Contenders begin to form, Pretenders begin to be exposed.
By. Cameron Bigelow
To start this rendition of guessing the outcome of the least predictable sport in America, I would first like to see how my first round predictions for the Stanley Cup Playoffs went. I predicted that the Penguins, Bruins, Knights, Predators, Lightning, Capitals, Ducks, and the Jets would ultimately win their series. 7 for 8. That being said my series lengths were off by well, more than a slim margin. However still in the green. Today I look to continue this luck by predicting the second round for some fun. Of course we have the same twist in which I watch the first game of each series, and then base my predictions not only that game, but the consistencies we rode into the games. I like doing this purely based on the momentum of each team. I believe that each series you can see entirely new versions of every team, and momentum is the biggest factor in the playoffs. With all this out of the way, let us begin.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks
Vegas don’t get too excited. That first game was a statement, I will let you have that. However you don’t win a series based on one game, and the team you looked to be playing, the San Jose Sharks, did not show. On the flip side, San Jose, what’re you doing? A 7-0 rout, Jones getting pulled, tripling Vegas penalty minutes. This is a bad way to start the series. However I think you bounce back. Good news for you shark fans out there.
Continuing on to my series preview, I was going to write about how amazing this goalie duel was. Both Fleury and Jones posted the best Save % through the first round, .979 and .958, respectively, but Vegas once again shatters predictions so I am going to just continue anyway. I still fully believe that both Jones and Fleury will duel throughout this series, Jones had a bad game the real question is will Fleury have a dud too. Right now the man looks unstoppable and is easily the top candidate for the best player in the playoffs so far.
Moving on from the goalies, we move into the core skaters of each team. Not only is the depth on Vegas better, the youth on vegas is faster and man are they buzzing. They clearly had all the momentum in this game and were fired up and ready to go. And the stars of the San Jose Sharks just could not keep up. Burns got walked twice and honestly if I had someone tell me he had won the Norris last year I would have told you, you were crazy.
Overall I don’t think this series is over yet. Not even close. San Jose will bounce back, but ultimately the depth and goaltending of Vegas will carry them to a series win. Martin Jones will steal a game or two however, so look for this one to wrap up in 6.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
Well, Well, Well, here we are again. For the third year straight the Capitals and Penguins meet in the second round. How will this one go down?! Well if you look to game one for a little inspiration you would have seen a chippy, hard fought, close game in which the Capitals gave up a two goal lead. However will this finally be the #CapsYear? Nope.
Shaky decision making by Holtby led to the goal that Crosby scored, and it is not going away any time soon. This Capitals team looks like it knows what it has to beat, but sometimes knowing is worse than just going out and playing a solid game of hockey. Ovechkin looked good but Crosby definitely looked better as well. I understand they each had the same number of points, but who played a more complete game? Crosby, like always.
All hope is not lost however for these Capitals. They’re a good team, and good teams can pull off the unlikely. That being said looking into the teams a little more you can clearly see that the depth of the penguins is just unmatched by that of the Capitals. In each of the three categories (Offense, Defense, and Goaltending) I truly think that the Penguins edge the Capitals. The Capitals let the Penguins beat them without the likes of Hagelin and Malkin, two difference makers when it comes playoff time.
Overall I don’t think this series is as easy going for Pittsburgh as I have painted so far, that being said the Capitals demons will come back and haunt them in this one, and they will fall to Pittsburgh in 6 games.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Nashville Predators
Winnipeg and Nashville. 1 and 2. This series better go to 7, like it should, or the hockey gods just hate the fans. This series is going to be good. Like really good. The heavy, skilled, and defensively sound Jets take on the High flying, high octane, speedy offense in the Preds.
Don’t let game 1 fool you, this was a close game. The difference was the fact that Connor Hellebuyck pulled a Vezina performance out and stunned the Preds letting up only 1 goal on 48 shots. Scheifele keeps his roll going with a pair of goals, and another player in Chris Tanev continues to be an important part of this Jets squad with one of his own. That is as ridiculous as it gets. Talk about a night.
This series is a wash for me and I really think game to game it can go either way each night. Both teams are amazing. Both putting up 50 wins in the regular season, both being magnificently deep, and two goaltenders who have proven that they are elite and can carry their teams on their back when needed. This series is a perfect example of speed vs physicality. The speedy forwards, and offensive minded D-men of the preds need to find a way to beat the physical, bruising offense and the big guys like Byfuglien out back. If Rinne or Hellebuyck have a good series, hopefully both of them will, this could be a complete wash.
However I’m here to give my predictions, and my predictions you shall have. I’m going to take the Jets in 7. To be honest, I don’t even know the full, reason why. I truly believe that the Jets more physical style is the epitome, of playoff hockey. Not to mention that they are skilled. Laine, Scheifele, Wheeler, Ehlers and Hellebuyck got them a greasy win. A win that a Cup contender should be getting, and I think they will just out muscle the Predators to the next round.
Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Wow that first line of the Bruins just absolutely smoked the Lightning in game one. This line of Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand is the best line in the league hands down. They made Vasilevsky look like swiss cheese out there. This game should have been a 7-1 win for the Bruins. I don’t usually talk about officiating in the NHL as it is one of the hardest jobs ever, but man oh man did it look like they were out to job the Bruins. The disallowed Marchand goal, and the Sergachev goal were ridiculous. You can’t blow a play dead because of a blade falling out, and my response to that is maybe the league should change the rule.
Rick Nash finally had the finishing touch he has been looking for all postseason and if you’re a Lightning fan that is probably the last thing you would have liked to see in this first game.
Well game one aside this is going to be a doozy of a series. 1 and 2 again, a kin to that of Winnipeg and Nashville. This series has two very skilled teams and some very skilled all-stars on each team. The rat, Brad Marchand, looking to continue his pestering into this round will be a big part of this eams success. On the flip side Kucherov with a 10 point first round series. This is going to be a wild series.
Another overlooked element in this series will be the power play. If the Bruins are going to be successful they will need to take advantage of the atrocious Tampa penalty kill. In game one they were 1 for 1, and that’s a good sign. Not to mention it was scored about 15 seconds into the power play.
I might be a little biased in this prediction but I really think the Bruins are going to win this. It will be in 7, but it will be less if the lightning dont figure out a way to stop the first line and fix Vasilevsky’s problems. However this is just like the Winnipeg and Nashville series, it could go both ways, and as a Bruins fan; It isn’t over yet, it’s just beginning.