The other two series of the second round get underway on Friday. Our writers offer up their predictions on who will make it to the Conference Finals.
New York Islanders vs Carolina Hurricanes
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Islanders in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Islanders in 5 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Islanders in 5 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
(Norm) Those plucky Islanders surprised many by sweeping Pittsburgh in the first round even though New York finished the season with only 3 more points. Goalie Robin Lehner was impressive against the Penguins and will need to keep that going against Carolina. Forward Jordan Eberle led his squad with 6 points.
An equally underdog Canes squad knocked off the defending Cup champs Washington, in an exciting Game 7 double overtime win. Rookie forward Warren Foegele led that “bunch of jerks” with 6 points, tied with defencemen Dougie Hamilton & Jaccob Slavin.
This should be a low scoring series with both squads sporting solid defence. The edge will go to the Islanders.
(Kevin) The Islanders surprised everyone but themselves in Round 1 as they dismantled a Penguins team that likely should have been ranked as the 8 seed if the NHL could get their regular season point system fixed. On the other end, the Hurricanes also surprised everyone by gutting out a huge win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals. My opinion is that the Hurricanes first-round victory was more impressive, but that the look on the faces of the players once it was done was one of satisfaction. That’s not a great sign heading into a quick turnaround for the second round. Both teams have similar makeup and style. They both rely on speed and scoring by committee. They both have had strong goaltending from an unlikely source. I think the Islanders win out on the commitment to defence and their coaching staff that’s been here before.
(Brian) It’s hard not to be impressed with how quickly the Islanders dispatched of Pittsburgh, a team that had plenty of firepower but couldn’t get anything going. Carolina doesn’t have anywhere near as good as an offence as the Penguins did so even if New York’s defence and goaltending take a step back, it shouldn’t hurt them too badly.
The Hurricanes fared well against the Capitals but they certainly didn’t dominate the series as the Isles did. I also have concerns about Petr Mrazek – he played well at times but he certainly isn’t going to carry them through a series either. They’ve had quite the run this season but it stops here.
(Craig) The Islanders looked spectacular during their dominant sweep of the Penguins in Round One. If the Hurricanes are going to pull off another spectacular upset, they’ll need to be all over Lehner – good thing they’re the best shot generation team in the NHL. With the Islanders off for 11 days between games and moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for Round 2, there could be some concerns regarding any momentum they may have had. The Canes keep the party going and move on to the Conference Finals.
Colorado Avalanche vs San Jose Sharks
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Sharks in 6 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Sharks in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Sharks in 5 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Sharks in 7 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Sharks in 7 games
(Norm) The Sharks will be primed to start their next match, after completing a come from behind Game 7 overtime victory against Vegas, after being down 3-0. Truly San Jose is jelling at the right time after also coming back in their series from a 3 games to 1 deficit. Defenceman Erik Karlsson led his team with 9 points in the series with forwards Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture behind him with 8 points.
The Avalanche also surprised many by defeating the Western Conference leader Calgary Flames. The key to their success will continue to lie with leading scorers Mikko Rantanen with 9 points and linemate Nathan Mackinnon with 8 points in 5 games.
Although Colorado is more rested, I like the way the Sharks have played and I believe their veterans will help them deliver a series win.
(Kevin) How about Nathan MacKinnon. What a first round series this was for him and the young Avalanche! On the other hand, the Sharks came out rather flat and needed a series of different comebacks to dispatch the Golden Knights. The Sharks enter the series far more bruised and battered than the Avalanche, but far more prepared to go to war too. While MacKinnon will meet his match in terms of scoring, the Sharks should be better equipped defensively to handle this matchup. Of course, this assumes we see the Martin Jones that ended the last series and not the Martin Jones that started it. If Jones can stand tall against MacKinnon, then my prediction may simply be off due to guessing too many games. I don’t think the Avalanche are deep enough to contend with the Sharks at all.
(Brian) I’d like to pick Colorado here. I don’t trust Martin Jones at all between the pipes for the Sharks and as we saw in the first round, the Avs can beat a team with shaky goaltending. But I have to think that San Jose will do a better job at containing the Nathan MacKinnon line than Calgary did and if they can do that, this could be over quickly.
Vegas was actually able to hold some of San Jose’s better players to limited results in the first round. Colorado’s back end isn’t as sharp and Philipp Grubauer isn’t a top-notch goalie. Their attack is much deeper and that will give them the edge, even if they don’t have the best of the top lines on their side.
(Craig) Erik Karlsson is clearly far from 100% and Joe Pavelski seems likely to be out long-term, leaving the door slightly ajar for the upstart Avalanche. MacKinnon, Rantanen, and the boys were dominant during their series against the Flames, so the Sharks will need to match the Avs’ offence using their depth, which they certainly have. The emergence of Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier have allowed the Sharks to keep moving forward, but in the end, Martin Jones is going to have to outplay Grubauer to get the job done and the Sharks’ experience will shine through.