The second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is in the books and just four teams remain.
The matchups are set for the conference finals, and we've got two intriguing matchups in store. But before the third round gets underway on Friday night, let's take a minute to take evaluate where each team stands after their second series of the playoffs.
Which teams were the most impressive in Round 2? Which ones are just lucky to be moving on?
Regardless of where a team may fall on this list, it's important to recognize that even getting to the conference final means they've had a pretty special run. (Especially if you're the Capitals!) They all found a way to get to the final four, and each new series presents an opportunity for a team to push the reset button and work on the things that may not have been exemplary in the previous round.
Here are the rankings:
|With all due respect to the Devils, the second round held Tampa's first true test of the postseason – and they aced it with flying colors. After a lopsided Game 1 loss, the Lightning regrouped and were vastly superior to the Bruins over the next four games en route to a gentleman's sweep. The Lightning were impressive in shutting down Boston's offensive attack (which was navigating plenty of health issues) at 5-on-5, shutting them out completely over the final three games of the series. Tampa showcased how deep, physical and quick they are in that series against the Bruins (the second-best team in the East this year) and there's no real sign of them slowing down heading into the next round.|
|The Jets-Predators series was the back-and-forth dogfight between two great teams that we expected it to be, and it needed a full seven games to decide a winner. Ultimately, Winnipeg stunned many and prevailed as the more well-rounded team against a Predators squad that finished the regular season as Presidents' Trophy winners. While they were frustrated at points in this series, Winnipeg also returned the favor, proving to be lethal enough to give one of the league's best defensive units fits in their own end. And the Jets were resilient, brought tenacity and finish when it counted. Beating one of the league's best means you're one of the league's best.|
|Go ahead and doubt this team at your own risk, but their series with the Sharks was a bit of a back-and-forth affair that could have went seven games had it not been for Marc-Andre Fleury playing out of his damn mind and two-thirds of the Sharks' top line being injured and unproductive. They'll face a much tougher opponent in the conference final, but Vegas has shown that, despite how much the odds may be stacked against them, they're not a team that should be underestimated.|
|The Capitals finally managed to get the better of the Penguins and advance to the conference final for the first time in the Alexander Ovechkin era, and they proved to be impressive and resilient in doing so. However, Pittsburgh was about an inch away from forcing a Game 7 – they struck iron in overtime of Game 6 – and that's with one good line and a goalie playing well below his capabilities. There's plenty of reason to be excited about what the Capitals have done, but there's also plenty of reason to be concerned about the matchup they're heading into.|