This evening, the first game of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs begins. Our HabsWorld writers provide their predictions on the series starting this weekend to see who will advance on to the next round.
Boston Bruins vs New York Islanders
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Islanders in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Bruins in 6 games
Naqeeb Shaikh predicts: Islanders in 6 games
Allan Katz predicts: Islanders in 7 games
(Norm) Boston defeated Washington in five games and goaltender Tuukka Rask was a big reason for their success. Rask managed a stingy 1.81 goals-against average along with an impressive .941 save percentage. Up front, David Pastrnak continued to snipe, hitting the back of the net four times and adding two assists to lead his team.
The Islanders follow a strong team strategy that emphasizes defence and have been very successful following it. Their offence is not as proficient as the Bruins but they are very opportunistic. On defence, both teams have strong squads capable of shutting down the opposition and chipping in some offence. The head coaches for both teams are excellent at their jobs, although New York has a slight advantage with Barry Trotz’ Stanley Cup win in 2018 with Washington. For two evenly matched teams, I am leaning towards the one with a stronger defensive game to advance to the next round.
(Brian) There are some parallels between Boston and Pittsburgh (who the Isles beat in the first round). Both teams have two lines capable of taking over a game thanks to Taylor Hall’s addition and both teams have question marks defensively. The difference is goaltending where Tuukka Rask is much better than Tristan Jarry. Jarry cost the Penguins the series, one they were the better team in for significant stretches. If Rask even plays average, Boston should win this. If he plays like he did against Washington, it could be over fairly quickly.
(Naqeeb) Isles overall depth, the additions of Palmieri/Zajac, and Beauvillier’s starting to light it up. Barzal surprisingly only has three points so far so I think he’s an x-factor in this series.
Also not a fan of the Bruins or Marchand. I think Hall and Rask each have something to prove though, especially Rask for departing the bubble early last year and taking a lot of heat for it.
(Allan) Except for goaltending, where the Islanders have more depth, the Bruins are simply the better team. Having said that, the Islanders are certainly capable of surprising the Bruins and sending them to the purgatory all Bruins teams deserve to go. Taylor Hall is a XX factor bringing depth to Boston’s offence that is impressive. The Bruins also won the last three games after acquiring Hall. So anyone, in their right mind would pick the Bruins in 6 or 7.
Vegas Golden Knights vs Colorado Avalanche
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Avalanche in 5 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Avalanche in 7 games
Naqeeb Shaikh predicts: Golden Knights in 7 games
Allan Katz predicts: Golden Knights in 7 games
(Norm) Vegas struggled somewhat to defeat the Minnesota Wild in the first round. Veteran Mark Stone led the team with four goals, and Mattias Janmark led them with six points. Marc-Andre Fleury had a strong overall performance in net. Former Hab Max Pacioretty returned to the lineup for Game Seven and scored the game-winning goal.
The Avalanche dominated the St. Louis Blues to sweep their series in four games. Superstar Nathan MacKinnon led the team in goals (six) and points (nine) for an impressive campaign. Linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen scored eight and seven points respectively. It’s arguable they were the most dominant forward line in the playoffs. In net, Philipp Grubauer produced very strong stats, sporting a 1.75 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Their secondary scoring took a blow with the loss of Nazem Kadri due to an illegal late hit which caused him to be suspended. Kadri decided to appeal the eight-game suspension which took place on Thursday; the results are not known at the time of the writing of this article.
The dominance of the Avalanche indicates how prepared and ready to go far in these playoffs and the Golden Knights were not as impressive in their first-round series victory. To me, the edge goes to Colorado to defeat Vegas.
(Brian) This has the makings of being the marquee matchup of the playoffs and it’s too bad that the divisional format forces it to be here. There are few flaws on either team and with the Golden Knights getting Max Pacioretty back, they are more or less healthy up front now which wasn’t the case for all but the last game of their series. Colorado will miss Nazem Kadri more than people realize; his absence will undoubtedly play a factor. But Peter DeBoer-led teams have a tendency to struggle when it matters most. That’s enough to push me to lean to the Avs on the road in a seventh game when Kadri can return.
(Naqeeb) The Knights will be tested again much more than the series against the Wild. I think Fleury gives the Knights the edge but will have to be on top of his game because of the Avs depth both up front and especially on the backend with Makar and company.
Max Pacioretty has already started off on the right foot and made an impact, along with Stone, Janmark, Tuch, so I think that’s something the Avs will have to be mindful of and deal with. Neutralizing the Knights offence will give the Avs a better chance to win the series.
(Allan) Talk about a great series! Either team could win it all and have the stats to back it up. MacKinnon is a legit superstar to Vegas stars Stone and Pacioretty. Kadri is suspended for the Avalance and the Vegas goalie Fleury is close to 80 years old so that might balance out. This just feels like Colorado should win. They feel like a team of destiny. I’m not going against the Senator Hab combo of Stone and Pacioretty.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Carolina Hurricanes
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Lightning in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Lightning in 6 games
Naqaeeb Shaikh predicts: Lightning in 6 games
Allan Katz predicts: Lightning in 6 games
(Norm) Carolina had a tough fight against Nashville in the first round but came away with a series victory in six games. Sebastien Aho led the Canes with seven points including five goals and rookie goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic came through with all four wins and a .922 save percentage.
Tampa defeated their cross-state rivals Panthers in six games and were led by Alex Killorn’s four goals and Nikita Kucherov’s eleven points. Andrei Vasilevsky sported a 2.64 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage, despite allowing four or more goals in two games.
Both teams had strong regular seasons and their head to head games were split evenly with four wins each. Both teams have strong defence corps. The Lightning are stronger on offence and on the power play, while Carolina follows a strong defensive style. In this match, I predict the Lightning will eventually advance after the series goes through the full slate of games.
(Brian) This is another matchup that is basically a coin flip. Carolina’s aggressive style seems to work against pretty much everyone and I expect that to be the case here as well. The difference is that Tampa Bay can counter with better offence, defence, and even goaltending if Andrei Vasilevskiy is on. This was a really low-scoring regular season series (Carolina led 18-17 in goals over the eight games) but I expect this will be higher-scoring. That’s better for the Lightning than the Hurricanes.
(Naqeeb) Carolina’s a really well built and coached team. Svechnikov’s got to pick his game up, he’d be my pick for the Canes’ x-factor. I think Tampa’s depth, especially Kucherov and Vasilevsky will be too much for the Canes overall.
(Allan) There are a lot of good things to say about Carolina and even more to say about Tampa. But the bottom line is that neither team should exist. Tampa is an ideal location if you’re a stripper or a mosquito. Carolina is a nice place to write a song about. Having said that they’re both better than the Habs and have been better for a while. There is no X or XX factor in this series just a straight out Big K factor. Kucherov takes the whole season off to heal and then comes back gangbusters in the first series demolition of a solid Panthers team. He will be the straw that stirs this series. Hate to pick the favorite, but Tampa in 6.