Heading into the 2014-15 season the two favorites to win the Western Conference title were the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings.
However, a year after beating Chicago in the conference finals and winning its second Stanley Cup in three seasons, the Kings failed to make the postseason altogether. That left the Blackhawks as the heavy favorite to win the West and potentially claim their third Cup in six seasons.
Chicago began its 2015 playoff run with a six-game victory over the Nashville Predators. It wasn't a dominating performance by any means and it could dissuade some people from picking the Blackhawks to win it all.
The Blackhawks didn't earn many style points in downing the Predators. In the end, the 2010 and '13 Cup champions were able to fight through bad starts and shaky goaltending to advance past the first round for a third straight year.
The bad news was Chicago allowed Nashville to score 21 times through six games. The good news: only 10 of those goals came after the first period. The Blackhawks and Predators were tied at 10-10 in scoring over the second and third periods, but the big difference was Chicago won both times the teams played beyond regulation.
Head coach Joel Quenneville will go with Corey Crawford over Scott Darling in net to start the second round. Crawford struggled mightily as the No. 1 option to begin the series with Nashville, but he later bailed out Darling in Game 6, stopping all 13 shots to pick up the round-clinching victory.
>>Tampa Taks Game 7 From Detroit, Moves On
Braydon Coburn broke a scoreless tie early in the third period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 on Wednesday night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Ben Bishop made 31 saves for his first career playoff shutout and picked up an assist on Anton Stralman's empty-net goal as the Lightning advanced to face the Habs in the second round.
The series will begin Friday in Montreal.
With Bishop absent because of an injury, the Lightning were swept by the Canadiens in the first round of last year's playoffs.
Petr Mrazek stopped 15 shots for the Red Wings, who played without two of their top defensemen. Niklas Kronwall served a suspension for his illegal hit to the head of Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov in Game 6 and Marek Zidlicky missed the game because of upper-body injury reported to be concussion-like symptoms.