Stanley Cup Playoffs : Round 2
The opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has given us everything that we want out of the NHL postseason. There have been Game 7’s, there have been upsets, and there have been emotional match-ups that have brought out the best (and sometimes worst) in many of the remaining teams. As the NHL Playoffs progress, the match-ups will get tougher and more grueling. Here is one way that Round 2 might play out, let us know if you agree.
NHL Playoffs: The East
The great thing about the NHL Playoffs? There are several rounds. That means I get several tries to get one of these right. Last round didn’t go so hot. Click here to see my first round predictions. Warning: It’s painful to read. Originally I had Detroit, Florida, Chicago and Los Angeles moving on to Round 2. Those were all fails. I had Anaheim sweeping Nashville…yes, the same Nashville that has pushed the Ducks to Game 7. Round 1 wasn’t pretty, so it’s time for some redemption.
While Tampa Bay made relatively quick work of the Red Wings in Round 1, winning in five games, the Islanders fought tooth-and-nail to emerge from their Round 1 series against the Panthers. Florida had a counter-punch for every punch that New York threw, but John Tavares essentially put the Isles on his back and carried them to the promise land that is Round 2. Thomas Greiss exceeded expectations against Florida, but with Jaroslav Halak now listed as “day-to-day” and traveling with the team, it is tough to tell which direction New York will go in net. Steven Stamkos has been stirring the rumor-pot lately as he practices with his teammates, even being listed as “day-to-day” on the injury report, but coach Jon Cooper has stressed that Stamkos will NOT see the ice in this series. While that is a bullet somewhat dodged by the Isles, they still have to deal with Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Alex Killorn who have all been great in their captain’s absence.
Prediction: Tampa piles it on and cracks Thomas Greiss, winning in 6 over the Isles.
The last time that these two teams met up in the postseason it resulted in absolute electricity. Pittsburgh topped Washington in 7 games in 2009, but the series was unforgettable. It saw the league’s undisputed two top players at the time, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, meet up in a series that people had waited for since they were both drafted #1 overall in 2004 and 2005. Game 2 of that series featured the “Dueling Hat Tricks” Game that saw both Crosby and Ovechkin record hat tricks on the way to a 4-3 Pittsburgh win. The Capitals were the higher seed in 2009, just like this year, but the Penguins ultimately took home The Cup. This year, the Capitals have been the undisputed #1 seed in the East, but Pittsburgh has hit their stride and are running like a well-oiled machine. This series is going to be one to watch, and we can only hope that it goes 7. Both teams have high-powered offenses so this could come down to the goalies. Matt Murray will be starting the series in net for Pittsburgh in place of the injured Marc-Andre Fleury. He has played well in Fleury’s absence, but he is facing the Vezina-favorite Braden Holtby down at the other end. This one could go either way.
Prediction: Pittsburgh overcomes Fleury’s absence and beats Washington 7 games.
NHL Playoffs: The West
Since the NHL can’t figure out a way to end one round before they start the next, I am forced into my predictions before Round 1 is over in the Western Conference. Anaheim plays Nashville tonight in Anaheim for Game 7. My Round 1 predictions have Anaheim winning that series (so they will probably lose) so I am going to push them ahead to Round 2 to face San Jose who got passed the Los Angeles Kings in five games. I am comfortable anticipating an Anaheim win because whether they win or lose, I have San Jose moving on to the Western Conference Finals – whether they have to beat the Ducks or the Predators. Although they won in only five games, this series was much more hard-fought than it seems. The first four games of the series were decided by only one goal. Los Angeles would have been a formidable opponent for any Western Conference team, and San Jose must feel a tremendous weight lifted now that they have put LA in their rear-view. Whoever wins in ANA-NSH Game 7 will be coming off of an emotional win, no doubt. However, they will be facing a San Jose team that is more rested and still reeling from a win over their rival.
Prediction: San Jose keeps their momentum rolling and beats Anaheim (or Nashville) in 6 games.
This will be a pure hockey series – no pun intended. You have one team who overpowers the opposing defensemen with elite speed and creating scoring opportunities, and you have another team that is known for wearing down the opposing offense and grinding their way to gritty wins. For St. Louis, one key will be to keep Vladimir Tarasenko rolling. He, out of anyone on the Blues, can match the speed and intensity of the Stars. On the other side of the ice, Dallas could really benefit from a Tyler Seguin return. He is listed as “day-to-day” with his Achilles injury, but if he could return early in this series his play will be extremely valuable against the stout St. Louis defensive system. One thing to recognize is that Dallas’ first-line defenders, Klingberg and Goligoski, were a combined -7 in Round 1. That will have to change if they want to find success against the Blues.
Prediction: St. Louis stands tall on defense and beats Dallas in 7 games.
Now, if you do the math that leaves us with four teams. Four Conference Finalists to be exact. If everything shook out like this, we would be left with:
Eastern Conference Finals: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins
Western Conference Finals: San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues
I don’t know about you, but these would be two series that I love to see. Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay would be exhausting just to watch. The speed and offense in that series would be unreal. On the other side you have the two teams that eliminated the powerhouse Blackhawks and Kings, potentially altering the landscape of the Western Conference for years to come. Let us know what YOU think is going to happen in Round 2 of the NHL Playoffs. Also, don’t forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!