NHL Round Two Preview & Predictions
Dallas Stars vs. Seattle Kraken.
Preview: The Dallas Stars had a back-and-forth battle against the Minnesota Wild during the opening two games of the series but in games 5 & 6 they outscored the Wild 8-1 on the way to a 4-2 series victory. Roope Hintz has been unbelievable in the playoffs with 5 goals and 7 assists through the opening six games of the playoffs. Miro Heiskanen has been a stud defensively for the Stars averaging 29:02 minutes of ice time per game. The loss of Joe Pavelski in the first round hurt but veterans Tyler Seguin, Evgenii Dadonov and Jamie Benn are stepping up in his place. Goaltender Jake Oettinger has a 4-2 record with a 2.01 GAA and a .929 SV% in the playoffs and he was particularly impressive in a very important game 4 in Minnesota to even the series two games apiece. The Stars had an effective power-play scoring 9 goals with a percentage of 37.5% and their penalty kill went 18-22 (81.82%). The Seattle Kraken battled with the defending Cup champions Colorado Avalanche all playoffs and in Game 7 they held on for a close 2-1 victory. The Kraken have a very balanced attack offensively with nobody scoring more than two goals so far in the playoffs and Yanni Gourde leading the way in points with 1 goal and 5 assists. Adam Larsson and Vince Dunn led the team in minutes played, and they have done a great job defensively for the Kraken. Philipp Grubauer was phenomenal for the Kraken as he has overperformed his regular season numbers so far in the playoffs with a 4-3 record, 2.44 GAA and a .926 SV%. The Kraken have done poorly on the powerplay so far in the playoffs going 3-21 (14.29%) but they were amazing on the penalty kill going 16-18 (88.89%) against a very dangerous Avalanche power-play.
Prediction: The Dallas Stars have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL in Jake Oettinger and forward group that has been electric through the opening round of the playoffs. The Kraken are well organized, have plenty of depth and Grubauer has done a good job in goal. The Stars will continue their success and finish off the Kraken. Dallas in 5 games.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Edmonton Oilers.
Preview: The Vegas Golden Knights looked terrible in game one of their series against the Winnipeg Jets as they lost 5-1 but they then proceeded to win four games in a row for a quick 5 game series finish. Chandler Stephenson has 4 goals and 8 points so far in the postseason and captain Mark Stone has 3 goals and 5 assists. Goaltender Laurent Brossoit has done a good job with a 4-1 record, 2.42 GAA and a .915 SV% in the postseason. The Golden Knights have a relatively unimpressive power-play so far in the postseason going 3-16 (18.75%) and their penalty kill has been horrendous going 7-12 (58.33%). Edmonton for a second consecutive postseason had an entertaining match-up with the Los Angeles Kings as the Oilers were able to win in 6 games. Leon Draisaitl has 7 goals and 4 assists while Connor McDavid has 3 goals and 7 assists so far in the postseason. Evan Bouchard has been great as the defenseman has 2 goals and 8 assists while averaging 23:08 minutes of ice time per game. Goaltender Stuart Skinner has struggled at times with a 3.43 GAA and a .890 SV% as he was even pulled in game four after allowing three goals in the first period and Jack Campbell stepped up with a 27 save performance leading to the Oilers victory. The Oilers did give Skinner games 5 and 6 to show that they haven’t switched to Campbell yet but it’s still one of the biggest concerns for the Oilers. The Oilers penalty kill was very poor in round one going 14-21 (66.67%) but they have a cheat code of a power-play going 9-16 (56.25%) and scoring in every single game of the postseason so far with a man advantage.
Prediction: This series has a lot of storylines to follow but I believe special teams and goaltending will continue to play the biggest factor for these two teams. The Oilers have had poor goaltending but the match-up between the Golden Knights abysmal penalty kill and the Oilers power-play is very interesting. The refs do tend to let things go the further teams get into the playoffs so that’s one thing to consider. I think the Golden Knights may be the better team but it’s hard to not pick the Oilers the way they’ve been playing. Edmonton in 6 games.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers.
