The final two series of the second round of the NHL playoffs get underway tonight. The HabsWorld writers share their predictions on how the series starting on Wednesday will go.
Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Rangers
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Hurricanes in 6 games
Allan Katz predicts: Rangers in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Hurricanes in 5 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Rangers in 7 games
Ken MacLeod predicts: Hurricanes in 6 games
Naqeeb Shaikh predicts: Hurricanes in 6 games
(Norm) The Rangers had a strong regular season, and despite falling behind three games to one against Pittsburgh, rebounded to eliminate the Penguins in the first round. Centre Mika Zibanejad led New York with eleven points, including an impressive seven points in the final three games. Defenceman Adam Fox produced an impressive ten points in the series while superstar forward Artemi Panarin scored the series-winning overtime goal.
Those “jerks” from Carolina eliminated the Boston Bruins in seven games, with former Hab Max Domi coming up big in the last game, scoring two goals and an assist in their 3-2 win. Ex-Hab Jesperi Kotkaniemi was held pointless for the series. Carolina’s top scorers were defencemen Jacob Slavin and Anthony DeAngelo, who both had eight points. Between the two teams, I am leaning towards the Hurricanes extending their playoffs due to their defensive game and overall team style of possession play.
(Allan) The Rangers have the stars, but it can be argued that Carolina has a better team and they probably do, But what’s really the Rangers’ edge, besides the fact having a hockey team in Carolina feels wrong, is their goaltending. Rangers in 7 in an awesome series. [Distance between teams: 490 miles or an 8.4-hour drive]
(Brian) The Rangers struggled to get past Pittsburgh despite facing a backup or third-string goalie in six of the seven games. Carolina also has their backup goalie starting at the moment which is a nice bonus for New York. However, the good news stops there. Carolina is better defensively and offensively while playing the type of swarming game that should give the Rangers fits. Igor Shesterkin struggled with rebound control against the Penguins and now he gets a team that’s known for a high volume of shots which isn’t ideal. If Shesterkin can get back to his regular season form and steal a few games while Raanta plays like a backup, New York can win this series. But I don’t see both of those happening. Instead, the Hurricanes should be able to get through this series fairly quickly.
(Kevin) The Rangers struggled mightily against the Penguins and had to revert to injuring the opposition’s star players to win the series. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? They’ll have to rely on physicality in this series again as the Hurricanes are a far more skilled team. However, the Canes themselves are quite lucky to be in the second round. Jeremy Swayman gave the Bruins a chance, but it was too late by that time. Carolina is a team that lacks physicality and will rely on their skill and power play, so that is the key to the series. They’ll also need to create some traffic against Shesterkin, will they be willing to do it regularly and accept the punishment that is sure to be doled out by Trouba and Lindgren? Carolina was the one team that fooled me in Round 1, but I don’t think they have it in them to do it again. I think this is the one series that is close enough to go the distance
(Ken) The Canes are deep and have plenty of firepower and will go as far as their goaltending takes them. Which should be past this round.
(Naqeeb) The Canes are too deep and relentless. They came out on top against the Bruins with Antti Raanta so their confidence in their goaltending is high even if Frederik Andersen’s not available.
Edmonton Oilers vs Calgary Flames
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Allan Katz predicts: Flames in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Flames in 6 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Flames in 6 games
Ken MacLeod predicts: Flames in 7 games
Naqeeb Shaikh predicts: Flames in 6 games
(Norm) The Battle for Alberta will resume with these Western Canadian rivals facing each other in the postseason for the first time since 1991. The Flames prevailed in seven low-scoring games against their first-round opponents from Dallas. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom was excellent, continuing his outstanding regular season efforts. Scoring leader Johnny Gaudreau scored the overtime series winner and also led his team with eight points. Former Hab Tyler Toffoli was not a big factor, with only two points but did score a goal in the deciding game.
The Oilers faced the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and that series had some big swings. In two of the Oilers’ wins, Edmonton outscored Los Angeles by six goals; two of their wins were also shutouts. Ex-Hab Phillip Danault was very impressive in that series. Not only was he prominent for his defensive skill, but he also scored five points, which is one more than his playoff run for the Canadiens last year in 22 games. Against the Kings, superstar Connor McDavid was not denied this year, leading the NHL with fourteen points. What’s equally impressive, was that he was only held off the scoresheet in one game. Connor was also super clutch during the last two games; he was on the ice for all six goals scored to finish that series. I can see this matchup going the distance. Calgary’s defence versus Edmonton’s high-powered offence will make this an entertaining matchup. McDavid will be the difference maker to help his squad make it to the third round.
(Allan) Have to be excited for Alberta hockey fans. Pure hockey fans will enjoy the offensive battles between McDavid and Draisaitl against Gaudreau and Tkachuk. Either team can win, but the Flames are better in net with Markstrom, a Vezina finalist. For Hab fans, a Calgary loss will mean a better draft pick, but that will obviously mean nothing to the outcome. I think Toffoli will score a key goal and the Flames will win in 7. [Distance between teams: 185 miles or a 3-hour drive]
(Brian) Neither team got through the first round easily but for different reasons. Calgary struggled against Jake Oettinger but Mike Smith isn’t anywhere close to that level. Meanwhile, Edmonton struggled to put away a Kings team that didn’t have good goaltending. The Flames are a deeper team than Los Angeles and have a strong starter in Jacob Markstrom that should lower the Oilers’ scoring rate. Leon Draisaitl not being 100% doesn’t help their chances either. A rivalry series should yield plenty of intensity and momentum swings but Calgary is the better team overall and they’ll find a way to get it done, hurting the Habs in the process (their pick would go from 27th to at least 29th with a win this series).
(Kevin) Is anyone else surprised that the Flames and Oilers ranked second and third amongst teams advancing to the second round in terms of goaltending save percentage? What’s crazy about that stat is that the Oilers were poised to blame Mike Smith should they have lost to the Kings, and it’s not entirely unwarranted after timely mistakes cost the Oilers two games. Now facing the Flames, the Oilers don’t have that wiggle room and they’re facing a team that can score at a far better pace than the Kings.
This Battle of Alberta should be so much fun, but it’s worth wondering how long the series is really going to be. Obviously, McDavid represents the best player in the series, but Calgary has much better depth up front. Calgary also holds a distinct advantage on the blue line and in the blue paint. Both teams had up and down rounds to start the playoffs so who will break through in round 2? I doubt the Flames can keep McDavid scoreless so will they be able to start scoring themselves? The good news for the Flames is that the Kings were able to score against the Oilers so I don’t think 60+ shot-clinics will turn into 3-2 games against the Oilers. For that reason, I give the Flames the edge here, I think they get it done in 6
(Ken) The Flames will win because their overall lineup is more solid than the Oilers. And the goaltending is more likely to hold up.
(Naqeeb) Dallas had Oettinger whose play reminded me of Patrick Roy’s goaltending heroics in the playoffs. He almost helped the Stars pull off an upset.
Though it’s the Battle of Alberta, the Flames have the advantage with Markstrom. Mike Smith’s puck handling will come in handy to neutralize Calgary’s forecheck. I don’t think McDavid will be as effective without a healthy Draisaitl. Calgary is deeper and can grind till they win and can roll 4 lines no problem.