Second Round Preview
Unofficially, the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the Divisional Finals.
Eastern Conference Atlantic Division Finals
Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers
Another year where the Wild Card team advances to the second round AND has more points than their second round opponent BUT doesn’t get home-ice because of being a Wild Card team–the one downside of this playoff format. This is the second postseason matchup between the two team with New York having won in seven games back in 2012. I said on this week’s pod that I thought this was the round’s biggest lock, and I’ll explain why. Ottawa has a great top defensive pairing with Erik Karlson leading the charge for the Sens but the Rangers have a longer list of forwards than the Sens have of defensemen. What really makes the difference is that Hank started to heat up at the end of that Montreal series. LOCK IT UP. Rangers in five. Game one is Thursday night at 7:00 on CNBC.
Metropolitan Division Finals
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Me last year: “I have been a fan of the new playoff format seen the beginning. The Divisional style allows for rivalries (both real and NBC-created) to be showcased in the postseason more frequently. It seemed like there was one rivalry, in particular, the NHL wanted this to apply to and now in the third year of this format, we finally get our matchup. Ovechkin vs. Crosby. This is it folks, the heavyweight one-on-one bout. There aren’t too many times a matchup in a team sport outshines the teams themselves and this is hockey’s.” The two teams have met nine times already with Pittsburgh winning eight of the nine, including both Ovi/Crosby matchups in 2009 and 2016. The Penguins took care of Columbus a lot faster than Washington would have wanted. Injuries make it hard to think the Pens will own the Caps like they have in postseasons past, especially without Letang. The Caps loaded up a large roster to surround Ovechkin and I think it’s just barely enough. Caps in seven. Game one is also on Thursday at 7:30 on NSCSN.
Western Conference Central Division Finals
St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators
Surprisingly, this is the first playoff series between these divisional foes. The Preds shocked everyone at ESPN:
A move that savage has to gain my undying love, right? Well, the Blues are ranked 12th in both goals for and goals against whereas the Preds are 11th in goals for and 15th in goals against. The Blues are much better on special teams than the Preds but Pekka Rinne (NSH) is coming into the series hotter than Jake Allen (STL). I said to “The Prophet” on the pod that this series will be the lowest scoring of the four in the second round. It could easily feature the most overtimes as well. Rinne is skyrocketing upwards into white-hot territory: Preds in six. Game one is Wednesday night at 8:00 on NBCSN.
Pacific Division Finals
Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers
Prepare yourselves for a high-flying, high-speed, scoring affair. This is the second time these teams have met in the postseason with the only other time being back in the 2006 Western Conference Finals, the last time the Oilers made the playoffs. Anaheim’s defense is has been dominant all season, especially in the first round as they shut down the Flames. Edmonton’s offense has been a force to be reckoned with throughout the season and this series will be a great test for Connor McDavid and his crew. I don’t think it’ll beat Pens/Caps for the best series in the second round but Ducks/Oilers will be a close second. What makes the difference for me is the two-headed goaltending monster the Ducks have in the Johns Gibson and Bernier. Cam Talbot was fantastic in shutting down an awesome San Jose offense but I think the youth of Edmonton catches up to them late in the series. Ducks in seven. Game one is Wednesday night at 10:30 on NBCSN.
Disagree with my picks? Who ya got moving on to the Conference Finals? Let me know in the comments below.