You may have noticed that we skipped the first round of the playoffs, not just in the NHL, but the NBA as well. I don’t think either needs to limit the number of teams that make the post-season, especially when so much revenue is generated for the lesser teams, but there is something to be said about the competitive nature of the first round. While the Blackhawks and Blues proved to be an incredible series, losing in the first round just isn’t nearly as devastating. The second round is when teams get that first taste of success, and as a result, possibility. So let’s discuss what’s to come in round two of the NHL playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders
My official bracket (the one I made with my students in my classroom) had Florida beating New York in the first round, but whether I overestimated the Panthers or underestimated the Islanders remains to be seen. The Lightning have been playing solid, quick-paced hockey, and while they clinched the second round birth with a single goal, their offense still scares me as a potential opponent in the conference finals. They big thing to note, of course, is that Stamkos is out for the Lightning, and John Tavares is very much in for the Islanders. The Islanders allowed more goals in the first round than Tampa Bay, but to a much better team than Detroit (who only made the playoffs because of a Boston collapse). I like Tyler Johnson’s game for Tampa, but some wonder if that will be enough against a team that knocked off a number one seed. I think it will be. LIGHTNING IN SIX.
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The obvious narrative here is OVECHKIN vs. CROSBY but I think that undersells how great this series should be. The Penguins scored a total of 21 goals in 5 games, a ridiculous ratio for the playoffs. The Capitals only allowed 6 goals in 6 games, one of which was a garbage time empty-netter. This is where the real story lives. Will the Capitals defense rise of to the challenge of limiting the Penguins offense, and will Murray or Zatkoff, whomever gets the start, play as well as Neuvirth did for the Flyers? Because despite the minimal scoring in the last few games, Washington dominated puck and zone possession, something Pittsburgh better prepare itself for. This is a seven game series, I don’t think there’s a question about it, but in the end, it’s Holtby and depth that I trust most. CAPITALS IN SEVEN.
TB vs. NYI
I think a total of 30 goals will be scored in this series. Not because of offensive skill, but because I’m not a huge fan of either goalie, and in the second round, those bounces seemed to become even trickier.
WSH vs. PIT
Conversely, I believe only 20 goals will be scored in this series, and I think Washington will only give up ONE on the power play.