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:
Eastern Conference semifinals
Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Western Conference semifinals
Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers
St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators
Capitals vs. Penguins
This is the time of year when grown men 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-year-old 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.
Rangers over Senators in 6
Capitals over Penguins in 7
Predators over Blues in 6
Ducks over Oilers in 6