That’s a wrap on an insanely crazy opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lot’s of thrilling games and lots of shocking upsets, proving a lot of people wrong going into the second round. All four division winners were eliminated in Round 1 for the first time in NHL history, leaving the rest of the playoffs wide open on the path to the Stanley Cup. In this piece, I will go over each second-round series and give my thoughts and predictions on what I think will happen as we wind down to the elite 8.
St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars
The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars will meet in the second round of the playoffs after taking out both Winnipeg and Nashville, two Cup favourites throughout the season. These teams met in the second round of the playoffs three years ago in 2016, St. Louis getting the better of Dallas in 7 games. With the way that Dallas took care of Nashville in the first round, will it be different this time around?
January 8, 2019 – Blues (1) – Stars (3)
January 12, 2019 – Blues (3) – Stars (1)
February 21, 2019 – Blues (2) – Stars (5)
March 2, 2019 – Blues (1) – Stars (4)
The Stars got better as the series went on and shut Nashville down for most of the series, holding them to 2 goals or less in 4 of the 6 games. Dallas defended the middle of the ice very well, they limited Nashville in high quality chances and when Nashville got opportunities, Ben Bishop was terrific in the Dallas net. Nashville’s top line of Forsberg, Johansen and Arvidsson were frustrated all series, that line had a combined 2 goals and 4 points the entire series between the three of them. Rocco Grimaldi had a very good series and was a one bright spot for Nashville, but that was as good as it got.
St. Louis has been one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch and they showed it in the first round of the playoffs. They had a bunch of different players chip in and they provided scoring up and down the Blues’ roster. They were fast, they were disciplined, they were aggressive, they forced Winnipeg into making the wrong plays with the puck. The Jets struggled with puck management and the Blues created so much in the offensive zone. Jordan Binnington didn’t have the best numbers in the first round, but he was good enough to help the Blues win. He will probably have to be even better in order to out duel Ben Bishop in this series.
Team Playoff Numbers
Powerplay – Blues 26.3 (5th) – Stars 18.2 (11th)
Penalty Kill – Blues 78.6 (9th) – Stars 100.0 (1st)
GF/Game – Blues 2.67 (11th) – Stars 3.00 (7th)
GA/Game – Blues 2.67 (6th) – Stars 2.00 (2nd)
Shot Share (CF%) – Blues 50.2 (8th) – Stars 46.8 (12th)
Scoring Chances (SCF%) – Blues 48.3 (12th) – Stars 47.5 (13th)
Goal Share (GF%) – Blues 47.6 (10th) – Stars 53.9 (6th)
This should be a very close series as both teams are playing great coming into Round 2. St. Louis is coming in playing great hockey for a few months. They looked great against Winnipeg and they look like a team that can go far in the playoffs. It’s tough to call because I did not expect Dallas to handle Nashville as good as they did. With the way Ben Bishop is playing as well, they’re going to be an easy team to beat. But the Blues have been great and their powerplay is vastly better than Nashville’s so Dallas’ penalty kill will really be tested in this series. Dallas has relied a lot on their defensive structure and their best players like Benn, Seguin and Radulov have been their best players so far in the playoffs. St. Louis has one of the best rosters left in the playoffs, I know that hasn’t meant much so far in the playoffs, but they have shown that they are capable of coming out of the West. If Dallas continues to play the way they have and if Bishop continues to be rock solid in net, they can win this series. However, I have the St. Louis Blues winning this series in 7 games.
San Jose Sharks vs. Colorado Avalanche
Two high flying teams are set to face off against each other in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Avalanche are coming off their first playoff series win since 2008 after they doused the Flames in 5 games and they will have to take on a deep, experienced team in the Sharks. The Sharks got the better of Vegas in a Game 7 OT thriller Tuesday night, do they have enough in the tank to take out the Avalanche and go on another run?
January 2, 2019 – Sharks (5) – Avalanche (4)
March 1, 2019 – Sharks (4) – Avalanche (3)
April 6, 2019 – Sharks (5) – Avalanche (2)
San Jose just came off a crazy series with Vegas, 7 games of high event hockey with each team coming at each other in waves. It will likely be a similar type of series against the high-flying Avalanche. The Sharks have had great depth scoring in the first round, they have 3 point per game players and 10 players averaging half a point per game. Martin Jones was shaky during the season and to start the series, but he got better and more confident as the series went along. He was sensational in Games 5 and 6 to get San Jose to Game 7 and when the Sharks stormed back late in the game, he made multiple huge saves to give the Sharks a chance to end it. On paper the Sharks look to be the much superior team, but they can’t sleep on the Avalanche, and their numbers after the first round aren’t exactly flattering.
