Tom Mihalek/Associated Press
The intrigue for the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs has to build for one more day.
Due to the dominant performances of multiple teams in the first round, some teams are experiencing layoffs of a week or more before the second round begins Thursday in Washington, D.C.
The wait should be worth it, as each of the three second-round matchups that are set provide juicy storylines between division rivals.
The final second-round participant is determined Wednesday, as the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs face off in Game 7 with a meeting against the Tampa Bay Lightning on the line.
Although there’s been a long wait for most teams, we still don’t know all of the second-round schedule, as only the Game 1 start times and dates were released Tuesday.
Washington vs. Pittsburgh
Tampa Bay vs. Boston/Toronto winner
Vegas vs. San Jose
Nashville vs. Winnipeg
Stanley Cup Championship Odds
Nashville (+440; Bet $100 to win $440)
Tampa Bay (+495)
San Jose (+910)
Odds via OddsShark.
Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule Guide
Wednesday, April 25
Game 7: Toronto at Boston (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)
Thursday, April 26
Game 1: Pittsburgh at Washington (7 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 1: San Jose at Vegas (10 p.m., NBCSN)
Friday, April 27
Game 1: Winnipeg at Nashville (8 p.m., NBCSN)
All Times ET.
Rest of schedule still to be announced
Once Game 7 between the Bruins and Maple Leafs concludes, all eyes in the Eastern Conference will be on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
Although Washington fans say they’ve seen this movie before, there is still reason to believe the Capitals won’t lose to the Penguins in the second round for the third consecutive season.
No matter how much talent the Capitals possess on their roster, they go into the second round with a disadvantage since they’ve lost the last six second-round series they’ve participated in, including each of the last three seasons.
The hope comes from the impressive display in the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets in which Barry Trotz’s team reeled off four consecutive victories after falling in an 0-2 hole.
Of course the Penguins are a unique opponent that won’t be slowed down easily, but Washington has to use its high-powered offense and home-ice advantage in its favor.
Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom recorded eight points each against the Blue Jackets, while John Carlson stepped in to provide eight assists and a goal.
Nick Wass/Associated Press
Goalie Braden Holtby also enters in form, as he gave up 10 goals over a five-game stretch that started with him replacing Philipp Grubauer in Game 2.
If the same level of production is matched in the second round, the Capitals are going to contend with Sidney Crosby and Co.
However, stopping the Penguins attack won’t be the easiest task, especially since Crosby wasn’t the only one who did damage to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Crosby and Jake Guentzel both picked up 13 points over six games, with Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist and Brian Dumoulin earning six or more points as well.
Whichever team shines on defense the most in the opening games of the series, which begins Thursday at Capital One Arena, is going to hold the upper hand and could create enough momentum to move on to the next round.
The other series in the East presents a rest-versus-rust scenario since the Tampa Bay Lightning last played April 21, while the Bruins or Maple Leafs come into the series off a Game 7.
Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Tampa Bay experienced more success against Toronto in the regular season, as it went 3-1 against the Leafs and 1-3 versus the Bruins, but those records won’t matter much if the Leafs roll into Amalie Arena with three consecutive playoff victories.
No matter which team ends up in the Atlantic Division second-round series, it is going to have a tough time containing Tampa Bay’s offense headlined by Nikita Kucherov, who had five goals and five assists against the New Jersey Devils.
It feels like forever since the four remaining teams in the Western Conference took the ice.
Instead of starting the series right away, the quartet of franchises in search of their first Stanley Cup must wait until Thursday and Friday to return to playoff hockey.
Entering Thursday’s Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena, Vegas is going to be on eight days rest, while San Jose had a week off in between its sweep of the Anaheim Ducks and the opening contest against the Golden Knights.
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
The layoff is close to the same in the Central Division, as Winnipeg has a week between its last victory over Minnesota and Friday’s Game 1 in Nashville, while the Predators finished off their first-round series against Colorado Sunday.
The rest on both sides should produce clean hockey from the start, but don’t expect a wave of goals to funnel in from the four West teams.
Winnipeg, San Jose and Vegas were three of the four sides to concede less than 10 goals in the first round, with the other being the Los Angeles Kings, who gave up seven while getting swept by the Golden Knights.
Nashville gave up 15 tallies to Colorado, but it still ranks in the bottom half of postseason goals conceded among the 16 participants.
Although the defensive style of play might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is effective and it is going to produce a pair of incredible goalie showdowns.
Of the four goalies remaining the West, Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne finished in the top 10 in goals against average and save percentage in the regular season.
Tom Mihalek/Associated Press
While the netminders deserve plenty of praise entering the second round, we can’t forget about the incredible forwards that are going to test each one of them.
Winnipeg’s Patrick Laine and Vegas’ William Karlsson were second and third, respectively, in goals in the regular season, while Blake Wheeler of the Jets tied Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux for the most assists with 68.
Look for those players as well as Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson, who all scored four goals in the first round, to be keys for their respective teams in front of net.
San Jose might not have players in the top 10 of the stat categories mentioned above, but it carries the experience of reaching the Stanley Cup Final from 2016, just like Nashville has from its quest to the final a year ago.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference.