NHL Playoffs: Round Two Predictions…Who’s Moving On?
By Matt Pepper
The first round has come and gone and it wasn’t without excitement.
With five series going to seven games, this second round could have looked completely different with a lucky bounce or a timely penalty, which shows just how close these teams are to one another.
After predicting five of eight series correctly, I am looking to run the table this round in going four for four.
Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Florida had a much tougher time with Washington than I would have predicted in the first round. The Caps played a game style that neutralized a lot of their offense in the first round and played as physical as possible in an effort to knock out the Panthers. Luckily for the Panthers, they found ways to win with their forward depth and moved on.
Tampa Bay did not look like the world beaters of previous years and went to the limit with the Maple Leafs in the first round. Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong when it mattered in game seven and showed why he is one of the top goaltenders the game has seen in the last decade. Unlikely hero Nick Paul provided the depth scoring to bury the Leafs and move their season along.
Prediction: As good as Tampa is and how they have been able to rise to the occasion, they look exhausted at times on the ice. This is a team that has played tons of hockey the last several years and the status of Brayden Point is concerning for their offense. Florida has a lot of scoring depth, to go along with size and speed and I believe they will wear Tampa out in this series to move on to the Eastern Conference Final. Expect a big series from Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett.
Florida in seven games.
Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Rangers
Carolina had a long and rough series against the Boston Bruins. They were able to overcome some uncertainty in net to soldier through. Carolina may have underestimated Boston early in the series as they pushed them pretty hard and at times dominated the Hurricanes. Depth did prevail in the end as an unlikely hero in Max Domi (see Nick Paul) stepped up in game seven and put Boston away with two big goals.
The Rangers looked down and out against the Penguins being down 3 – 1 and unable to take advantage of a tough goaltending situation that Pittsburgh were in. The Rangers were able to take advantage over another tough situation when Sidney Crosby went down for the Penguins and were able to step up their game getting back into the series and pushing game seven. Even with Pittburghs captain and number one goaltender returning, the momentum was on the Rangers side and they were able to move on to round two, putting away the Pens.
Prediction: I don’t see the Rangers winning this series. Carolina has size, speed, and tons of skill upfront and lots of mobility on the backend. The Rangers (in my opinion), lack depth in their lineup, but having Igor Shesterkin can make any depth issues go away and can push the ‘Canes to the brink. Even still, I would take Carolina.
Carolina in six games.
Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues
Colorado was involved in the most one – sided series of the playoffs in dispatching the Nashville Predators in four games. That isn’t to say that Nashville didn’t play tough against the Avalanche, but the sheer depth that is displayed in Denver seems absolutely unfair to the rest of the league. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen are an absolute force for any defense to handle. That being said, Cale Makar is on another level all – together and is dominating the ice unlike any defenseman we have seen in recent history.
St. Louis was anticipating a fairly even match – up with Minnesota going into the first round and even though it went six games, the Blues did not look out matched for much of this series. St. Louis has had an interesting season as there were doubts about the future of Vladimir Tarasenko and Jordan Billington and both ended up being key cogs in the winning wheel for the Blues against the Wild. Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko were exceptional on the backend, logging all of the big minutes to put the finishing touches on a winning series.
Prediction: If there are any sure bets (and there very rarely is), this is as close as you will get to one. Colorado is too dominant at every position and Cale Makar has been as dominant as a player as we’ve seen in the playoffs. St. Louis has size and skill and was able to overcome injuries, but keeping up with the Avalanche will be a monumental challenge.
Colorado in five games.
Calgary Flames vs Edmonton Oilers
Calgary ran into a hard nosed roadblock in the Dallas Stars in round one and narrowly escaped with the series win. Calgary’s depth ended up coming through when they finally solved Jake Ottenger’s epic run for the Stars. The Flames boast a dangerous first line with Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm and one of the best netminders in Jakob Markstrom. Calgary has size and physicality that can match up with any team in the league.
Edmonton faced one of the most physical teams in the first round in the Los Angeles Kings. Driven by the swan song of Dustin Brown, the Kings went at the Oilers hard and pushed them to the brink. Edmonton always has Connor McDavid in the back pocket though and he created one of the best moments in the playoffs in burying the Kings in game seven and carrying his team to the second round. Edmonton was able to overcome some adversity in the playoffs with some spotty goaltending at times as well as the suspension of Darnell Nurse.
Prediction: While it is hard to bet against a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Calgary can match the scoring down the lineup, not just with their first line and can dominate a team physically. Edmonton’s goaltending is still too much of a wild card for me, so Calgary is who I would predict moving on in this one.
Calgary in 6 games.