The Calgary Flames seemed to underestimate the Avalanche in the first round and were caught off guard with their speed. Nathan MacKinnon has played like a man possessed in these playoffs and he will present maybe the toughest challenge left in the playoffs for the Sharks. Him, Landeskog and Rantanen picked Calgary apart with 9 goals and 21 points through the 5 games. The Avalanche just torched the Flames off the rush and in transition, they created so much by gaining the offensive zone and setting up scoring chances and Calgary just did not look ready for that. Philipp Grubauer was terrific in that series as well with a 1.90 GAA and a 0.939 SV%.
Team Playoff Numbers
Powerplay – Sharks 23.5 (6th) – Avalanche 20.0 (9th)
Penalty Kill – Sharks 72.4 (13th) – Avalanche 77.3 (10th)
GF/Game – Sharks 3.29 (6th) – Avalanche 3.40 (4th)
GA/Game – Sharks 3.57 (15th) – Avalanche 2.20 (4th)
Shot Share (CF%) – Sharks 47.2 (11th) – Avalanche 54.9 (3rd)
Scoring Chances (SCF%) – Sharks 49.2 (10th) – Avalanche 57.5 (1st)
Goal Share (GF%) – Sharks 39.1 (14th) – Avalanche 66.7 (2nd)
The Colorado Avalanche are very confident coming into this series having knocked off the best team in the Western Conference. They didn’t just barely pull it out, they straight up dominated and made quick work of them. There are still questions with their depth scoring but if their big guns continue to play the way they have and if Grubauer continues his great play in net, this is going to be a real tough task for the Sharks. San Jose is an older team and they are just coming off a ringer of a first round series. They barely scraped through as well, the Sharks are the only one of the 16 teams to advance while giving up more goals than they’ve scored. If not for their miracle comeback in Game 7 or the play of Martin Jones in the last couple games, they probably wouldn’t even be here. The Avalanche are confident, rested and ready to go, I have the Colorado Avalanche winning this series in 6 games.
Boston Bruins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Moving onto the Eastern side of things, we have the series everyone expected to happen with the Bruins taking on the Blue Jackets in Round 2… Joking aside, Columbus is coming off one of the greatest upsets in recent memory, sweeping away the 62-win Tampa Bay Lightning in 4 straight games. The Boston Bruins are coming off finishing the Toronto Maple Leafs in 7 games for the second straight season and are looking for a different Round 2 result compared to last year. Will they get that different result this season without Tampa Bay here?
March 12, 2019 – Bruins (4) – Blue Jackets (7)
March 16, 2019 – Bruins (2) – Blue Jackets (1) OT
April 2, 2019 – Bruins (6) – Blue Jackets (2)
The Boston Bruins finished off a tight 7 game series with Toronto that saw their offense explode. With a red hot powerplay and offense led by Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak, Boston is playing well heading into the second round. Tuuka Rask has been solid in net for Boston with a 0.928 SV% in 7 games. Their defense has been god, McAvoy, Chara, Grzelcyk and Krug have all been contributing from the backend. If they want a chance to advance to the Conference Final, they can’t underestimate Columbus like Tampa Bay did.
I said that Boston had a hot powerplay, the only powerplay that’s better is Columbus, operating at a 50% rate. It’s a small sample of 4 games, but the Jackets are averaging almost 5 goals a game and allowing under 2. Like Calgary/Colorado, Tampa Bay seemed to have taken Columbus too lightly and they got burned for it badly. I’m not going to pretend that I had Columbus beating the Lightning, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to beat the Jackets. I said that Columbus was a very good team, they are much better than their record shows and that they wouldn’t be a push over. They were one of the tougher opponents Tampa could have had in the first round and the proved that in a big way.
