Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Islanders
The Flyers and Islanders have both been very surprising and successful in the playoffs so far by having amazing team play. Both teams have exceeded expectations and are very determined to make a deep run in the playoffs. The first seeded Flyers will have to find a way to score against the strong defensive Islanders team while the Islanders will have to try to get past Flyers star goalie, Carter Hart.
The Flyers shocked everyone by going undefeated against the Bruins, Lightning and Capitals in the Round Robin, making them the first seed. But this wasn’t a fluke; the Flyers used their incredible team play and depth to score against some of the best goalies in the East, including Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Braden Holtby. Flyers star forwards Claude Giroux, Jacob Vorcek and Sean Couturier, along with depth players such as Scott Laughton, Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes and Michael Raffl were major contributors to the Flyers on the score sheet. Not to forget, the Flyers solid defense and amazing goaltender, Carter Hart playing incredible in net.
The Islanders also surprised many people by playing great all-around hockey and team play. The Islanders, being a defensive-minded team were expected to win most of their games by defense. However, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier led the Islanders offense and generated tons of goals against their matchups. As mentioned before, the Islanders’ defense is great and can shut down teams along with Semyon Varlamov, a solid goaltender.
The series between the Flyers and Islanders will be very intense and low-scoring. But, the Islanders will have even more trouble trying to score with a defense-minded system against Carter Hart, who has been hot in the playoffs.
Prediction: Flyers in 6
Boston Bruins vs Tampa Bay Lightning
The two powerhouses of the East finally meet in the second round of the NHL playoffs. On paper, the Bruins and Lightning are by far the best two teams in the league as they are both respectively stacked on offense, defense and goaltending. The Bruins and Lightning have even added more depth to their teams during the trade deadline. Another similarity between the Bruins and Lightning is they haven’t had too much playoff success in recent seasons, but that can all change this postseason.
The Bruins are led by their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrank. They also have a great defense with Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara. However, their goaltending looks a bit shaky with Jaroslav Halak as their Vezina caliber starting goalie, Tuukka Rask left the NHL bubble due to personal family reasons. The big question for the Bruins is if Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins defense could be able to stop the Lightning offense.
The Lightning have a great top 6, including Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Anthony Cerelli and more. The Lightning also have a great defense led by Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh. But most importantly, they have a strong goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy who is a Vezina finalist just like Rask. However, the Lightning are missing one thing and that one missing piece is their captain Steven Stamkos. For at least the start of the series, the Lightning will miss Stamkos who is a huge part of their offense.
This series will be very close with the two teams being very evenly matched in all aspects. In the end, the Bruins will come out on top because they have more playoff experience and success than the Lightning, but this series could go either way.
Prediction: Bruins in 7
Vegas Golden Knights vs Vancouver Canucks
Going into the playoffs, the Golden Knights and Canucks were projected as two dark horse teams that could make it far in the playoffs, maybe even to win the Stanley Cup. Their play through the qualifying round and first-round further show why they deserved to make it this far in the postseason. This battle between youth vs. experience will be a matchup to watch with two very different teams.
Ever since coming into the league in 2017, the Golden Knights have been a very consistent team led by their deep team, grit and experience. Through their first two years, they have acquired two key pieces in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty who have been a huge part of the team. The Knights have a solid defense with Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb and more as well as a two-headed monster in net, Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Canucks, on the other hand, had a different approach to build their team. The Canucks have developed players in the last few seasons such as Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes and Bo Horvat who have been amazing in the playoffs. Along with developing players, the Canucks made a few trades & signings to add experience to their lineup like J.T Miller, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Person. Even though their defense isn’t as good as the Knights, their goaltending makes up for it. Just like the Golden Knights, the Canucks have a two-headed monster in Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko.
Although the Canucks will bring tons of skill and speed against the Golden Knights, it would not be enough to outplay the strong Golden Knights. Playoff experience is key for a team to make it far in the playoffs and the amount of experience the Knights have over the Canucks will be the difference in the series.
Defense: Golden Knights
Prediction: Golden Knights in 6
Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars
Two of the hottest teams in the playoffs right now are set to play in the second round, the Stars and Avalanche. Both teams ended the first round on fire, the Avalanche scoring 14 goals in two games to eliminate the Coyotes and the Stars scoring seven unanswered goals in a comeback victory against the Flames. Now it’s time for the teams that are similarly built to face off.
The Stars are a very top-heavy team, having Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov leading the team offensively, with little secondary scoring. However, in the playoffs, it has been a whole different story with the Stars getting help from other forwards such as Denis Gurianov and Joe Pavelski along with their top defenders, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen contributing from the blueline. Even though the Stars are getting help from their offense and defense, there is some uncertainty in net. Right now, the backup goalie Anton Khudobin is getting the stars for the Stars since their normal starting goalie Ben Bishop has been struggling in the problems. If the Stars can figure out their goaltending, they could be a scary team in the West.
The Avalanche also mostly rely on their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Miko Rantanen to carry the team. But just like the Stars, the Avalanche have gained secondary scoring help from Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, and more. The Avs are even getting tons of help from their back end with rookie phenom Cale Makar playing great offensively and defensively. The Avalanches’ scoring has been unreal in the playoffs thus far and could get even better against the Stars. However, looking at the opposite side of the ice, their defense and goaltending isn’t looking as strong as the Avalanche face a couple of injuries. One of their top defenders in Erik Johnson is out indefinitely along with starting goalie Phillip Grubauer.
This series between the Stars and Avalanche will be a battle, but in the end, the Avalanche will move on past the Stars due to their superior offense against the Stars’ questionable back end.
Prediction: Avalanche in 5