With the second round underway, the remaining two series begin Wednesday night. The HabsWorld writers provide their predictions on who they see advancing into the next round of the postseason.
New Jersey Devils vs Carolina Hurricanes
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Devils in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Devils in 6 games
Terry Costaris predicts: Hurricanes in 6 games
Allan Katz predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Hurricanes in 7 games
(Norm) Carolina has been resting since finishing up their series against the New York Islanders last Friday night. They consistently employ a successful team-oriented strategy, that uses a strong forechecking system to produce offensive chances on turnovers. Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho leads his team with seven points in six games. Will that be enough to face the Devils, despite several injuries to top six forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, and former Hab Max Pacioretty? The survivor from the Battle of the Hudson River is the New Jersey Devils. I thought the Rangers were going to win that match, but the Devils came up big with a four-nothing shutout to win game seven, despite losing their first two games. The regular season games between these two teams were split evenly with two wins each. Both of these teams are capable of battling hard, and I expect this series will go the distance. I’ll give the Devils a lot of credit for that win, and I believe that momentum will carry forward for them to win this series.
(Kevin) After playing in a series where their opponents matched their strengths, the Hurricanes now face their opposite in the Devils. The Hurricanes are a better home team, but the Devils are better on the road. The Hurricanes survive on strong defensive play in all zones while the Devils are a little more run-and-gun. The Hurricanes are well rested but could be rusty while the Devils are riding high off a Game 7 win over the Rangers but could get tired down the stretch. In the end, the Canes finished only a single point ahead of the Devils, with the latter having the better differential, and much like the Oilers series, I think the Devils are already into playoff mode and that the Canes will need some time to find that pace. For that reason alone, I’ll take the Devils in 6.
(Terry) I’ll keep things simple here again. On paper, you have to go with Carolina. They have a better roster than the young and not fully matured New Jersey Devils. The future is bright for Jersey but not likely this year. This team needs to learn how to lose before advancing further in the year to come. I feel that Carolina is the most complete remaining team in the Eastern Conference.
(Allan) Hurricanes have three big injuries up front; Pacioretty, Teravainen, and Svechnikov. The Devils have prospects turning into stars; Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. Carolina does have a strong defensive corps. What’s most amazing about this series is that now that the Bruins are hibernating for the summer the Hurricanes are now the number one seed for this round and the Devils are the number two seed. [Fun Fact: The Maple Leafs are the number three remaining seed.] A lot of people are picking the Canes, but especially because of Carolina’s injury situation I’m picking the Devils in a very hard-fought battle right up to possible overtime in Game 7.
(Brian) The Hurricanes should benefit from what’s likely to be a much less physical series and while the Devils are a better offensive team than the Islanders, Carolina is typically strong at shot suppression. They’re better suited to play low-scoring games, something that the Rangers, the team New Jersey beat, couldn’t say. That could offset the hot stretch that Akira Schmid is on which might be enough to give Carolina the small edge.
Edmonton Oilers vs Vegas Golden Knights
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Oilers in 6 games
Terry Costaris predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Allan Katz predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Golden Knights in 7 games
(Norm) The Golden Knights are another team like the Hurricanes that employ a strong team strategy that can wear down their opponents with strong forechecking. This should be another good series to watch since both teams are sporting very strong power plays. This series will be the first time Connor McDavid faces Jack Eichel in the playoffs. Both players were taken with the top two selections in the 2015 draft, and Eichel has forever been compared to the superstore McDavid after the latter meteoric rise in the NHL scoring charts. To start the first round, Vegas’ leading scorers were forwards Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone, each with eight points. Leon Draisaitl led Edmonton with eleven points, followed by McDavid with ten. During the regular season, Edmonton had the winning record in the head-to-head with three victories and one overtime loss. Vegas will have the home-ice advantage, but I am leaning towards the Oilers eventually prevailing in this match.
(Kevin) The tale of the tape in the Western Conference in the second round is really in stylistic battles. The poster child of that reality is in this series as the league’s highest-scoring offence takes on one of the better defensive groups. Usually, I side with the team that can better prevent goals, but I have a hard time doing so here. The two teams were separated by only two points in the regular season standings, but the Oilers had a much better differential. The Oilers were tested in round 1, whereas I feel the Knights will need to kick it up a notch to get to the pace of the Oilers.
(Terry) This is a tough one. The intangibles tell me Vegas. My mind though looks at the rosters of both clubs and gives Edmonton the distinct advantage. Vegas has always been and remains a team built for the playoffs. Edmonton has two of the best players in the league but it is no juggernaut. There are leaks in this vessel. What I can say with some confidence though-assuming injuries are not a factor, is that one of these teams is likely going to the Final. Whoever wins the East will be hoisting the Stanley Cup.
(Allan) It all comes down to the power play. During the season the Oilers scored 89 power play goals while the Golden Knights scored 52. During the playoffs, McDavid and Draisaitl have been the powerhouses that they are. In many ways these two could take their team all the way. Sure Vegas will try to “Stone” the Oilers, but the Oilers seem to be a team of destiny here. Almost everyone has the Oilers winning, which might be the reason they eventually lose. I hate to jump on the bandwagon, but it’s hard not to when the best player in the world is busting his behind to take this Oiler team to the promised land.
(Brian) On paper, Edmonton looks like the favourite, especially since not many should be trusting Laurent Brossoit too much. Here’s the thing, though. Not many should be trusting Stuart Skinner either. I expect this to be a high-scoring series with both goalies having clunkers along the way. If it gets to a seventh game, I’ll lean to the home team to take the series.