Stanley Cup Playoffs Head to Second Round Full Coverage, Analysis and Predictions for Each Matchup

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The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have met in the playoffs for the past three years. This may be the year the Capitals beat Crosby.

Eric Fishbin, National Sports Editor

Well, I’m back for some Conference Semi-Final guessing for these thrilling NHL Playoffs. If you saw my First Round predictions, you know I looked pretty foolish going against the Golden Knights and Penguins. But I did manage to get a few right so I’ll have another go.

In the West, it was almost all chalk with the exception of the San Jose Sharks (3) dominating the Anaheim Ducks (2). So, the

featured match-ups are as follows:

 

WEST:

Predators vs. Jets

The Nashville Predators took care of business against the Colorado Avalanche in six games, closing out the series in convincing fashion on the road with a 5-0 win. In that series, the line to watch was Nashville’s third trio of forwards. Colton Sissons, Nick Bonino and Austin Watson combined for 19 points and propelled the Preds to the Second Round. Pekke Rinne impressed, but his numbers were not so distinguishing as he posted a .909 SV% and 2.60 GAA. 

Winnipeg limited Minnesota’s offense in their First Round matchup and closed out the five-game series with two shutouts courtesy of Connor Hellebuyck. After being acquired two months ago from the St. Louis Blues, upcoming unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny notched four points for Jets in round one, only behind center Mark Scheifele (5) and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (5). Patrik Laine has not failed to excite, too. The second-year Finnish right-winger, who happens to be three days younger than myself, tallied two goals and two assists in his first playoff series and will look to continue to provide

offense against the Preds. 

This series features two teams who ranked top-10 in goals per game and top-5 in goals against per game; it seems primed to go seven games. Between these teams, you can find it all. In P.K Subban and Dustin Byfuglien you have two of the best offensive defensemen, Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck are both Vezina Finalists, and both teams

feature balanced offenses with talent on all four lines. Not to mention, Winnipeg and Nashville both have ridiculous home crowds that are sure to show up loud and ready.

My Prediction: Nashville in 7

 

Golden Knights vs. Sharks

After winning their first and only playoff series in franchise history (the team didn’t exist until this season), the Vegas Golden Knights will see the San Jose Sharks in the Second Round. The Sharks, after losing home ice advantage to the Anaheim Ducks, took care of business as well, completing the four-game sweep in convincing fashion. Goaltenders Martin Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury have both been to the biggest stage before, but only Fleury has been able to finish the job in the Stanley Cup. Of course, in that 2016 Stanley Cup showdown, it was Matt Murray, not Fleury, who beat Jones.

In this series, both teams will be coming in well-rested, so there’s no upper hand to be found in the energy department. Vegas found success against the Sharks in the regular season, winning three of four and taking seven of eight points. However, the Sharks’ playoff experience and defensive prowess could be the difference maker. The Sharks feature an elite penalty killing unit that ranks second in the league, so winning the 5-on-5 game will be essential for Vegas. San Jose’s defense likes to shoot the puck, and how could you not with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. This series could be determined by the goaltenders, who have had consistency problems in the past. If Jones stays hot, the series will belong to the Sharks. But, the same can be said of Fleury.

My Prediction: Sharks in 6

 

EAST:

Lightning vs. Bruins/Leafs

Well, this article was written on Tuesday and Tomas Plekanec’s empty-netter against the Bruins on Monday night that forced a Game 7 to be played on Wednesday complicates things for me. I guess this is why print media is struggling. However, I did predict the Bruins to win the series in Game 7 two weeks ago… 

So, if the Bruins won after this issue went to print, hats off to Tukka Rask who looks like the Vezina contender he once was. If Toronto took the series, congratulations Auston Matthews on your first playoff series win and good luck against Tampa Bay. Actually, good luck to whoever won that series. 

Tampa Bay is a team that has it all: elite offense, elite defense, even elite goaltending. Nikita Kucherov finished the regular season with 100 points, ranking third in the NHL. Andrei Vasilevskiy won a league-high 44 games, and any forward across from Victor Hedman will have nightmares as he was named a top-three candidate for the Norris Trophy for the second straight year.

My Prediction: Lightning in 6 vs BOS

My Prediction: Lightning in 5 vs. TOR

 

Penguins vs. Capitals

I think every hockey fan was hoping for this matchup at some point in the playoffs, and here it is again for the third straight year in the second round. Alex Ovechkin vs.

Sidney Crosby; back-to-back-(to-back) Metropolitan regular season champs vs. back-to-back Stanley Cup champs. Two all-time great hockey players. Seeing these guys go at it never gets old.

After going with Philipp Grubauer to start the series against the Blue Jackets, coach

Barry Trotz quickly turned to Braden Holtby to save the season after going down 1-0 in the series and trailing in Game 2. Since then, it has been the Holtby show in the playoffs, as he has won each game he started. 

Pittsburgh had an exciting series with their in-state rival Philadelphia Flyers, but came out on top thanks to a Game 6 four-goal showing by forward Jake Guentzel who took the air out of the Wells Fargo Center in the third period. But, not everything has gone well for the Penguins. In the time of the year when injuries are barely revealed, Evgeni Malkin’s status for this series is unknown. The same can be said for Carl Hagelin, who took a massive hit in Game 6 in Philly. If the Pens have to go without these two, it could be trouble. 

The Capitals have yet to have their breakthrough against the Penguins, but this feels like it could be the year. If this series goes seven, it’ll be the game of the year.

My Prediction: Caps in 7

Contact Eric Fishbin at [email protected]