The second round of the playoffs are underway, and the HabsWorld experts have their next set of predictions on who will advance into the third round.
Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian La Rose predicts: Penguins in 7
Craig Scharien predicts: Capitals in 6
Gordon Black predicts: Capitals in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Penguins in 7
(Brian) It took longer than expected but Washington finally got by a scrappy Philly in Round 1 while the Pens crushed the Rangers which I certainly didn’t see coming. Even more impressive was that they did so with a pair of backup goalies. With Evgeni Malkin healthy and Phil Kessel producing, Pittsburgh has a couple of very dangerous lines that can counter Washington lethal top unit and power play. They also should get Marc-Andre Fleury back at some point although Matt Murray has done a nice job in his absence. I like Washington’s back end and goaltending but I think Pittsburgh’s attack should be enough to get the job done.
(Craig) Everyone is going to be talking about Sid the Kid and the Great Eight, and rightfully so – they’re arguably the most iconic players of their generation. But this series won’t be decided by who plays better between Ovechkin and Crosby, it’s going to come down to the support cast (and the other superstars, and there are quite a few). That’s why the Capitals take out the Pens, though I think they are the only team that could do it in the Eastern Conference. Not only do they sport Backstrom , Kuznetsov and Oshie but they have the likes of Chimera and Jason Williams. Pittsburgh is the hottest team around, but the Caps are just too deep and easily win the goaltending battle with Holtby between the pipes.
(Gordon) The matchup everyone was hoping for – although maybe a bit sooner than it deserves to be (Im not a fan of the divisional breakdown in its current form). Pens have been playing inspired hockey for a few weeks now and I’d like to see it continue but I don’t see how it can. Washington is too deep and while I think this one could be close I’ll go with my instinct and say that Ovie is finally going to get his chance.
(Norm) This should be an epic series, Ovechkin versus Crosby. It may end up being the best playoff series in 2016. Both teams are very well matched, and the Penguins have been on such a roll since coach Mike Sullivan took over the team. Pittsburgh entered the playoffs at about a 67% winning percentage. I believe that Pittsburgh is the only team that can take down Washington in the playoffs this year, but it won’t be an easy task for them.
New York Islanders vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Brian La Rose predicts: Lightning in 6
Craig Scharien predicts: Islanders in 7
Gordon Black predicts: Islanders in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Lightning in 6
(Brian) Both teams surprised me in the first round with how well they played. Tampa Bay took it to Detroit for long stretches while the Islanders overcame having to play with a backup goalie to beat the Panthers. Unfortunately for New York, that issue still is in play with Jaroslav Halak not yet at 100% to start the series. At the other end, Ben Bishop is 100% and in fine form if his play against the Wings is any indication. I know the Lightning are missing Steven Stamkos and a key blueline cog in Anton Stralman but I still think they’re a deeper team. An edge in depth and an big edge in goal should give the Bolts the series.
(Craig) In a battle of two teams I picked to get knocked out in the first round I’m going with the Islanders. Not only is John Tavares the best player in the series, but this Islanders group may have a little magic in them. You don’t win two double overtime games in a row to clinch your clubs first playoff series win since 1993 without a little help from the hockey gods. With Stamkos and Stralman still sitting on the sidelines (though it sounds like they both may be ahead of schedule) the Lightning give it a good go but come up short against a four line Islander squad.
(Gordon) Well, even with Drouin making it interesting and Tampa Bay looking like a solid unit that may even get healthy sometime before June – I’m not sure lightning can strike twice. On the other hand, I didn’t see the Islanders getting past Florida either so maybe one of these two teams will end up winning it all and I’ll eat crow all summer. In the meantime I’ll say this one goes the distance which is good for their fans because the road ends for whichever has to face the winner of the Pens/Wash series. Tavares looks like he could carry them on their own, and as a Habs fan I know a thing or two about goalies coming out of nowhere to lead their teams through the playoffs.
