With the Carolina Hurricanes taking down the Washington Capitals last night in overtime 4-3 in Game 7, the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has officially concluded.
The Second Round of the Stanley Playoffs are set to start tonight as the Boston Bruins host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 PM ET, and the St. Louis Blues host the Dallas Stars at 8:30 PM ET.
Here are my predictions for the Eastern Conference Second Round match ups.
Boston Bruins v.s. Columbus Blue Jackets:
After eight days off the Columbus Blue Jackets will resume their role as an underdog.
However, after a sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning there is no doubt that people have gained respect for them.
Columbus and Boston currently have the top two power play units respectively, along with each of their penalty kill units being in the top ten Columbus’ at fifth and Boston’s at seventh.
There is a small part of me that thinks the Blue Jackets realistically do a have chance to take down yet another superior opponent, however they will have to shut down the Bruins’ top line of Bergeron, Pastrnak, and Marchand along with find a way to expose Tuuka Rask.
In net neither of these goalies have been shaky.
Bobrovksy has a slight edge on Rask with a save percentage of .932, compared to Rask’s .928 save percentage.
In goals against average Rask yet again is just a notch below Bobrovsky as Rask has allowed 2.32 goals against per game, and Bobrovsky has allowed 2.01 goals against per game.
With the Bruins getting out of this First Round, along with so many other contenders being knocked out, Boston has to be hungry looking at what could be ahead right now; although having just one day off between series will definitely not help Boston in Game 1.
If Boston plays their game, and does not get exposed in the same ways that Tampa Bay did, I have the Bruins winning in six games.
Prediction: BOS 4-2
New York Islanders v.s. Carolina Hurricanes:
For the first time since 2015 the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals will not be playing against each other in the Second Round.
Even crazier, this is the first time since 2007 that neither the Washington Capitals nor the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the Second Round.
Like the Blue Jackets, the Islanders have had quite a bit of a rest since sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will look to continue their defensive dominance in the Second Round.
After taking down the Capitals last night in overtime, the Hurricanes are certainly living up to their spoiler expectations.
There are two ways this series can play out:
The Islanders continue to play the best defensive hockey in the NHL like they have all year and shut down the Hurricanes, or the Hurricanes find a way to break through this defense, and Robin Lehner, which is no small task, and continue their spoiler role advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
New York having home ice certainly helps as we saw them take both home games last series, however they were even able to take both road games, which may cause some concern for the Hurricanes as they look to remain unbeaten at home in the playoffs.
In net Lehner has been unbelievable boasting a save percentage of .956, and a goals against average of 1.47, both best in the playoffs thus far.
Mrazek has also not been that bad himself, earning a goals against average of 2.54, and a save percentage of .899; the Hurricanes would like to see that get past the .900 mark but definitely numbers that a team can continue to win games with if their offense consistently scores three goals a game.
Special teams will certainly be interesting as neither team has a top ten power play, however the Islanders do have the second best penalty kill so far in the playoffs compared to the Hurricanes twelfth best.
Going off the fact that the Islanders have given us no cause for concern, if they continue their play, I see New York taking this series in six, with a good possibility of a Game 7.
How long this series goes depends on how much of a spoiler the Hurricanes want to be, Carolina has proven they are not a team to take lightly, and both teams have proven they are desperate for a Second Round victory.
Prediction: NYI 4-2
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