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Stanley Cup Playoff X-factor for each team in 2nd round

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Colorado Avalanche
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

There are some great matchups in store for the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The field has been narrowed down to eight teams, including all four division winners and three teams that finished second in their division during the regular season.

There will be a myriad of reasons why four teams will advance to the conference finals and four will be sent home for the summer. Stars will need to shine, unheralded players need to step up and injuries, puck luck and officiating will play roles, as well.

But there’s an X-factor for each team in the second round. And we’re here to examine those.

Related: 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Predictions for each 2nd-round series

New York Rangers (M1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (M2)

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
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Rangers – Special Teams 

Coming off a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Hurricanes, the Rangers showed once again why their special teams can and have been winning them games throughout the playoffs. They were 2-for-2 on the power play and now have eight power-play goals in their past four games. Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck capitalized just seconds into their respective man-advantage opportunities, as New York looks lethal on the power play right now. On the other end of the ice, New York’s penalty kill was also perfect, 5-for-5. They’ve allowed only two power-play goals in the postseason, though offset that with two shorthanded goals against the Washington Capitals in the first round.

The Hurricanes also have excellent special teams, in fact slightly better than the Rangers during the regular season. But if the Rangers continue to dominate in this area, an expected tight series could swing decidedly in New York’s favor.

Hurricanes – Trade Deadline Acquisitions

The Hurricanes bolstered their formidable lineup at the NHL trade deadline by adding forwards Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov. While notable forwards like Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Seth Jarvis will look to get it done against the Rangers, Guentzel and Kuznetsov, a pair of Stanley Cup champions, could tip the series in favor of the Hurricanes. 

Guentzel, who entered these playoffs as a point-per-game postseason player, has logged one goal and four assists in six games thus far, and was handled defensively in Game 1 by the Rangers. Kuznetsov, who also has a deep history of playing against New York in the playoffs, has registered two goals and two assists in six games. If the Hurricanes are going to beat the red-hot Rangers, they are going to need scoring throughout the line up. The two deadline acquisitions will certainly need to contribute. 

Florida Panthers (A1) vs. Boston Bruins (A2)

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers
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Panthers – Carter Verhaeghe 

The Panthers are coming off a convincing 4-1 series win over the rival Tampa Bay Lightning. While Matthew Tkachuck shined in the series with nine points, Carter Verhaeghe scored some big-time goals for the Panthers, and logged nine points of his own (five goals, four assists). 

Verhaeghe also registered a plus/minus of plus-7 through the first round. His most impactful moment came in Game 3 when the forward scored the overtime winner for Florida. Of the last 10 overtime games for Florida, all winners, Verhaeghe has been the OT hero in five of them. Expect his presence to be felt in Round 2 against Boston. 

Bruins – David Pastrnak

While he only logged five points (three goals, two assists) in the seven-game series in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, expect David Pastrnak to be a huge factor for Boston in Round 2. After Boston squandered a 3-1 series lead, losing Games 5 and 6, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery called Pastrnak out, expecting more from his superstar forward. 

As a response, Pastrnak went out and scored the Game 7 overtime winner to send Boston to the second round. There is a good chance that this goal could be the start of an impressive run from Pastrnak and the Bruins, who come into the second round rematch as the underdog against the Panthers. Florida won this series in seven games last season, which will surely be on the minds of Pastrnak and the Bruins.  

Related: 15 fascinating statistics from 1st round of 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Dallas Stars (C1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (C3)

NHL: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Stars – Depth Scoring

The Stars narrowly escaped the defending Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the first round. Dallas’ top forwards, like Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, had a quiet series, but the Stars survived thanks to their depth scoring from players such as Wyatt Johnston, Evgenii Dadonov and Radek Faksa. 

Faksa returned in Game 7 following an undisclosed injury in Game 2 and scored a huge goal to give Dallas a 2-1 lead. His tally turned out to be the game and series winner for the Stars. If they want to take down the high-octane offense of the Avalanche (28 goals in five games against the Winnipeg Jets), they will need to score more, meaning they will need consistent contributions from throughout their lineup. 

Avalanche – Top Dog at Forward and Defense 

After defeating the Jets with surprising ease, the Avalanche now turn to the Stars, who will not go down without a fight. If they want to be successful, the Avalanche will need to rely on Nathan Mackinnon and Cale Makar, as they have throughout the season. 

Mackinnon is coming off a 140-point season, and added another nine (two goals, seven assists) in the first round. Makar notched 90 points in 77 games this season, earning yet another Norris Trophy nomination. He also had two goals and seven assists in the first round. Colorado’s best chance at taking down Dallas is if its two biggest stars shine brightest. 

Vancouver Canucks (P1) vs. Edmonton Oilers (P2)

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks
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Oilers – The Big Three

The Oilers enter the second round having taken care of the Los Angeles Kings in just five games. This is largely due to the efforts of ‘the big three’, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman. The three Oiler forwards were a force to be reckoned with in the first round of the playoffs. 

McDavid had one goal and a whopping 11 assists in the first round, and is the leading postseason scorer. Draisaitl notched five goals and five assists of his own. Hyman scored seven goals and added an assist for eight points in five games. That’s 30 points combined between these three forwards. If they continue at this rate, and the Oilers continue to get get solid secondary production and decent goaltending from Stuart Skinner, it’ll be tough for the Canucks — or any team — to stop them.

Canucks – Arturs Silovs 

The big story for Vancouver is third string goaltender Arturs Silovs, after veterans Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith were injured in the first round. Many were concerned that Silovs would not be able to handle the pressures of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the 23-year-old rookie has proved his doubters wrong.

Silovs was 2-1-0 in his three starts, earning a .938 save percentage along with a 1.70 goals-against average, helping lift the Canucks past the Nashville Predators in six games. Silovs stopped all 28 shots in the decisive Game 6, a 1-0 shutout win. Can he continue to ride the wave against the high-powered Oilers? The answer could decide the series one way or the other.

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