(Norm) Tampa really rose to the occasion in the first round despite missing key pieces to their lineup. It’s still unsure when either Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman will return. The plucky Islanders surprised the Florida Panthers in the first round, lead by John Tavares, who was dominant. Despite the Islanders fine play, I’m predicting the Lightning will strike down their opponents this series.
St. Louis Blues vs Dallas Stars
Brian La Rose predicts: Blues in 5
Craig Scharien predicts: Blues in 6
Gordon Black predicts: Blues in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Blues in 6
(Brian) As much as the Blues have been one of the perennial playoff chokers, I think their victory over Chicago sets them up for a nice run through this series. Brian Elliott has been solid between the pipes while the Stars had so much confidence in their starters that they changed twice in a very unconvincing series win over the Wild. Yes, Dallas certainly has the firepower but good goaltending can shut that down not to mention a strong blueline. St. Louis has that plus enough of an offensive attack to take this fairly handily, especially if the Stars can’t get one of their goalies on a run.
(Craig) When a team has Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and hopefully Tyler Seguin at some point in the series they’re tough to bet against. However I think the questions on the backend are just too big for Dallas- teams need to be able to keep the puck out of the net in the playoffs. This especially true against a deep St. Louis squad brimming with confidence now that they’ve beaten Chicago and have gotten the monkey off their backs. They’re big, tough and with Alex Pietrangelo seemingly managing to find another gear in the first round the Blues are looking great on defense as well. The only question mark is the Tarasenko vs Hitchcock drama, but the Blues still find a way to win, and Tarasenko still finds a way to score.
(Gordon) The matchup looks like it will favour the Blues and they’ll keep on rolling. No goalie has emerged for Dallas and Seguin’s health is still in question. As long as the refs keep the whistles away St. Louis could take this in a walk.
(Norm) This match is a faceoff of the top offensive team [Stars] against the best defensive team [Blues]. Everyone says defence wins championships and in this case it will be the key factor for St. Louis. I didn’t expect St. Louis to get past Chicago but they surprised me to take some revenge for previous playoff losses. I expect them to ride that victory past Dallas, a team that was good but not great in their victory against the Minnesota Wild in round 1.
San Jose Sharks vs Nashville Predators
Brian La Rose predicts: Sharks in 6
Craig Scharien predicts: Sharks in 5
Gordon Black predicts: Sharks in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Sharks in 6
(Brian) I was impressed with both teams in Round 1. Knocking off the Kings is no easy feat while the Ducks had finished their season strong. How the Sharks took out the Kings is what really stood out to me though. They dominated that series at times. Does that mean they’ve turned the corner on their playoff woes? I’m not convinced of that just yet but I think they can get through this series. The Preds did well to get by Anaheim but had their top four defencemen log huge minutes in the process. They can’t get away with doing that again, particularly against a team with a few lines capable of scoring. If Pekka Rinne is at his best and keeps the games low scoring, Nashville can win this but I think the Sharks will take this one.
(Craig) If the Ducks had managed to find a way past Pekka Rinne and the Predators this may be a different story, but they didn’t so I think the Sharks dispatch with Nashville handily. The Preds simply don’t have the horses to hang with Thornton, Pavelski, Burns and Couture and company. If they could play the Weber and Josi pairing literally the whole game, rather than most of it the Predators would be in good shape. The Sharks are deeper in every area of the game and have just knocked off their arch-nemesis in the Kings – they mean business this year.
(Gordon) The worst opponent the Preds could face. I still think Johansen will continue to improve and defense wins chamionships but the Sharks have a pretty decent defense as well and they are deep across all lines. In the end, a close series but Sharks want it more and are running out of time to get there. They looked pretty unstoppable against the Kings and I won’t bet against them again this round.
(Norm) This may be the toughest series to predict. Both the Sharks and Predators upset their opponents in round one. Pekka Rinne played very well in the last series and their defencemen were solid. However the team’s power play was anemic and their offence was not much better, which isn’t going to be enough to go farther in the post season. San Jose is really on top of their game and I expect they’ll continue their winning ways.