#1 New York Rangers vs. #7 Washington Capitals

It was a major surprise that the Caps were able to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round, especially with a 22-year-old rookie goaltender between the pipes. Braden Holtby spent most of the 2011-12 season with the Capital’s AHL affiliate Hershey Bears but he came up big in his first NHL playoff series. Even though he played in only 21 NHL games prior to the first round, Holtby had a 2.00 goals against average and .940 save percentage in seven games against the Bruins.
It was also impressive that the Caps were able to close out the series with left wing Alexander Ovechkin’s limited ice time and points in the final games of the series. Ovie only contributed 1 point in the final three games of the series and logged only 16:25 minutes of ice time in game 7. Forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle and Marcus Johansson all had more ice time than the Capitals captain in game 7.

On the other hand, the #1 seed New York Rangers struggled to finish off the #8 seed Senators. The Rangers struggled to put the puck past Senators goalie Craig Anderson, who played well throughout the whole series. Anderson deserves much of the credit for making the series go a full seven games.

The Rangers offense will need to be better in the second round. It’s interesting that both of the goals in game seven against Ottawa came from defenseman. Marian Gaborik was quiet throughout the series with only 1 goal and 2 assists. He only had 13 shots the entire series; three Rangers defensemen, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Ryan McDonagh had just as many shots on goal. Gaborik, who had 41 goals in the regular season, will need to find a way to get on the scoresheet if the Rangers want to move on to the conference finals and it starts with shooting the puck more.

As expected, Hart Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist was great between the pipes  with a 1.70 goals against average and .945 save percentage. Lundqvist had the best goals against average out of all the goaltenders who had six or more playoff starts in their first round series.

The keys to this series will be whether or not Holtby can match his first round success and whether Ovechkin and Gaborik can break out and put up points.

My prediction: Rangers in 7 games

#5 New Jersey Devils vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers

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The biggest question mark for the Flyers going into this series against division rival New Jersey is goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov had a 3.89 goals against average and .871 save percentage in six games in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The only goaltender with worse first round stats was Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.  

The Flyers offense was able to compensate for a weak goaltender by incredible offensive output from Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. Giroux leads all players in playoff points with 14 through six games, including 2 power play goals. The next closest player is Jordan Staal with 9. Briere contributed 8 points in the first round, including 1 power play goal.

The biggest key to the Flyers first round success was their incredible power play that had a 52.2%. This is by far the best out of the playoff teams. St. Louis was next bestNHL with a 33.3%. While the power play was incredible, the Flyers will have to improve their scoring in 5-on-5 play if they want to advance to the next round.

Martin Brodeur is the biggest impact player for the Devils in this series. The veteran goaltender had a 2.06 goals against average and .922 save percentage in the first round. It will important that Brodeur shuts down Philadelphia’s dangerous offense and power play.

The Devils offense will also look to get in Bryz's head early and shake his confidence. Travis Zajac had a big first round with 6 points and Adam Henrique will look to be more of a contributor after his big 2-goal game to help knock off the Panthers in the first round.

It will be interesting to see if the extra rest the Philadelphia Flyers had will help or hurt them in the start of the second round. On the other hand, will the New Jersey Devils be tired after a seven game series against the Florida Panthers that included two overtime games.

My prediction: Devils in 6 games
 


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