The HabsWorld writers complete their set of predictions for the rest of the first round series with some upsets picked along the way. Part 1, which features the Canadiens-Flyers picks, can be found here.
Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Hurricanes in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
Allan Katz predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
(Norm) It’s hard to say the Bruins are going to win this one despite their regular season success. Their struggles in the round robin tournament indicate they either didn’t care about competing to keep their top standing, or they have slipped and should be ranked differently. Either way it’s not a good sign. The Hurricanes were also excellent in the regular season and then dominated the New York Rangers in their Qualifying Round series. The Dougie Hamilton X-factor should be huge for Carolina, as the ex-Bruin will have something to prove.
(Brian) I’m not picking this because Boston played terrible in the round robin. I don’t really care about those results. But the way that Carolina dispatched of the Rangers (my darkhorse team to win a couple of rounds) was an eye-opener. Their defence and aggressive style shut down a comparable offence and they’re getting Dougie Hamilton back as well. I still don’t trust their goaltending which is why I have this series going the distance as Boston’s firepower is still going to win them some games. For me, this is the most interesting matchup of the round by a considerable margin (aside from Montreal-Philadelphia for obvious reasons).
(Kevin) I really dislike this matchup for the Boston Bruins. I understand that Boston was the best team in hockey for 70 games but they’ve come out of this pandemic completely flat and really look ripe for the picking for a Carolina team that dismantled the Rangers in the qualifiers. What’s crazy to me is that comparing the lineups on paper still makes me uneasy for Boston. Carolina added some serious depth both up front and on the blue line which should make this a grueling series. I think the only thing that could make this a short series is if Mrazek is a complete no-show or if Rask starts to be lights out and stealing some games. Both seem relatively unlikely as of now. So yes, Boston has the capability of ending this quickly. However, I don’t think they do, and Carolina always seems to find that little piece of required good fortune when it’s crunch time. I think Carolina pulls off the upset here and advances.
(Allan) If defence wins playoff hockey then Boston wins. Carolina is young and this might be the year of youth in hockey especially because of the bubbles. Chara has lived a half dozen lives including being a Vampire in the 1800’s. Many Carolina players can’t grow a beard. But the older team will have more distractions because they have a life (in Chara’s case more than one). So I’m calling the upset and in no way is it because as a Habs fan I despise Boston on multiple levels.
(Paul) The Bruins were the class of the league before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down. The surging jerks of Carolina boast a young, fast, skilled group. I expect the Hurricanes to blow away the not so big, not so bad, Bruins in 7.
Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Islanders in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Islanders in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Capitals in 5 games
Allan Katz predicts: Capitals in 7 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Capitals in 6 games
(Norm) On paper, there’s a lot to like about Washington in this series. Many of their players have playoff experience from their 2018 Stanley Cup win. Captain Alex Ovechkin is still a legitimate top-end scorer. However, the Islanders have Barry Trotz, one of the most successful coaches in the last few decades. There is no one I can think of that has more incentive to beat his former team and he also has the unique insight into the team he used to lead. The Islanders are very solid overall and added depth at centre before the trade deadline. Their defence and goaltending should be the factors to give them the edge to advance past the Capitals.
(Brian) New York did a good job limiting Florida’s attack and the Panthers, like Washington, were near the top of the league in that department during the regular season. The Capitals aren’t a team that’s built to withstand a grinding, physical series and that’s what the Islanders are going to bring. I also give the Isles the goaltending advantage as Braden Holtby had a year to forget and with Ilya Samsonov done for the year, he’s their only option as Vitek Vanecek isn’t making his NHL debut in a playoff series unless they’re really desperate. I don’t see the Islanders going too deep this postseason but they can pull off this upset at least.
(Kevin) This is a bad matchup for the Islanders. Washington can defend well enough to compete with the Isles defensive structure. Washington has some goaltending that is on par if not greater than the Isles. Washington has way more scoring in their lineup. The Islanders have to get very physical very early and never relinquish that mental gauntlet to even put up a fight against the Capitals. While this would have appeared quite possible a few years ago, I think the Caps have grown in recent years and won’t fall into this trap. Therefore, I have them making quick work of the Islanders.
(Allan) Barry Trotz is great but the team with the best former Habs wins. Lars and Ilya versus no Habs I ever heard of.
(Paul) The clock strikes midnight for Islander fans hoping for a Cinderella run as Ovechkin wills the Caps to victory.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Blue Jackets in 5 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Lightning in 6 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Blue Jackets in 7 games
Allan Katz predicts: Lightning in 5 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Blue Jackets in 5 games
(Norm) Tampa is a banged up team, losing star players like defenceman Victor Hedman recently to injury while Steven Stamkos has yet to play a game. There is something about this team that plays so well during the regular season yet faltered last year in the first round of the playoffs to Columbus. I believe Columbus will yet again handle the Lightning and proceed to the next round.
(Brian) The lingering injury concerns over Steven Stamkos concern me a bit and Victor Hedman’s uncertain status is also some cause for worry. However, Tampa Bay still has a lot of firepower and they will be sufficiently motivated after what happened a year ago. They added grit (paying a ridiculous price to do so) to be ready for a rematch and they won’t be caught off guard. The Blue Jackets did well to get by Toronto but I’m skeptical that they’ll be able to shut Tampa’s offence down as much, especially with Zach Werenski at less than 100%.
