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Second Round Preview: Eastern Conference

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Brendan Smith is probably going to fight someone! Get excited!

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers

The Match-Up: The Senators and Rangers dispatched the Bruins and Habs in 6, respectively, and now the best team in the Atlantic is charged with fending of a Metropolitan invader. Or, if you want the Rangers spin, their master plan of avoiding all the brutal teams in the Metropolitan Division is going exactly as it should.

Both teams have lights-out goalies, but the Rangers draw the edge in blue line depth. Obviously, the Senators get the Erik Karlsson factor, and each teams’ forward cores match up well against one another. The X-factor could end up being Clarke MacArthur for the Senators, who came back serious injury troubles just before the playoffs, comes into form.

Also, expect just a boatload of narratives about the Brassard-Zibanejad trade from over the summer. Brassard could take draws for the Senators against Zibanejad for most of the series since they each anchor their second lines. Or like, that will come up once. It’s there as a narrative if you want it.

Why Wings Fans Should Care: Because the Senators beat the Bruins. Also, Atlantic Division pride is on the line as the division title could be won by a team from the Metro, and the NHL would love it if everyone cared about that. But still. Erik Karlsson was great against Boston, and Henrik Lundqvist stole a few for the Rangers in the first round. Also, Brendan Smith likes to fight people! Who is he going to fight next? Tune in to find out!

Is it time to jump on the Senators band wagon?: Process of elimination may well lead you here. It’s okay. Also, if you live in Canada I always assumed the Sens would be the best team to break the Canadian Cup drought because they’d be the least annoying about it. Let me know if that theory is full of crap.

Is it time to jump on the Rangers band wagon?: If you hope for an off-season remake of Tango and Cash starring Henrik Lundqvist and Brendan Smith, then yes, get on that band wagon right away.

Prediction: It would be cool to see the Senators win this one. They’re a better team than most gave them credit for. But the Rangers are a good team, too. Whatever, I’m just going to go with my heart and say Craig Anderson is magic in net for Ottawa. Senators in 7.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Match-Up: Welcome to Rematch City. A year ago, the Penguins tossed the President Trophy-winning Caps on their way to the Cup. Now the Caps are back for vengeance. The Penguins dispatched the Blue Jackets with relative ease in 5, and the Caps struggled more than expected against the Leafs through 6 games in the first round. There’s going to be a lot said about Ovechkin and Crosby, so lets talk about other players instead.

Bryan Rust! There’s a Penguin who has been a warrior for his team the past two post-seasons. The guy has four goals in five games so far. He’s the type of younger player that you hope comes out of the woodwork to rise to those big moments during the playoffs to provide great depth scoring. The Caps will have to devote extra attention and personnel to defending him, which can open up new possibilities for linemates Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

Ex-Penguin and current Capital Matt Niskanen will likely be deployed against Bryan Rust. He has been a key part of the Penguins’ defensive unit since coming over in free agency in 2014, slotting in on their second pairing and putting up 39 points this past season. He only potted one helper against the Leafs, but if he can play solid shut down hockey against the Penguins’ second line and help the Caps cast aside Pittsburgh then he will be worth all the dollars he was paid in free agency a handful of years ago.

Why Wings Fans Should Care: We want to see the Penguins lose, and the Capitals win. It’s statistically true.

Is it time to jump on the Capitals band wagon?: Yes. According to our research, you already are.

Is it time to jump on the Penguins band wagon?: There isn’t even a good sarcastic way to say that you should, so just no. No, so hard.

Prediction: The Capitals are going to do it this year! Really! The Penguins will put up a great fight, but Alex Ovechkin and the Caps are going to get past the old nemesis. Capitals in 7.