There were plenty of upsets in round one, but yesterday was devoid of major surprises as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings comfortably beat the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks respectively.
Will that trend continue or will a low seed make it to the Conference Finals? Let’s take a look at tonight’s action:
Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks host Detroit Red Wings (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
The Detroit Red Wings will head to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 campaign, so this was their last chance to meet Chicago in the playoffs as division rivals.
The Blackhawks swept their season series, but the Red Wings managed to push them to overtime in three of their four meetings. That naturally suggests that we might be in for some close playoff contests, but so much of that depends on Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and captain Henrik Zetterberg.
Those two players are huge to this team and when they’re playing at their best, Detroit is capable of stealing games from a team like the Blackhawks. Aside from them, Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula is the x-factor in this series. He’s coming off of a disappointing season, but he started to heat up towards the end of the first round and played a role in Detroit advancing.
It seems almost inaccurate to label any player on the Blackhawks as an x-factor, simply because the team is so deep. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane didn’t score a single goal in the first round (although they did combine for seven assists), but Chicago still had no problem dispatching the Minnesota Wild.
Only three Chicago players participated in all five games and didn’t end up with at least a point and all of them – Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival, and Brandon Bollig – made defensive contributions. The Red Wings might be able to match the Blackhawks in terms of top-end talent, but it’s Chicago’s depth that makes them the heavy favorites in this series.