Preview: The Maple Leafs have finally done it. After years of disappointment for the fans and first round playoff exits, they are now in the second round for the first time since 2004. Mitch Marner leads the team in scoring with 2 goals and 9 assists through the first-round while Auston Matthews has 5 goals and 4 assists. Morgan Rielly has been amazing for Toronto on the blue-line with 3 goals, 5 assists and plenty of important defensive plays alongside partner Luke Schenn. Ilya Samsonov has been okay for Toronto in net with a 3.14 GAA and a .900 SV% through the opening six games. He has had some poor games, but he also was amazing in game three and six. The penalty kill had a poor game one allowing four goals, but they have rebounded and overall, the penalty kill is 16-21 (76.19%) while the power-play is a respectable 6-21 (28.57%) so far in the postseason. The Florida Panthers somehow managed to do the unthinkable and knock off the 65-win Boston Bruins thanks to a wild game 7 victory in overtime. Matthew Tkachuk continues to shine in Florida with 5 goals, 6 assists so far in the postseason while defenseman Brandon Montour has 5 goals and 3 assists while averaging 24:43 minutes of ice time per game. Carter Verhaeghe, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart, and Sam Bennett add to this very underrated Panther’s attack. Goaltending has been an issue with Alex Lyon starting early on in this series and Sergei Bobrovsky closing out the playoffs. The 34-year-old Russian goaltender Bobrovsky has a 3-1 record with a 3.94 GAA and a .891 SV% while Alex Lyon is 1-2 with a 3.26 GAA and a .902 SV% so far in the postseason. The Panthers penalty kill didn’t do them any favors in round one as it went 16-27 (59.26%) while their power-play started to pick up steam as the series progressed going 5-20 (25%).
Prediction: The Maple Leafs are the better team on paper and now that they are over the first-round curse, maybe they can produce more magic. Toronto has a clear advantage in Special teams, but the Panthers are dangerous 5-on-5 and they will target the bottom six of the Maple Leafs. The Panthers have struggled in net so far in the postseason, but Bobrovsky has the talent to take over a game and Ilya Samsonov kind of struggled for Toronto in the opening round. I’m more confident though in this series for the Leafs than the Tampa Bay series and I say Toronto will win. Toronto in 5 games.
New Jersey Devils vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Preview: The New Jersey Devils found a way to get it done against the Rangers despite going down 2-0 in the series while losing their opening games on home ice. The Devils stormed back winning the next four of five games including a 4-0 victory in game 7. They had a fairly balanced attack offensively with Erik Haula leading the way in scoring with 4 goals and 2 assists while Nico Hischier, Ondrej Palat and Jack Hughes all have 5 points respectively. In net Vitek Vanecek was pulled after two tough games and rookie goaltender Akira Schmid has been the story of the playoffs with a 4-1 record, 1.38 GAA and a .951 SV% against a very dangerous Rangers team. The Devils power-play went 4/24 (16.67%) while their penalty kill struggled earlier on but it did a great job down the stretch going 23/28 (82.14%). The Hurricanes avoided a scare from the Islanders and won in six games thanks to a Paul Stastny overtime winner in game six. Sebastian Aho has been strong for the Hurricanes with 4 goals and 7 points in the opening six games while Brent Burns has played phenomenal defensively. The team still needs better contributions from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and his line if they hope to defeat the Devils. Antti Raanta started the series in net for the Hurricanes as he went 3-2 with a 2.59 GAA and a .906 SV% but Frederik Andersen played game six and was great in the 2-1 victory with 33 saves. The Hurricanes power-play struggled in the final two games but they did go a respectable 5-25 (20%) while their penalty kill was fantastic going 17-18 (94.44%) but some of that has to do with a very poor Islanders power play.
Prediction: This will be a very close series because of their contrast in style and identity as the Devils are a fast past offensive team while the Hurricanes are very tight and organized defensively but sometimes struggle on the offensive end. Goaltending is interesting because the Devils have two very unproven goaltenders while the Hurricanes have Frederik Andersen who has potential to steal games and Antti Raanta has been solid when asked to play. This is nearly a coin flip for me but I really like the defensive structure for the Hurricanes and having home ice advantage could be major in this series. Carolina in 7 games.