Round two of the 2017 NHL Playoffs is in the books.
The field of 16 is now down to four, and the number one seed from each conference will be watching the rest of the tournament from home.
It’s been a postseason full of surprises and upsets, and it’s bound to continue to be just as entertaining with the final four comprised of the Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ottawa Senators.
Let’s take a look back at the second round and the implications it has moving forward.
While the Blues proved to be a handful at times for the Preds, Nashville still came out on top, advancing to the Western Conference final as an eight seed.
Leading the charge for Nashville has been Pekka Rinne in net, who has started every playoff game this far and has been phenomenal, posting a .951 save percentage and 1.37 goals against average. He allowed more than two goals in a game just once in round two, games one and two. He has been the anchor of this team.
It’s been a great offense by committee for Nashville, with the likes of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and Ryan Ellis, among others, acting as big catalysts with the puck on their sticks.
Johansen has been a big piece of this team all year. He was involved with a headline-grabbing hockey deal that involved Seth Jones going to Columbus. It was a win-win move for the two teams, and it’s something that could be in the cards moving forward for the Hurricanes.
Nashville will take on Anaheim in the West final.
Edmonton Falls Just Short
For Anaheim, their game-seven win was a massive breakthrough. In each of the four seasons prior to this, the Ducks got bounced from the playoffs in game seven against a lower-seeded team, but they finally broke through this year, unlike a team that will get to in a bit.
Edmonton’s playoff run was built on offense, and when they weren't able to outscore opponents, it usually led to trouble, like it did in game seven. They couldn’t get more than one puck past John Gibson and despite a good showing from Cam Talbot, Anaheim’s more complete team came to the forefront and was able to finally get over the hump when it mattered the most.
After a Hart Trophy-worthy season from Connor McDavid, he wasn’t as effective in the playoffs. Leon Draisaitl was the Oiler who really stole the show in the postseason, having several huge scoring outbursts, including a three-goal, five-point game six against the Ducks.
A surprise performer for Edmonton was Mark Letestu, who was a powerplay demon and a big point producer throughout their run.
Edmonton is young and they have Connor McDavid, so the future is bright. This season was just too soon for them to make a real run for a Stanley Cup, especially going against an experienced team in Anaheim who is really hungry for a Cup.
The Beat Goes on for Washington
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Washington Capitals had a banner regular season, were tested in the opening round of the playoffs, made it through, but a lower seeded Metropolitan Division team ousted them in the second round.
The Pittsburgh Penguins closed things out on the road in game seven by a final score of 2-0, which marks another year of the Capitals not cashing in on the fully loaded team that they had.
This time, it seems especially devastating for Washington. Alex Ovechkin’s role on the team continues to get more sheltered as he gets older and his impact is diminishing as well. Even with guys like T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov showing up throughout their playoff run, they just couldn’t overcome the shortcomings of Braden Holtby who struggled often and just narrowly posted a save percentage above the .900 mark this postseason despite a Vezina contending regular season.
This offseason also doesn’t look promising for the Capitals with Oshie, Kuznetsov, Justin Williams, Andre Burakovsky, Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov, Karl Alzner, and Kevin Shattenkirk all on expiring contracts. Several of those players, namely Oshie and Williams, likely aren’t within Washington’s cap constraints.
So, this might be an offseason of big change for this organization after yet another squandered postseason run.
Ovechkin’s name remains in the list of superstars without a championship ring, and there’s no end in sight.