s even harder to come out of an 0-2 hole and win four straight. The Kings turned heads and looked like the champs of old when they refocused and did that against the Blues. They'll have home-ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time since 1992 and will need to use that to their advantage. Jonathan Quick was outstanding against the Blues and will have to be again vs. the pesky Sharks. The Kings will need their big bodies (Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner) to wear down the Sharks.
Prediction: This California series will be a grind, but we won't vote against the champs. Kings in 6.
West: 1 Blackhawks vs. 7 Red Wings
Records: Blackhawks 36-7-5, Red Wings 24-16-8
Last playoff meeting: In the 2009 Western Conference finals when Detroit won in five games.
How they got here: The Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild in five games while the Red Wings took all seven to upset the second-seeded Ducks.
Why the Blackhawks will win: They don't need goalie Corey Crawford to be better than Jimmy Howard, but he has to be solid. The Blackhawks are very deep and their forwards have been great at sharing the load (Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp). Kane didn't have a goal against the Wild and that's something that will change quickly. The Blackhawks beat the Wings in every regular-season game this season.
Why the Red Wings will win: Jimmy Howard will have to steal the show. The American goaltender was very impressive against the Ducks and gave his team a chance to win every game. Also, the Wings' young players now have some tough playoff (and overtime) experience under their belts. Captain Henrik Zetterberg's (pictured, right) no-quit attitude trickles down to everyone on this team. Detroit matches up well on forward, but defenseman Kyle Quincey and Niklas Kronwall have a tough task against Chicago's tough group up front.
Prediction: With the conference realignment going into effect next seaosn, this series is just what the traditionalists ordered. Blackhawks in six.
East: 1 Penguins vs. 7 Senators
Records: Penguins 36-12-0, Senators 25-17-6
Last playoff meeting: In 2010 when the Pens defeated the Sens in six games in first round.
How they got here: The Sens upset the second-seeded Canadiens in five games; The Pens needed six games to defeat the Islanders.
Why the Penguins will win: It probably won’t because of goaltending. Even if Tomas Vokoun did have a shutout after he replaced starter Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5, goaltending hasn’t been the key to any of the Pens’ first-round victories. The team’s success still runs through Sidney Crosby (pictured, center) — who returned in Game 2 from a broken jaw that kept him out the last month of the regular season — and Evgeni Malkin. Jarome Iginla (nine points) also showed there’s some game left in the former Calgary Flames captain.
Why the Senators will win: A low-scoring series benefits the Senators. Montreal scored more than two goals off of Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson (pictured, left) only once in the five first-round games. (Anderson is tops among playoff goalies with more than two starts with a .950 save percentage.) Credit the return of Erik Karlsson — who missed 31 games after Pens forward Matt Cooke accidently sliced his Achilles tendon — and the team's overall focus on defensive responsibility for that.
Prediction: Senators in 7. It comes down to goaltending (largely) at this time of year. Even if injured Sens center Jason Spezza doesn’t come back, the Sens are more stacked than the Isles and could win a long series.
2013 Stanley Cup playoffs: Western Conference first-round action