A preview to the second round of the NHL playoffs

Things get serious now.

Welcome to Round Two of the NHL playoffs. Well, Round Two for everyone except Montreal and Toronto. I think the league was really hoping the Maple Leafs were going to sweep or win the series in five games to get everything back on line. Well, it didn’t happen, because nothing goes smoothly for the NHL (where is the winner of the North playing in Round Three?)

Who cares about that stuff, how about that first round? Some darn good hockey around the league. The top two seeds advanced in the West, but everywhere else there were upsets galore. Yes, I consider the Lightning winning an upset, even if just a baby one. The good news is with some lower seeds winning, there is a path to Tampa Bay getting home ice advantage in the last two rounds (should they advance past Carolina). That would be wild, especially if Amalie Arena is open to 100% capacity by then.

There were suspensions, short and long, pretty goals, spectacular saves, and overtimes, oh so many overtimes. For better or worse, fans were back in most of the arenas and there was definitely a more charged atmosphere in the buildings. As we move on, expect more teams to open up an increased number of tickets to their games as they strive to make up as much missed revenue as possible.

The Lightning stumbled a little out of the gate but were blessed with some shaky goaltending from the Panthers. Tampa Bay improved as the series went on, especially at 5v5 and emerged victorious. Their reward, the Carolina Panthers, another team that can run-and-gun with them.

In action from around the league, NBC lost two of their marquee teams as Pittsburgh and Washington were bounced. The best player in the league, Connor McDavid, lost in the first round again and it looks like Auston Matthews may carry the Leafs to their first series win since 2004. The Bruins and Islanders should beat each other up in an old-fashioned defensive series while Vegas and Colorado should run up and down the ice.

With fewer teams, that means fewer refs needed to officiate the games. Hopefully it eliminates some of the ref-bashing we’ve seen from fans (and coaches). In theory the best officials should advance, therefore the games should be officiated better. We’ll see.

Before we get started with Round Two, let’s review Round One and see how we did with the predictions.

Carolina vs. Nashville

Prediction: Carolina in 5

Reality: Carolina in 6

Bonus prediction: Saroos makes 52 saves in Game 4. I undersold him a bit. He made 58.

Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Prediction: Tampa Bay in 7

Reality: Tampa Bay in 6

Bonus prediction: There was no Game 7, so no chance for a Tyler Johnson game-winning goal in triple overtime. Boo.

Toronto vs. Montreal

Prediction: Toronto in 6

Reality: ???? It can still happen!

Bonus Prediction: Toronto goes up 3-0 in the series, Montreal wins the next two, before Toronto puts them away. The series is 3-2 right now, so there is a little bit of panic in The Big Smoke. Imagine if they lose tonight!

Edmonton vs. Winnipeg

Prediction: Edmonton in 7

Reality: Winnipeg in 4

Bonus Prediction: Mike Smith outplays Connor Hellebuyck. Yeah, sorry about that one. Totally whiffed. Can’t win them all.

Colorado vs. St. Louis

Prediction: Colorado in 4

Reality: Colorado in 4

Bonus Prediction: Didn’t really have one. MacKinnon played and did well, but they probably would have won without him.

Vegas vs. Minnesota

Prediction: Vegas in 5

Reality: Vegas in 7

Bonus Prediction: Fleury would have at least one bad game, probably Game 3. I was close. He gave up 3 goals on 13 shots in Game 5. Kaprizov scored twice, but neither was the prettiest goal of the first round. We all know which goal was the prettiest in the first round:

Pittsburgh vs. New York Islanders

Prediction: New York in 6

Reality: New York in 6

Bonus Prediction: Pittsburgh will outshoot New York in every game. I was close, Pittsburgh outshot them in 5 of the 6 games, the only one they didn’t, the Penguins won. Crazy. Malkin ended up missing two games in the series.

Washington vs. Boston

Prediction: Boston in 7

Reality: Boston in 5

Bonus Prediction: Whiffed on Ovechkin leading the league in goals scored. Rask only had to make 19 saves in Game 4, instead of the 32 I predicted. He still won it, though.

Not too shabby. Down right fantastic based on my history of predictions. Maybe, I’m finally getting the hang of this. Let’s move on to Round Two (well, most of it).