(Kevin) A rematch from last year’s first round that saw many brackets busted when the Jackets swept the Lightning. To suggest Columbus could do so again would be crazy as Tampa won’t be surprised again, will definitely be seeking revenge, and Columbus has seen significant skill reduction from their roster. That being said, if the matchup in style was a bad one for Tampa last year, it certainly remains one this year as the Jackets have doubled down on their defence-first identity after losing so much skill from their roster. This is why I predict a long series here. My problem with predicting a long series is that I think the longer it goes, the more it favours the Jackets. Tampa will get worn down, start to doubt themselves, and get tentative to “go for it” offensively. It’s possible that Columbus has simply lost too much skill, but I’m willing to wager on it.
(Allan) In a year of odd ball results it makes sense that the crown winner of upsets Columbus will be playing, of all teams, Tampa Bay. Using the same instincts that had me pick Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal I should go with Columbus, but the better team has to sometimes win and this is going to be the time.
(Paul) Tampa Bay is a bit beaten up and still having PTSD from last season’s shock defeat. Columbus will grind and ride hot goaltending to victory.
Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Flames in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts:Flames in 6 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Stars in 6 games
Allan Katz predicts: Flames in 6 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Stars in 6 games
(Norm) After Dallas fired their head coach in late December and assistant Rick Bowness took over, the team had a big resurgence. They played well enough to win only once during the round robin and lost several significant players in Tyler Seguin, Ben Bishop, and John Klingberg during different games. Their defensive stats suffered during that tourney, which is normally a strong point to their game. Without knowing any of the injury statuses, it’s tougher to project their success. After a controversial hit by Matthew Tkachuk to Jets forward Mark Scheifele, Calgary got the spark they needed and finished off Winnipeg in their Qualifying Round series. I foresee the Flames defeating Dallas due to their overall health and play in the first round.
(Brian) I haven’t been impressed with Dallas all season long. They’ve gotten by with exceptional goaltending but despite a decent offence on paper, they can’t score with any sort of consistency. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin (and both may wind up playing) are capable of stealing this series but Calgary has enough firepower to make the Stars have to score their way to victory. The Flames may have iffy goaltending but even so, I simply don’t have confidence that Dallas can put up enough goals to get through this series.
(Kevin) This series is interesting in that it features two teams who have under-performed in recent postseason action. Both teams have made small adjustments to the roster but have their core mostly together. Dallas won a few rounds, but Calgary hasn’t. Dallas has a better forward group, Calgary the better defence, on paper. This season’s production tells a different story so who has committed most to its new identity? In net, the absence of Ben Bishop could be a pivotal point as he missed his team’s last contest. I think this matchup looks much like what Calgary has failed against in the past; Just a little too physical. Time to test those much-criticized acquisitions. In the end, I don’t think the Flames hold up.
(Allan) This is a classic western showdown; two Cowboys meeting at noon for a shoot out. In this heated series, there should be more and more bad blood as they try to pummel each other. Dallas has the better team while Calgary’s going to out-tough and out-score Dallas.
(Paul) I think that this will be a close series. The Flames were able to grind down a depleted Jets squad but I don’t think that they will be able to do that against Dallas. I expect Seguin, Benn, and Radulov to spark the Stars to victory
St. Louis Blues vs Vancouver Canucks
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Blues in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Blues in 6 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Canucks in 7 games
Allan Katz predicts: Canucks in 6 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Blues in 5 games
(Norm) I like the young players on the Vancouver squad. They have a strong nucleus and should become a strong contending team for the next few seasons. However, the Blues are the official team to beat. They played terribly in the round robin, losing all three games while Vancouver won three straight games against Minnesota after losing their first. I predict the Canucks will start this series well but the Blues will find their game and hang on to eventually defeat them.
(Brian) St. Louis didn’t look great in the seeding games either but that doesn’t concern me. They’re healthy up front with enough talent to do some damage and they still have a strong back end while Jordan Binnington did well in his maiden playoff voyage last season. I like Vancouver’s forward group but their back end is what should prove costly. It’s not the deepest and it’s not the strongest. It was enough to get by a lower-tier attack from Minnesota but it won’t be enough to beat a much-deeper Blues squad.
(Kevin) The defending champs face a group of up and coming kids. This is one of my favourite series heading into this round. The two teams scored at approximately the same pace but the Blues were much better at defending. However, the Canucks had to battle in the first round while the Blues came out rather flat in the round robin. Can the Blues recover? Can Markstrom provide better goal keeping for the Canucks? Can the kids step up in Vancouver? Expect a physical war between these two teams and I’m really hoping for a long series. Everything in my brain is telling me the Blues get the edge the longer the series goes. But I just can’t help but go against it and pick the Canucks in the 7th game.
(Allan) The consensus is in: the Blues are an awesome team. Vancouver will surprise all and somehow, while being outplayed, will win.
(Paul) The Stanley Cup champs are looking to repeat and the Vancouver Canucks are going to find their speed game ground to a halt.