Team Playoff Numbers
Powerplay – Bruins 43.8 (2nd) – Blue Jackets 50.0 (1st)
Penalty Kill – Bruins 81.3 (7th) – Blue Jackets 83.3 (5th)
GF/Game – Bruins 3.29 (5th) – Blue Jackets 4.75 (1st)
GA/Game – Bruins 2.43 (5th) – Blue Jackets 2.00 (3rd)
Shot Share (CF%) – Bruins 49.2 (10th) – Blue Jackets 45.3 (13th)
Scoring Chances (SCF%) – Bruins 48.6 (11th) – Blue Jackets 45.8 (14th)
Goal Share (GF%) – Bruins 47.8 (9th) – Blue Jackets 57.1 (5th)
Last season, Boston came off a 7-game series and went up against a team that was rested and hot. It didn’t go over so well for them as they lost in 5 games to Tampa Bay. Since Tampa Bay isn’t here this year, you would think that Boston would have an easier chance of getting to the Conference Final. However, after seeing what Columbus did to the Presidents Trophy winners in Round 1, I have a hard time not seeing them going on a deep run. So far, Jarmo Kekalainen has looked very smart for loading up at the trade deadline and the acquisitions like Matt Duchene and rookie call up Alexandre Texier have been money so far. I have the Columbus Blue Jackets winning this series in 5 games.
New York Islanders vs. Carolina Hurricanes
This is an interesting series as the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes meet in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both teams have proven doubters wrong all season and have both eliminated the last 2 Stanley Cup Winners in Pittsburgh and Washington to get here. Carolina coming off a Game 7 Double OT win and the Islanders are coming in rested after sweeping away the Penguins. Both teams have been great stories this season, which team’s story is going to continue on to the Conference Final?
October 4, 2018 – Islanders (2) – Hurricanes (1) OT
October 28, 2018 – Islanders (2) – Hurricanes (1)
November 24, 2018 – Islanders (4) – Hurricanes (1)
January 8, 2019 – Islanders (3) – Hurricanes (4)
The Islanders have continued to prove people wrong including myself as they made quick work of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1. They showed just why they were the best defensive team in the NHL this year as they shut down the Penguins top scorers all series. Like Dallas, the Islanders locked down the slot area and kept Pittsburgh to the outside as much as possible. Malkin, Kessel, Guentzel and Crosby had a combined 3 goals and 7 points, Jordan Eberle alone had 4 goals and 6 points in the series. The Penguins did get a lot of shots in the series, but Robin Lehner has continued to show why he is a Vezina finalist with a 0.956 SV% through 4 games.
Carolina has also got scoring from up and down their lineup, they have 11 players with half a point per game or better. They dominated Washington at 5v5 all series long, but it was a close series because Washington’s special teams were vastly better. Washington had a tough time all series handling the Hurricanes speed, the Hurricanes were fast, aggressive and they wore the Capitals down as the series went on. The third period and overtime periods of Game 7 Washington didn’t have much legs left, and they were struggling to keep up with Carolina. Carolina showed that they can score and beat the best teams, but they will face a tough task getting through the stingy Islanders.
Team Playoff Numbers
Powerplay – Islanders 15.4 (13th) – Hurricanes 12.0 (14th)
Penalty Kill – Islanders 90.9 (2nd) – Hurricanes 75.0 (12th)
GF/Game – Islanders 3.50 (3rd) – Hurricanes 3.00 (7th)
GA/Game – Islanders 1.50 (1st) – Hurricanes 2.86 (8th)
Shot Share (CF%) – Islanders 44.3 (15th) – Hurricanes 59.4 (1st)
Scoring Chances (SCF%) – Islanders 50.5 (8th) – Hurricanes 56.0 (2nd)
Goal Share (GF%) – Islanders 71.4 (1st) – Hurricanes 57.1 (4th)
Carolina has been very good during the second half of the season and the first round of the playoffs. They’re going to get shots and zone time against the Islanders, but I don’t Know how many Grade A chances they will manage on the Islanders defense. Even when they do Robin Lehner will be back there who has been terrific, and I do think he could be the difference in this series. Petr Mrazek has been up and down in the playoffs, he’s had good games and has made big saves in big moments, but he most likely has to out duel Lehner for the Hurricanes to come away with this series. Lehner and the Islanders are, again, coming in well rested and on fire after 4 straight wins. I have the New York Islanders winning this series in 6 games.
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