Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is officially upon us.
Opening night is not for the early birds as the two Western Conference series get the action underway. For those staying up past their bedtimes, there is plenty to keep in mind as the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators begin their battle towards the NHL semifinal, with the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers doing so on the other quarter of the bracket.
Here’s what to watch for in the Game 1 of the respective matchups.
vs. Game 1
8 p.m. ET, CBC
Who’s got the edge in net?
Jake Allen was the X-factor for the Blues, helping them knock out the higher-seeded Minnesota Wild in just five games. Pekka Rinne surrendered just three goals as the Predators swept the perennial powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks.
They recorded the best goals-against average and save percentage of the first round.
Something’s got to give here, right?
Both have had lengthy layoffs thanks to their stellar play. We’ll see who benefits from rest and who has to scrape off a layer of rust.
How’s Paul Stastny holding up?
With 18 goals during the regular season, Stastny was a key cog in the Blues attack. That scoring output was good for fourth on the club.
However, Stastny missed the last 10 games of the regular season and four more in the first round because of a foot injury. He played 22:42 in Game 5, a more-than-respectable total albeit in 3 ½ periods worth of hockey. He even scored a goal in his return.
But it’s clear Stastny’s foot isn’t quite back to full health, yet.
“It feels good,” Stastny said after participating in an optional skate. “Every day’s been better. Haven’t had one day where it felt worse than the day before, so every day’s been a progression.”
How he’s able to manage in the interim is worth keeping an eye on.
vs. Game 1
10:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet
How will McDavid shake Kesler?
When the Oilers played the Ducks in Anaheim this season, Art Ross winner Connor McDavid saw a steady dose of Selke Award nominee Ryan Kesler.
Take this data courtesy of ShiftChart from their first SoCal battle on Nov. 15 as proof. That’s got to be the game plan of coach Randy Carlyle again.
McDavid struggled in that November affair, but managed to rebound with a goal and two assists in their most recent contest away from Edmonton on March 22. Still, the Oilers lost 4-3.
This is the pivotal head-to-head matchup of the series and it all starts Wednesday.
Will Cam Fowler suit up?
Fowler enjoyed a bit of an offensive renaissance by leading the Ducks in scoring among defencemen with 11 goals and 39 points in 80 games.
The problem was a controversial knee-on-knee hit late in the season by Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano prevented Fowler from competing in the first round. (The hit started a ruckus and ignited a war of words between the teams’ GMs, too.)
Fowler is inching ever closer to a return, which would be a nice boon to the Ducks.
But will it come in Game 1?