How they got here. The plucky Colorado Avalanche gave the top-seeded Nashville Predators all they could handle in the first round for a surprisingly entertaining series. The Predators prevailed in six games, but a few warts were exposed -- especially the propensity for allowing a late goal.
The Winnipeg Jets, meanwhile, won the franchise's first playoff series since April 1987, when all but four players on the Jets roster hadn't even been born. Another reminder of how long ago it was: "I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)," by Aretha Franklin and George Michael, was the No. 1 single on the Billboard 100.
The Jets met a hobbled Minnesota Wild team but proved they could win games in any fashion -- with a burst of scoring or tight defensive bouts. Winnipeg won in five games, including two shutouts. This is a true clash of the titans, as the Predators and Jets posted the top two point totals in the NHL this season.
The Predators won the regular-season series 3-1-1, outscoring the Jets 22-20.
First line. Somehow, it doesn't feel like Filip Forsberg is lauded enough for just how skilled he is. Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen form a fine trio for the Predators, but Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler might be better -- and more dominant. If we're going by regular-season totals, the Predators' top three combined for 179 points in 224 games, while the Jets trio have 208 points in 217 games. Advantage: Jets
Depth. The Predators' third line of Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons and Austin Watson combined for 19 points against the Avalanche; Sissons and Watson were the team's two top point-scorers in the series. Eleven forwards picked up at least one point against Colorado. The Jets also have a balanced lineup, but it's being tested by injuries (more on that later). Of course, it's always a tough matchup when the No. 2 goal scorer in the league, Patrik Laine, is on the second line. Advantage: Predators
Defense. The Predators may have had some defensive lapses against the Avalanche in the first round, but they still boast the most talented top six in the league (and they did show up in that stifling Game 6 clincher). Against the Wild, the Jets proved they're not just an offensive team and can win tight, grind-it-out games as well. Dustin Byfuglien exerted a level of physicality in the first-round series that should scare anyone. Injuries are a concern, though. Advantage: Predators
Goaltending. Two Vezina Trophy finalists in a second-round matchup? This is going to be fun. Logic says go with Pekka Rinne. He shouldered the load in last year's Stanley Cup Final run. He's a four-time Vezina finalist. He's made the playoffs in seven different seasons. But it's 24-year-old Connor Hellebuyck who stole the show in the first round with a .924 save percentage, 1.93 goals-against average and two shutouts. We have to go with the hotter hand. Advantage: Jets
Special teams. The Predators would like a do-over in a few areas for that first-round series, but they'll gladly keep the penalty kill exactly as it was: a smothering 90 percent efficiency. The Jets were decent at 76.9 percent. The Jets, meanwhile, flexed their dominant power play in the first round (23.1 percent efficiency vs. 15.8 percent for the Predators). Advantage: Even
Coaching. Two big-time vets here, as both bosses have coached more than 1,000 NHL games. Peter Laviolette has won a Stanley Cup and two conference championships. Paul Maurice has 1,447 games of NHL coaching experience but has one Eastern Conference championship to his name -- and that was 16 years ago with the Carolina Hurricanes. He also has to manage a young roster with many players navigating their first postseason run. The job is easier for the more accomplished Laviolette. Advantage: Predators
Health. The Jets are nicked up. Nikolaj Ehlers, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers and Mathieu Perreault all missed games against the Wild in the first round. Enstrom hopefully returns soon, while Perreault, an underrated depth player, is one to monitor. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has been out since early March, and backup goalie Steve Mason is banged up too. Advantage: Predators