Ottawa Senators (44-28-10, second, Atlantic Division) vs. New York Rangers (48-28-6, first wild card in the Eastern Conference)
Why you have to watch: The entertainment value of this series is going to be off the charts. Not only is a trip to the Eastern Conference finals on the line, but there’s massive bragging rights at stake for D Erik Karlsson of the Senators and G Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. Both were members of Team Sweden at the World Cup and are playing outstanding hockey at the right time. … Despite playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, Karlsson averaged 30 minutes of ice time in the first round against the Boston Bruins. … Lundqvist proved in the first round against the Montreal Canadiens that he’s still a world-class goaltender, posting a 1.70 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage. … This is the second time Karlsson and Lundqvist have faced each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs. “It’s going to be tough and we’re going to have to make it hard on him,” Karlsson said. “If he sees the pucks, it’s not going to go in. He’s a big-time player and he plays well for them and they need him the most. If we let him off easy, it’s going to be hard to score goals on him. I’ve played with him a lot and practiced with him in the summer, so hopefully I have some tricks up my sleeve.” … The Senators’ Derick Brassard and Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad were traded for each other last summer. Brassard recorded eight points in the first round against the Bruins; Zibanejad scored in overtime in Game 5 against the Canadiens. … This is going to be a physical series.
Head to head: The Senators won the season series 2-1-0, outscoring the Rangers 8-5. The second Senators win came on the last weekend of the season, with the Rangers having already wrapped up their wild-card spot. … All three games were decided by two or fewer goals. … The Rangers have won 10 of their last 15 regular-season games in Ottawa. … This is the second time the teams have played against each other in the playoffs: The Rangers won the series 4-3 over the Senators in the first round in 2012.
Injury fallout: Karlsson told ESPN.com that he suffered the hairline fractures in his heel while blocking a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 28. The injury forced him to miss three of the last five games of the season, and he needed injections in his foot in order to play in the playoffs. He also said it should be back to normal by the start of the second round. … Senators D Mark Borowiecki missed the last four games of the Bruins series with a lower-body injury and is questionable for Game 1. … Senators W Tom Pyatt suffered an upper-body injury in the first round and missed the last two games. … Other than the normal postseason bumps and bruises, the Rangers are relatively healthy.
Goalie advantage: It was evident during the first round against the Canadiens that Lundqvist’s confidence is at a season high. … In five of his last six games against the Senators, he has allowed two goals or fewer, with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. … Senators G Craig Anderson wasn’t outstanding in the first round, but he was solid and made timely saves when needed. His teammates feed off his energy and he’s a solid No. 1. He has the ability to frustrate an opponent because of his old-school, stand-up style. Anderson’s ability to play the puck is an advantage because the defensemen don’t need to come back as deep into the zone to retrieve the puck, and it helps the transition game.
Coaching advantage: The Rangers’ Alain Vigneault went to the playoffs with the Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and Rangers, for a total of 133 playoff games. He led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup finals in 2011, where they lost to the Bruins. He returned to the finals with the Rangers in 2014, but lost to the Los Angeles Kings. … Senators coach Guy Boucher has 24 games of playoff experience. He coached the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, but lost in seven games to the Bruins. This season is only his second trip to the postseason as a coach.
Prediction: When the Senators don’t have the puck, their defensive play will be key, just like it was in the first round against Boston. Anderson will see plenty of traffic in front and he will be up against the goaltending prowess of Lundqvist. Plus, the Rangers are a fast and physical team. It will be difficult for the Senators to match that intensity. Rangers in 6.