After so many upsets in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, our writers provide their picks for the second round with the two series beginning on Thursday. All Canadian teams are out of the playoffs, so the Habs will remain the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Boston Bruins
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Bruins in 5 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Blue Jackets in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Bruins in 6 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Bruins in 7 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Blue Jackets in 6 games
(Norm) To say Columbus stunned the hockey world by defeating Tampa in four straight games would be an understatement. The defeat of the team with one of the highest win totals in the game’s history was much like a David versus Goliath epic tale. Sergei Bobrovsky was impressive with a .932 save percentage and a 2.01 GAA.
With the defeat of teams like Tampa, Calgary, Nashville, and Pittsburgh, the Bruins now are one of the highest seeded teams by regular season points. Some experts say these events could pave the way for a return to the Cup Final or better. The key to their success will stay with uber-pest Brad Marchand, who lead his team with 9 points in 7 games. Tuukka Rask was very good with a .928 save percentage and a 2.32 GAA.
I prefer the balance in the scoring of the Boston lineup, with a slight edge in goal.
(Kevin) Boston was one of the top teams in the regular season yet we’ve seen in the first round just how little this means when the entire rule book gets tossed. Columbus, on the other hand, handled the big bad Lightning with relative ease and now face a young team that proved their worth all year round. Yet when looking at the rosters, Columbus remains a brutal opponent over the span of a playoff series. Big, physical and skilled, I prefer their scoring to Boston’s. I also prefer their blueline. Rask will have to steal some games, and I certainly don’t have enough confidence in him to think he’ll steal a series. Add to that the amount of Blue Jackets who know they get bigger pay checks this summer for every round they play this spring, there’s no doubt in my mind that the bigger, stronger, more skilled, and more motivated team wins here.
(Brian) I know Columbus made short work of Tampa Bay but the Lightning didn’t play particularly well either. They were intimidated by the Blue Jackets’ physicality. Boston won’t be. As they showed against Toronto (and many times in the past), they can play with an edge themselves.
I think the long layoff will hurt Columbus; they’re not going to be as sharp as they were at the end of the first round which will help out Boston. I also fear that there will be a sense of contentment for them after winning their first series in playoff history.
In terms of the edge, I give the Blue Jackets the nod in most categories. However, I have a hard time thinking that they will be able to restrict Boston’s top line as well as Toronto did. The Patrice Bergeron trio can win games on their own. Add that to a potential sluggish start for the Blue Jackets and the recipe for a Bruins victory is there.
(Craig) Fire the cannon! The Blue Jackets took a little while to find their legs after the trade deadline, but are sure rolling now – maybe Jarmo Kekalainen is onto something. They steamrolled one of the best teams in NHL history and I don’t see the Bruins stopping them. Boston was inconsistent in their series against the Leafs and Columbus has a far better defensive unit. They’ll need Duchene and Panarin to keep producing but the awesome Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, along with Bobrovsky, are the difference.
Dallas Stars vs St. Louis Blues
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Stars in 6 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Stars in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Blues in 6 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Stars in 6 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Stars in 6 games
(Norm) The Stars upset the favoured Nashville Predators in the first round. Former Hab Alexander Radulov tied for the lead in points along with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and defenceman John Klingberg. Goatender Ben Bishop was stellar, with a .945 save percentage and a stingy 1.90 GAA.
St. Louis also surprised many by defeating Winnipeg. Although their leading scorer was defenceman Alex Pietrangelo with 6 points, rookie goalie Jordan Binnington was a major reason for their success, providing clutch saves.
While St. Louis has continued their hot play from the regular season, I like the Stars balance between strong goaltending and offence to tip the series in their favour.
(Kevin) This is the toughest series to predict. St. Louis remains hot, as does young Binnington, but Bishop is no slouch. Dallas brought up some skill in the young forwards now playing as the second line, and that’s opened up a ton of space for their dominant top line. So offensively, these teams about as even as can be. St. Louis holds the only advantage in my eyes on the blueline, but Dallas’ young defencemen were also impressive in the first round. I think St. Louis finds in Dallas what they should have found in Winnipeg, a team that wants to get physical all over the ice to pound them into submission. St. Louis will have to stay disciplined and continue to play hockey and not fall into the trap like the Lightning did in Round 1. The trap: getting so obsessed with proving that you’re as tough as the other team that you forget to play your skillful brand of hockey. I think St. Louis won’t fall into the trap which is why I have this series going 7 games. In the end, I’m just going with my gut and choosing the upset here.
(Brian) St. Louis seemed to get better as the series went on and were dominant in Game 6 against Winnipeg in what was a must-win situation for the Jets. Jordan Binnington has given them strong goaltending and while I have doubts about how long it will last, as long as he plays reasonably well, the Blues will be the favourites. Their attack is deeper than they’re given credit for and while their back end doesn’t have a lot of big-name players, it’s effective.
The top line in Dallas played like it and it helped carry them past Nashville. I have a hard time thinking they can win another series like that; they’ll need more consistent secondary scoring. Ben Bishop is capable of stealing a few games and that’s what will need to happen if the Stars are going to move on. I like Bishop and trust him more than Binnington but I still give St. Louis the edge.
(Craig) Both teams rode hot goaltending to make it into the playoffs and then took advantage of the supposedly superior teams in the Central Division to book their spots in the second round. The Blues have tremendous depth at forward, but I think the Dallas stars (haha) come to play with Seguin, Benn and Radulov having a major impact. John Klingberg and the spectacular rookie Miro Heiskanen tip the scales in the Stars’ favour.