NHL play­offs 2nd-round pre­view

Metro USA (New York) - - Sports - JOE PANTORNO @JoePan­torno [email protected]

There’s no rest for the weary when it comes to the Stan­ley Cup play­offs. That’s what makes the NHL’s cham­pi­onship so dif­fi­cult to get to.

Over two months of non­stop ac­tion in a sport that is as phys­i­cal as it is grace­ful at times calls ev­ery fiber of a player’s be­ing into ques­tion be­fore they can lift Lord Stan­ley’s Cup.

It has only just be­gun for the eight teams left stand­ing as the league pre­pares for its sec­ond round of post­sea­son ac­tion.

Here’s what you need to know be­fore they lace up the skates:

Top se­ries

Cap­i­tals vs. Pen­guins This is the time of year when grownups that are NHL fans be­come giddy like school­child­ren. Sure, this se­ries can be la­beled as Cap­i­tals vs. Pen­guins, but this is re­ally an­other in­stall­ment of Alexan­der Ovechkin vs. Sid­ney Crosby.

The two have been seem­ingly in­ter­twined in the NHL’s ver­sion of Magic John­son vs. Larry Bird since they both made their de­buts dur­ing the 2005-06 sea­son.

Ovechkin is the snip­ing ma­chine that can un­leash scream­ing shots to­ward the goal if given a cen­time­ter of space. Crosby is more of the chess player whose vi­sion and abil­ity to pre­dict where the play is mov­ing puts him and his team­mates in bet­ter scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

They’ve com­bined for five Hart Tro­phies as the league’s most valu­able player with Ovechkin hold­ing the slim ad­van­tage with three. He also won six Rocket Richard Tro­phies as the NHL’s top goal scorer.

For the first time since 2009-10 though, Crosby lit the lamp more than Ovechkin this year with a league-lead­ing 44 goals to go with 45 as­sists. He will surely be a fi­nal­ist for a third MVP.

Crosby has also had far more suc­cess in the post­sea­son, winning a pair of Stan­ley Cups. Ovechkin and the Cap­i­tals have never made it to the East­ern Con­fer­ence Fi­nals de­spite winning the Pres­i­dent’s Tro­phy (most points in the reg­u­lar sea­son) twice.

The Cap­i­tals and Pen­guins have met twice in the play­offs dur­ing the Crosby and Ovechkin eras. Both times the Pen­guins came on top in the con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals and went on to win the Stan­ley Cup in 2009 and last year.

Player to watch Con­nor McDavid, C, Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers

There are some peo­ple with the au­dac­ity to say that Con­nor McDavid only scored two goals dur­ing the first round against the de­fend­ing Western Con­fer­ence cham­pion San Jose Sharks.

I guess be­ing a 20-yearold cap­tain guid­ing a team that hasn’t been in the play­offs for over a decade to a first-round vic­tory wasn’t good enough for their as­tro­nom­i­cal stan­dards.

There were times when I was 20 that I had to lie down when given too much home­work. This kid is the Art Ross Tro­phy win­ner af­ter lead­ing the league with 100 points (30 G, 70 A) as the NHL’s next big thing.

Hockey fans will get to see just how good he is on the next big stage against a team he’s had mar­ginal suc­cess against.

The Ana­heim Ducks are a de­fen­sive-minded team that al­lowed the third-least amount of goals dur­ing the 2016-17 reg­u­lar sea­son. Dur­ing their first-round se­ries against the Cal­gary Flames, they al­lowed two or fewer goals in three of their four wins.

In eight ca­reer games against the Ducks, McDavid has eight points (2 G, 6 A) and will draw most of the at­ten­tion from Ana­heim’s de­fense.

GETTY IM­AGES

Alexan­der Ovechkin of the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals and Sid­ney Crosby of the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins will re­new their ri­valry in the play­offs once again dur­ing the East­ern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals. Pre­dic­tions Rangers over Se­na­tors in 6 Cap­i­tals over Pen­guins in 7...

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