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Wednesday Stanley Cup Daily: Go West, Young Man

The second round gets underway tonight with the two Western Conference series beginning in St. Louis and Edmonton.

NHL: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Every day during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Canes Country recaps the night before, previews the games for that night, and gives you times and broadcast information. Today, our writers preview the Western Conference series that begin tonight.

NHL: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

(WC2) Nashville Predators at (C3) St. Louis Blues
8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN

  1. Rinne running hot: After the total destruction of the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-game sweep which saw the Blackhawks tally only three times in the entire series, if Pekka Rinne can produce a performance anywhere close to that against the St. Louis Blues, then the Blues are in for a good dose of frustration. During the four-game sweep of Chicago, Rinne stopped 123 of the 126 shots he faced, an otherworldly .976 save percentage. In three appearances this season against the Blues, Rinne stopped 77 of 84 shots attempted, good for a .917 save percentage en route to a 2-1-0 record. For St. Louis to solve him, they will have to provide the same net-front presence they were able to establish against Devan Dubnyk, another similarly large goaltender that they were able to beat early and often.
  2. Balanced Scoring on Each Side: The round one series wins by both the Blues and Predators were punctuated offensively by balanced attacks. Thirteen different Blues notched points in the five-game series win over the Wild, with no one tallying any more than five points (Jaden Schwartz). For the Predators, 15 different players made the score sheet, with Ryan Johansen leading the way with six points. The ability to dictate tempo and create chances up and down the lineup should make for an entertaining series of fairly evenly played hockey. This series won’t be a repetition of watching a few loaded offensive lines, followed by running out players that teams hope to simply get off the ice unscathed.
  3. Middle of the Pack, Top of the Central: Each of these teams were in the middle of the pack in terms of raw statistics going into the postseason. In simple goals for/goals against, neither team is better than 11th (Nashville is 11th in goals for), nor worse than 15th (Nashville is 15th in goals against). Both teams were slightly above average all season, but have stepped up their play in the final month and continued that into the playoffs. While Minnesota and Chicago carried the mantle for the Central Division much of the season, these two teams meet to determine who will represent the division in the Western Conference Finals. They were perhaps not the two best teams all season, but they’re certainly the teams playing the best at the right time. -Andy House

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

(P2) Edmonton Oilers at (P1) Anaheim Ducks
10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

  1. McDavid vs. Kesler: In round one, both Connor McDavid and Ryan Kesler displayed why they're unique players, and in round two they'll be the matchup to watch, with the expectation that Kesler's line will go up again McDavid's line almost constantly. McDavid is fresh off of a 100-point season and he netted four points in six games in the first round. Kesler will attempt to contain McDavid's world class offensive talent, and if he can, he will give the Ducks a very good chance of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
  2. An intriguing goalie matchup: John Gibson of the Ducks and Cam Talbot of the Oilers will man the nets in this series, which should lead to an interesting outcome. They both were good in round one. Gibson faltered once in Game 3 against the Flames and Talbot similarly got shelled in Game 4 against the Sharks, but they both held their ground as goalies really to prove something in the league and with their respective teams. Gibson is still looked upon as Anaheim's goalie of the future but he is still a young work in progress and Talbot is just kind of considered "that goalie for the Oilers" even after having an impressive regular season. They'll both look to make bigger names for themselves in this series. If both goalies show up in big ways, this will be a series to remember.
  3. Styles of Play: The Oilers have taken the league by storm with their fast, exciting brand of play. Meanwhile, the Ducks have remained consistent with their group of big power forwards. So, which style will win? Anaheim certainly has an advantage with their fantastic young blue line, with Shea Theodore leading the charge in the postseason, but will they be enough to help calm the fire that is Connor McDavid? -Brett Finger