Penguins vs. Maple Leafs and two other second-round matchups we want to see
With the first round speeding along, here are three second-round series we can hardly wait for
By the time the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs rolls around, the Chicago Blackhawks might be nowhere to be found.
Ditto for the Washington Capitals , even if their series deficit does not (yet) elicit as much desperation as Chicago's 3-0 hole against the Nashville Predators .
And yet, somehow, anticipation is as great as ever for the next wave of playoff battles. With overtime games pouring out the wazoo and road upsets the flavor of the week, excitement is aplenty.
And that would assuredly remain the case if these three second-round matchups -- series to which we would be quick to glue our eyes -- come to fruition:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Speed vs. younger speed
The Penguins are one victory away from ending the Columbus Blue Jackets ' embarrassing stint in the postseason. The Maple Leafs remain underdogs but have ridden a high-scoring, fast-paced attack -- much like, say, Pittsburgh -- to a string of confident upsets. Pit Sidney Crosby , Jake Guentzel and Marc-Andre Fleury against an up-and-coming core headlined by Auston Matthews , and you have yourself a showdown of speedy scorers. Judging by Toronto's collected, albeit fiery, approach in working the Caps, the Maple Leafs wouldn't necessarily be a pushover against the Pens, either.
Note: If the Capitals rebound and advance as widely expected, substitute them for Toronto and this matchup still tops the list. A seven-game tussle between Crosby and Alex Ovechkin is something we would all equally and eagerly await.
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Underdog vs. underdog
OK, so if anyone identified this matchup as one to watch at the start of the playoffs, there would have been no shortage of eye rolls in response. But the Predators are suddenly the league's hottest team after a flashy regular season, threatening to sweep the Blackhawks (repeat that and let it sink in) thanks to otherworldly confidence in moving the puck and making plays on a moment's notice. St. Louis, meanwhile, is setting up for a sweep of its own, riding some superb defense from Jake Allen to an utter outworking of the Minnesota Wild .
Nashville vs. St. Louis is the showdown we never dreamed could be so appealing.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers
Pacific rivals back at it for real
We've seen this matchup plenty of times before, but if the NHL is going to get its wish of divisional rivalries spilling more into the postseason, we can do a lot worse than a Ducks-Oilers clash. Anaheim has hardly been fazed in facing off with the Calgary Flames , but trying to contain Connor McDavid and Adam Larsson for a full series would be a challenge.
And as a matter of fact, if Edmonton is ultimately outdone by the San Jose Sharks , whose six-goal performance through just two periods of play Tuesday night suggested they have more than a little life, an alternative Pacific Division showdown wouldn't be such a bad thing, either. There's simply too much high-potential offense, not to mention the divisional factor, to not be intrigued.
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