Boston Bruins vs. New York Islanders

Season Series: 5-2 Islanders (two games won in overtime)

5v5 stats vs each other in season

CF% - 55.87% Boston

xGF% - 55.43% Boston

HDCF% - 50%

Scoring leaders first round

Boston - David Pastrnak: 2 goals, 4 assists

New York - Anthony Beauvillier: 3 goals, 4 assists

Goaltending leaders first round

Boston - Tuukka Rask: 5 games, 1.81 GAA, .941 SV%, 3.25 goals saved above average, .895 High Danger Save %

New York - Ilya Sorokin: 4 games, 1.95 GAA, .943 SV%, 3.47 goals saved above average, .882 High Danger Save %

Prediction: Boston in 7. It was an interesting season series with the Islanders winning the first five meetings and then Boston taking the last three. For all intents and purposes it will be a close, low-scoring series with the difference coming down to goaltending. Tuukka posts a shutout in Game 7 to decide the series. Brad Marchand does something that everyone on social media thinks deserves a suspension, but he doesn’t even get fined.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Season Series: 4-3-0-1 Colorado

5v5 stats vs each other in season

CF%: 52.59% Colorado

XGF%: 53.57% Colorado

HDCF%: 52.27% Las Vegas

Scoring leaders first round

Colorado - Nathan MacKinnon: 6 goals, 3 assists

Las Vegas - Mattias Janmark: 3 goals, 3 assists

Goaltending leaders first round

Colorado - Phillip Grubauer: 4 games, 1.75 GAA, .936 SV%, 1.62 Goals Saved Above Average, .909 High Danger Save %

Las Vegas - Marc Andre Fleury: 7 games, 1.71 GA, .931 SV%,  1.73 Goals Saved Above Average, .880 High Danger Save %

Prediction: Colorado in 6. The Avalanche are a juggernaut. They have unfinished business from last year and are pretty much healthy. Sorry Vegas, you may be one of the best teams in the West, but Colorado is the best. Fleury will get chased in Game 4 or 5 and his agent will post something on Twitter that goes viral.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Season Series: 4-3-0-1 For the Lightning

5v5 stats vs each other in season

CF% - 50.86% - Carolina

xGF% - 50.04% - Carolina

HDCF% - 52.38% Lightning

Scoring leaders first round

Carolina - Sebastian Aho: 5 goals, 2 assists

Tampa Bay - Nikita Kucherov: 3 goals, 8 assists

Goaltending leaders first round

Carolina - Alex Nedeljkovic:  6 games, 2.22 GA, .922 SV%, 0.07 Goals Saved Above Average, .780 High Danger Save %

Tampa Bay - Andrei Vasilevskiy: 6 games, 2.64 GA, .929 SV%, 1.72 Goals Saved Above Average, .891 High Danger Save %

Prediction: Lightning in 7. That’s right, it’s a homer pick. I don’t care. This should be a really good series, think of the skill we saw in the Florida vs. Tampa Bay series without the garbage hits and after-the-whistle idiotic play. The Hurricanes have a really solid blue line and some exciting forwards. They like to play up-tempo hockey. Nedeljkovic is the question mark. His peripheral numbers weren’t great against the Predators, but he made the saves they needed. The Lightning will finally lose two games in a row, but still emerge with the victory when Tyler Johnson scores twice in Game 7.

Toronto Maple Leafs/Montreal Canadiens vs. Winnipeg Jets

Scoring leaders first round

Winnipeg: Blake Wheeler / Mark Scheifele: 2 goals, 3 assists

Goaltending leaders first round

Winnipeg: Connor Hellebuyck: 4 games, 1.60 GA, .950 SV%, 4.47 Goals Saved Above Average, .870 High Danger Save %

Prediction: Who knows? If Toronto advances I could see them running the table against Winnipeg, but if Montreal completes the comeback, Winnipeg matches up well against them. Since I’ll be on the river and out of touch by the time we know who advances, I’ll give you two predictions.

Toronto vs. Winnipeg: Toronto in 5. With their first series win in decades behind them, some of the pressure is off and the young stars shine against Winnipeg. After splitting the first two games, Blake Wheeler gets hurt early in Game 3 and Toronto rolls. Hellebuyck puts up a good effort, but Winnipeg is absolutely caved in possession-wise. William Nylander leads the Leafs in scoring.

Montreal vs. Winnipeg: Winnipeg in 6. Total goals scored between the two teams in the series is 19. The only time there is more than a one-goal lead is with two minutes to go in Game 6 when Cole Caulfield puts home an empty netter.