2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round Preview & Predictions


(Image courtesy of nbcsports.com)

The first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs had it all: Overtime thrillers, blowout victories, sweeping (haha) action, and of course, game seven drama. When it comes to pure entertainment value, round one did not disappoint in the slightest. Unfortunately for us hockey fans, all good things must come to an end, as is the case with the first round of the NHL playoffs – but, you know what they say, “When one door closes, another one opens.” Now that our hockey cliché quota is met for this post, let’s dive into what promises to be an extremely exciting second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

THE EAST

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins

The Atlantic division has been quite an interesting story this year as the three teams that made the playoffs finished 3rd, 4th, and 7th respectively in the league this year. With this current playoff format, it now means that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference will face off against each other in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What does this mean for us fans? Well, seeing as the two teams moving on are the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, this means we’re in for a real treat. Both teams possess some of the best offensive players in the league at the moment with names like Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak popping up for the B’s and Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov appearing for the Bolts. Both Kucherov and Pastrnak were on fire in the first round of the playoffs and we look set to see them carry their stellar play into the second round.

When we switch over to the goaltending matchup we can see an obvious advantage in goal for Tampa Bay. Vasilevskiy’s sparkling .941 save percentage is much more appealing than Rask’s .899, which leads us to believe that Andrei will out duel Tuukka in this series.

On the blueline we see that the Bolts and the B’s are pretty evenly matched there as well. Both teams have good young puck movers (McAvoy and Sergachev) and both teams have some hard-nosed seasoned vets (Chara, McQuaid, Stralman, Girardi). Where Tampa has the advantage is with Victor Hedman. The Norris trophy finalist is going to be a big story in this series and with the Bruins already feeling the effects of a long seven game series against the Maple Leafs, we look to give Tampa the edge.

Tampa Bay wins series 4-2.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Well, well, well. Look at what we have here. Another year, another Pens/Caps, Crosby/Ovechkin series to dive into. The Metropolitan division seems to be the same story every year with some sort of Crosby/Ovechkin series happening. It doesn’t seem to matter where the teams are placed in the standings, they’ll always find a way back to each other. This series should be an absolute shoot out if we’re going based off of the history books. Both Alex and Sid seem to step it up when they play each other’s respective teams, as shown by their point totals against each other in playoff series all-time: Ovechkin – 26 points in 20 games, Crosby – 22 points in 19 games.

The reigning two-time Stanley Cup winning champs will most definitely have the advantage in this series as they seriously outclass the Capitals in terms of forward depth, and we all know you need to score goals to win games. The forward depth for the Penguins is just too much. Even with Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin likely sidelined in game one, the Penguins have more than enough firepower with the likes of Phil Kessel, Derick Brassard, and of course, literally anybody who plays on a line with Sidney Crosby.

The defensive side of the game looks decently equal for both teams, but John Carlson’s Norris-worthy play has carried into the post-season, so we’ll give a slight edge to the Caps there.

In goal Braden Holtby seems to have found his stride, but Matt Murray’s playoff ability continues to be a huge part of the Pens success. Should Holtby regain his top form, I’d say the goaltending duel is equal as well, which means that these teams would be close to evenly matched. We’re going out on a limb here and we’re predicting the Caps to move on based off of Holtby’s stellar play, Ovi stepping it up, and Malkin’s injury. Sure, the Pens have the advantage, but the Caps are no pushovers, and one of these years they’re bound to escape the second round.

Washington wins series 4-3.

THE WEST

Nashville Predators vs. Winnipeg Jets

Oh boy, the excitement of this series is almost too much to talk about. On one hand, you have the absolute juggernaut of the NHL in the Nashville Predators. They have probably the best defensive corps in the league, on top of an excellent goalie and some very solid forward scoring depth. Their counterparts the Winnipeg Jets, on the other hand, are equally as impressive. The Jets boast another Vezina candidate in goal with Connor Hellebuyck, and some extremely dynamic young stars up front. The Jets are coming fresh off of their first ever post-season series win and are looking to carry that momentum into Music City.

The Jets offensive stars have been a little quiet, but there’s no real reason for concern since they’ve been producing high quality scoring chances. The Jets will definitely have the edge in forward talent and depth as the addition of Paul Stastny just gives them a little more in the way of multifaceted scoring threats that trumps that of the Predators.

The defensive corps is a totally different story, however. The Preds have the best top six in the NHL and they aren’t afraid to show them off. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi front the group with skill, speed, physicality, and grit that is unmatched anywhere else in a top 2 pairing. Behind them they have the likes of PK Subban and Mattias Ekholm who complement each other perfectly. With Winnipeg’s backline looking more and more depleted due to injury, the Preds have the sure advantage here.

In terms of goaltending, two of the three Vezina trophy finalists will be facing off. It’s hard to say who had the advantage during the regular season even judging by the numbers (Hellebuyck 44 wins, 2.36 GAA, .924 SV%, and 6 shutouts. Rinne 42 wins, 2.31 GAA, .927 SV%, and 8 shutouts), but it’s been a different story for the start of these playoffs. Here’s a quick look:

Hellebuyck – 4 wins, 1.93 GAA, .924 SV%, and 2 shutouts

Rinne – 4 wins, 2.60 GAA, .909 SV%, and 1 shutout

If Hellebuyck keeps up this level of Vezina calibre play, the Jets will hold the advantage in the series. We’re going bold and predicting Winnipeg to move on.

Winnipeg wins series 4-2.

Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks

Wow. What a fun series this will turn out to be. Las Vegas, Nevada, and San Jose, California. A couple of warm Pacific coast teams that’ll battle it out to see the third round. San Jose has long been a team that chokes during the playoffs, but this year they came out broom-in-hand and dusted away the Ducks in no time at all. Their opponents did much the same as they figured it was time for some LA spring cleaning and swept away the Kings as if they were nothing. I think we can all agree that Vegas on paper has no chance against any team in the NHL and yet here we are talking about William Karlsson’s 43 goals this year, and the fact that the Golden Knights have a very real chance at moving on.

In terms of forward depth, the edge has to be given to San Jose. Even with Thornton injured, Pavelski and Couture provide solid top six options for San Jose compared to Erik Haula as the second line option for Vegas. The bottom six options for San Jose look more promising as well with the Fehr line playing excellently in the Anaheim series.

On the blueline, both teams are looking fairly even, but Brent Burns will be the key here for San Jose if they want to edge out their opposition.

As much as we talk about forward depth and defence depth, the real reason the Golden Knights breezed past Los Angeles was Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury’s numbers are absolutely ridiculous as of right now. The man is boasting 4 wins, .065 GAA, .977 SV% and 2 shutouts. If you know anything about hockey at all, you’d know that everything about that stat line screams what in the world. Martin Jones, the man opposing Fleury, is second in the playoffs with equally impressive numbers (1.00 GAA, .970 SV%, 1 shutout), but as far as we are concerned, the edge in net definitely goes to the Flower.

We’re expecting the Flower to steal another series here and we’ve got Vegas advancing on to round three.

Las Vegas wins series 4-1.

With all of that being said, these predictions are just our opinions, so if you feel differently feel free to let us know! We’d love to hear your input, and we’re all really looking forward to an exciting round two.

Puck drop for the first game of the second round between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals is 7:00pm EST. We’ll definitely be watching. Will you?