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The second round is now in full swing with Dallas securing the final spot after beating Vegas on Sunday.  Now that all series are set, our writers make their picks for the remaining series.

Eastern Conference

Florida Panthers vs Boston Bruins

Kevin Leveille predicts: Panthers in 6 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Panthers in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Panthers in 5 games

(Kevin) I’m not sure what it is about the Panthers this season that makes me believe they are the clear-cut best team in the Atlantic Division. Maybe their ability to score, their offensive depth, their top-end defensive players, or their Vezina candidate goaltender (I would dispute he doesn’t belong on that ballot, but he still had an excellent season). The Bruins, who were the division leader in points until the final night are able to compete with the Panthers in a few of those categories: top-end defensive players, excellent goaltending, and team approach to the game.

However, I don’t think the Bruins can match in terms of ability to score. I’ll fully display my bias here as I think a very real wild card in this series is my hometown player in Justin Brazeau (Who has generated a ton of buzz in my little town!). He’s been truly engaged since being inserted into the Leafs series and was a presence in Game 7 against Toronto. If that whole fourth line of Boston can send the Florida bottom six in fits, it could create important momentum for the Bruins. Perhaps the biggest spread in this series is that the Panthers have built a reputation and demeanour as one of, if not the single, dirtiest teams in the league. This is not said with negative connotation as teams need that mean streak at this time of year and the Panthers can generate it from within. I don’t think the Bruins are a good match for the Panthers here.

(Norm) Florida surprised me a little in the first round by defeating Tampa Bay in five games. I thought the Lightning would put up more of a fight. Instead, Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe lead the way to victory with nine points each. Aleksander Barkov’s line was given the assignment to shut down the Nikita Kucherov line and did exactly that. Boston won a dramatic game seven overtime game against Toronto, to continue their postseason dominance versus the Leafs. Bruins’ super-pest Brad Marchand led his team in scoring with eight points. Although Boston narrowly missed first place in their division by one point and won all four games against Florida this season, I have a gut feeling it will be the Panthers who will prevail to advance into the next round.

(Brian) The one thing that stood out in Boston’s victory over Toronto was how ineffective their forward group was, especially at the end of the round.  With the Maple Leafs being equally ineffective, they were able to eventually get through.  Florida isn’t going to be anywhere near that level of ineffectiveness.  They’re a well-rounded team with some recent postseason success.  If they play to their potential, they can and should end this quickly.  (Unless we see the bad version of Bobrovsky this series, then all bets are off.)

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars

Kevin Leveille predicts: Stars in 6 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Avalanche in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Stars in 7 games

(Kevin) It took two games for the Stars to find their game. Once they did, they sure looked like the number one seed in the West as they handled the team and a half on paper that was the Golden Knights. Dallas continues their prize gauntlet for winning the West (really, the seeding system is so dumb as currently constructed) as they get the Avalanche next. In my first-round prediction, I called for a Winnipeg win, and I knew I was wrong after the first game. Sure, Winnipeg won that game, but Colorado dictated the pace and style of play and there was no way Winnipeg was scoring seven per game.

I think Dallas will not allow the Avalanche to skate through as they’ll step up physically which should be a stylistic challenge for the Avalanche. For both the forwards and defence, the Avalanche have the star power advantage, but Dallas has a huge depth advantage. Dallas also holds a decided advantage in the crease. Dallas was my pick out of the West when the playoffs began, they made me believe they found their game to end the first series so I’m riding with them.

(Norm) Dallas went the distance in the first round to knock out the previous Stanley Cup champs; their game seven 2-1 win was an exciting match. 20-year-old forward Wyatt Johnston stepped up to score seven points to lead his team in that series. For Colorado, their stars played some of their best hockey in their five-game elimination of Winnipeg. Forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and defenceman Cale Makar all scored nine points. While the oddsmakers give Dallas the advantage in this matchup, I am favouring the Avalanche to continue their strong play by defeating Dallas to move on to the third round.

(Brian) Last round was a toss-up for Dallas and this one is as well.  I didn’t expect Colorado to get through Winnipeg given how much Alexandar Georgiev struggled but he got plenty of goal support as they picked apart the Jets’ back end.  I’m not convinced that will happen here but if Georgiev plays at the level he did in the final four games of this series, they’ll have good enough goaltending to win most games.  I think the Stars are about as well-rounded as anyone but having to go through Vegas may slow them down early on.  However, as they did last round, they’ll recover in time and take care of business from there.