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NHL playoffs 2017: Ranking the best 2nd-round series

Cancel everything and watch Preds-Blues.

NHL: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

So, that was fun.

We just capped off the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs on Sunday. It featured a record 18 overtimes. Yes. We are tired, too.

But no time for rest. The second round beckons, and it’s time to tell you which series you should pay attention to most.

(Spoiler: All of them.)

First, a recap: Check out the full NHL playoffs bracket right here! Or go read our first-round rankings and laugh at us.

So, onto our rankings. Remember, our methods are highly scientific and immune to all criticism.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

NHL: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Hatred Factor: Look, you get five points automatically in any Central Division playoff series. There’s no fondness in that basket of malcontents.

It also helps that these clubs are super-familiar with each other after five regular season games. Unlike the Senators-Rangers series, the sparks didn’t fly as frequently. But familiarity breeds discontent, and there’s plenty of pesky guys like Ryan Reaves and Cody McLeod to make this a tense affair. 7 out of 10.

Star factor: Automatic six points for P.K. Subban. Toss in Vladimir Tarasenko and ... OK, that might be it.

But P.K. 7 out of 10.

Freshness factor: First Preds-Blues playoff series in recent memory, since Nashville is usually the Blackhawks’ problem to deal with in the first round. So there’s some freshness for you. And it’s the first time P.K. Subban truly gets the national spotlight since his reign in Nashville began. It’s OK to get hyped for this newness. 9 out of 10.

Beard factor: It all hinges on whether Vernon Fiddler plays.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Only then will this series jump to 12 out of 10. Because right now, with just Ryan Ellis ...

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s just a 10 out of 10.

Anticipation factor: Please visit your doctor if you aren’t thrilled about this. Nashville just throttled the Chicago Blackhawks, guys. The Blues just throttled the Minnesota Wild, guys. You’ve got the playoffs’ hottest goalies in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne backstopping two division rivals with great beards. C’mon. 10 out of 10.

Final rating: 8.6

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hatred Factor: Just look at that photo. They can’t stand each other.

Seriously, though: it’s hard to say how much of this rivalry is media-built. The NHL has rode the “Sid vs. Ovi” narrative into the ground for a decade, but do we really think they dislike each other? Nah.

But resentment? Sure. The core group of Caps have gone home early in the playoffs while the Penguins gathered deep runs and two Stanley Cups. The pair are constantly compared, even outside of Ovechkin and Crosby. Plus, just go back and watch the best game of the NHL season to get a sense of how competitive they get together.

Hatred? Maybe not, but enough to spark some serious motivation. 8 out of 10.

Star factor: Is this a question? Sidney Crosby. Alex Ovechkin. Braden Holtby. Evgeni Malkin. I could go on for days. 9 out of 10.

Freshness factor: Met in 2009 and last season. Both losses for Washington, obviously. 8 out of 10.

Beard factor: You know, I actually think T.J. Oshie is shaving.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

4 out of 10.

Anticipation factor: If this is the Capitals’ year to win the Cup, it’s only fair they run the gauntlet on the way to the top. Toronto gave them one hell of a scare, and now Ovechkin & Co. have to exorcise their Crosby & Co. demons. This could be the best series of the playoffs regardless of outcome. 10 out of 10.

Final rating: 7.8

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Hatred factor: Divison rivals, so sure. But there’s some ingredients here for further Sports Hatred Development:

  • a dash of Corey Perry
  • a table’s worth of Milan Lucic
  • a pinch of Andrew Cogliano-Jakob Silfverberg defensive responsibility frustration
  • two thousand cups of tired, grumpy fans complaining about West Coast overtime games

Plus, imagine how mad the Ducks will be whenever they Patrick Maroon scores on them since they’re paying his contract. I bet players think about that stuff ALL THE TIME. 8 out of 10.

Star factor: Like we said in the first round, Ryan Getzlaf isn’t the star he once was. Nor is Corey Perry. Luckily Connor McDavid’s stardom already has orbits developing around it. 6 out of 10.

Freshness factor: The Ducks made the second round! It’s been, what, two years? This is the furthest the Oilers have made it in a decade, though. 6 out of 10.

Beard factor: Patrick Eaves makes up for everyone else.

Anaheim Ducks v Calgary Flames - Game Four Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

10 out of 10.

Anticipation factor: You know what? This could be good. The Oilers made for a fun first-round upset in San Jose, and the Ducks managed a few comeback wins in sweeping the Flames. As safe a bet to go seven games as any other second round series. 8 out of 10.

Final rating: 7.6

Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Hatred Factor: Ehhhh. Does anyone really hate the Senators? Can you hate them? They were so inoffensive during the season.

Unless they played the Rangers. Their first two meetings featured 60 penalty minutes, and 10 of those were devoted to roughing minors.

Not to mention a few fights thrown in after big hits.

So, yeah. If anyone hates the Senators, it was the Rangers this season. 8 out of 10.

Star factor: Well, you’ve got Erik Karlsson and his fractured foot. You’ve got Henrik Lundqvist doing Henrik Lundqvist things. I guess you could count the aura of ORIGINAL SIX TEAM NEW YORK RANGERS as a star. 6 out of 10.

Freshness factor: First time we get to see Karlsson vs. Lundqvist in awhile. Both are semi-regular playoff contenders, though, so that hurts this score. 7 out of 10.

Beard factor: Karlsson’s goatee thing is still beautiful. Lundqvist looks as grizzled as ever. Don’t worry about them. But their teammates are holding their own, too.

Witness: Rick Nash.

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Four Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Witness: Bobby Ryan.

Ottawa Senators v Boston Bruins - Game Six Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

We’ve got potential hair here, people. 7 out of 10.

Anticipation factor: I get why some people are out on this series. There aren’t many notable Senators other than Karlsson, and the Rangers are almost overly familiar. But the Sens were unexpectedly really fun to watch in the first round, and the Rangers showed off a chippy side I didn’t predict. This could sneak up on you. 8 out of 10.

Final rating: 7.2