The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers get their quest for a berth in the Conference Finals tonight, but six other teams are also fighting for one of those four coveted spots. Let’s take a look at the other series and make some quick, lightly researched predictions.
Before we do that, how about a look back at how I did in the first round.
Leafs over Lightning in 7
Panthers over Caps in 5
Hurricanes over Bruins in 6
Rangers over Penguins in 7
Avalanche over Predators in 5
Blues over Wild in 7
Flames over Stars in 6
Oilers over Kings in 7
I’ll take 7-1 (even if the 1 was the Lightning). Only 3-5 on the series lengths, though. Oh well.
I’m not sure why the Hurricanes aren’t getting more love as a possible Stanley Cup Finalist. They are one of the more balanced teams left. There were some questions in goal as Frederik Andersen remains out with an injury, but Antti Raanta was solid in their first round win over the Bruins. They have balanced scoring (7 players posted 5 or more points in the series) and a deep defensive group.
New York has Igor Shesterkin, though.
Carolina in 6.
On paper, Colorado should roll in this round, much like they did against the Nashville Predators. St. Louis is the biggest underdog left in the playoffs. They will have to find a way to keep the offense they put up in the first round (3.67 goals per game) flowing against the Av’s. The Blues split starts between Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington, with Binnington dialing things back to their 2019 Cup run with a 1.67 GAA and .943 SV%. Can they duplicate that against an Avalanche team that is averaging 5.25 goals per game in the postseason? I’m going to go with no.
Colorado in 5.
Jake Oettinger received a tremendous amount of deserved respect for posting a 10.74 GSAx against the Flames in their series. He was the sole reason that series went seven games, but guess who was third in GSAx in the opening round according to Evolving Hockey? Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames with a 5.5. He was really, really solid. Oddly enough the second place goaltender in that metric - Edmonton’s Mike Smith with 8.17 GSAx. It’s the Battle of Alberta so we should probably throw all rational thought out and just enjoy the ride. I think Blake Coleman and his linemates shut down Connor McDavid (at least as much as one line can) and Calgary emerges victorious.
Calgary in 7.
Feel free to disagree in the comments. Seriously, I can’t stress how little thought I put into these other series. Kind of consumed by the whole Lightning/Panthers thing.
Lightning / NHL News
Brayden Point is ‘highly doubtful’ for Game One [Raw Charge]
The Lightning practiced this ascension earlier in the season when Point was out. They are such forward thinkers. Seriously, though, this isn’t a great way to start the second round. Tampa Bay is really testing the ‘next man up’ mantra.
Lightning/Panthers Series Preview [Raw Charge]
One team will score more than the other one enough times to win four games. Goalies will stop pucks and referees will make bewildering calls. Yup, that about sums it up.
Watch Parties are back! [NHL.com]
Why watch at home, alone, when you can watch with a bunch of other Lightning fans? Thunder Alley will host a Game One watch party with the plaza opening up at 5pm for y’all to set up your chairs. No rain in the forecast (for now).
‘Big Cat’ wants to tame the Panthers [Tampa Bay Times]
From one potent offense to another. After dealing with Auston Matthews and Co. Vasilevskiy will have to contend with Carter Verheaghe’s Gange of Misfits. The key, according to the Big Cat, will be to keep the shooting lanes open so he can see the initial shots.
For the Lightning, it was possessing a champion’s tenacity:
Tampa Bay’s edge is in its resolve. It has played more hockey than anyone the past two years. If it has slowed the team down at all physically, it hasn’t appeared to have had an effect mentally.
Hugo Alnefelt stepped in for Lagace when the veteran went down with a lower body injury in Game Four and shut down the Laval Rocket. It looks like he’ll have to do it again tonight as Ben Groulx indicates Lagace will be out for the deciding Game Five in Syracuse.
Islanders name Lane Lambert head coach [Lighthouse Hockey]
The New York Islanders are keeping things in house. After relieving Barry Trotz of his head coach role after the season ended, they named Lane Lambert to the job on Monday. Lambert had been the assistant coach for Trotz for the last four seasons. This is his first head coaching gig in the NHL.
Golden Knights fire head coach Pete DeBoer [Knights on Ice]
After a tumultuous end of the season that saw the Golden Knights spiral from being among the top of the Western Conference to missing the playoffs. It was the first time in their existence that Vegas didn’t make the postseason and DeBoer paid the price despite having the seventh-highest winning percentage among active coaches.
Matt Dumba had a couple of injuries at the end of the regular season [Hockey Wilderness]
Defenseman Matt Dumba suffered a dislocated rib and a broken rib that punctured a lung in a game against Nashville late in the season. He missed 12 games following the injury, but returned for the playoffs.
The Other Game Tonight
St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche, 9:30 PM EST, TNT, CBC
With or without Darcy Kuemper in net, the Avalanche are hoping to get off to a strong start against the St. Louis Blues. There could be some rust in their game as the Av’s haven’t played since completing their sweep of the Nashville Predators back on May 9th.