The penultimate round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs kicks off Friday night, with Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators at 9 p.m. ET at the Honda Center, and as usual there's no shortage of compelling storylines to follow.
As usual, Sidney Crosby and playoff points leader Evgeni Malkin are the two brightest stars to watch when the Pittsburgh Penguins open their Eastern Conference finals series Saturday night at home against the Ottawa Senators.
There's an abundance of blue-line talent still standing in these series, led by Norris Trophy winners Erik Karlsson, who's carried Ottawa offensively and leads all defensemen in points (2-11-13); and Nashville's P.K. Subban, the fulcrum on a Nashville defense that's allowing just under 1.4 goals per game and also features stalwarts Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi.
In net, three-time Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne has been the superstar of these playoffs, leading all postseason goaltenders in save percentage (.951), and shutouts (2). But veteran Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury appears to have turned back the clock in recent starts, showing flashes of the vintage Fleury that backed Pittsburgh to multiple Stanley Cups.
Who will win each series? Which goalie do you trust the most? And who would you rather have at your blue line -- Karlsson or Subban? Vote now:
Elsewhere, 22-year-old Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel has been one of the breakout stars of the postseason, leading all playoff scorers with nine goals, while Ryan Getzlaf has carried play for the Ducks with the third-highest point total (8-7-15) of the playoffs. Nashville's Filip Forsberg, meanwhile, leads all forwards in plus-minus (+11), adding another layer to the Preds' dominance in their own end of the ice.
-- Brendan C. Hall