The Stanley Cup playoffs shift into Round 2, and every single matchup is a heavy hitter. But which one stands out more than the others?
The best part about the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is that it’s over. There’s no question that the start of the playoffs was more lopsided than in recent years, and while it lived up to the billing, we deserved more than one Game 7.
However, if all of those one-sided matchups were needed to set up this epic round 2, it was more than worth it.
Thanks to the NHL’s format, we’re getting matchups that we shouldn’t be getting this early. Two of the league’s top four teams will be eliminated in the second round — that ain’t right. But as the Philadelphia Flyers proved, every team is playing hurt — it’s better to get these blockbuster matchups in round 2 as opposed to later in the playoffs.
As a handy way of figuring out which series you should prioritize watching, read on to see which second round matchup is the best, taking watchability and excitement into account.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
This isn’t a typo. Penguins vs. Capitals is the worst matchup of the four, which tells you everything you need to know about the second round. This series isn’t lacking in star power, or intriguing storylines. It’s just that this is now the fourth time these teams have faced in the second round, and you can only watch the same thing so many times before getting tired of it.
With the Penguins being a perfect 3-for-3 against the Capitals in the Crosby/Malkin era, and winning 9 out of 10 series overall, this is the NHL’s equivalent of Cavaliers vs. Raptors or Clippers vs. Warriors. It should be exciting, and there’s a lot of history between the two, but you know how it’s going to end and there’s no reason to pick against the Penguins until we actually see them lose.
As always, the Capitals will come into the second round with a huge monkey on their back. While they won four straight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, they did little to make people believe they’ve exorcised their demons of playoffs past.
The Penguins know that, since 2009, they’ve won the Cup every time they have beaten the Capitals, and so will be extra motivated to do so this year while everyone goes on about how hard it is to three-peat. This team has yet to face a challenge that is too big for them, and another win will go a long way towards cementing Sidney Crosby’s playoff legacy.