Ring the bell! It’s time for round 2!
While the Stanley Cup Playoffs are usually known for their massive amount of unpredictability, 2018 has shown that seeding may mean more than it once did. Or perhaps it was just a year where most top seeds were able to move on… Yeah, we’re going with that, as despite the 1, and 2 seeds dominating, there was a plethora of entertaining hockey. The only lower seed to move past the opening round is 3 seeded San Jose Sharks, as they handled the Ducks with ease to many’s surprise. This is where things get interesting, as all eight of these teams have the elements to potentially hoist the cup.
1 Tampa Bay Lightning
2 Boston Bruins
Speed vs Physicality
The Lightning come off a series win against wild card, New Jersey Devils. Tampa Bay showed the league they are a force to be reckon with, as they dismissed the red hot Devils as if the strong finish to their regular season meant nothing. The Bruins on the other hand were in a heated, back and forth battle that took all seven games to declare a victor. This will be interesting, as Tampa Bay loves to play a fast paced, high octane style; where as Boston likes to play that gritty, physical style. Both styles work with the right personnel, but it will be interesting to see two top division rivals go head to head as they counter the play of the other. If any team is going to beat Tampa it’s going to be a team like the Bruins, as physical play is not something the Lightning are accustomed to. On the contrary, if the Bruins are too slow to keep up with speedy Lightning wingers, this could be a cake walk for the Lighting. To predict a sure winner is tough, because one really needs to see how the gameplay is the first game or two. Both teams have stellar goaltending, a good defense, and contradicting offenses. Whichever team can assert their style in the series should see an advantage. We’re going with the ‘wear and tear’ factor in this one, as Tampa has had time to rest, while Boston is coming off a brutal seven game series. Lightning in 6
1 Washington Capitals
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
‘Syd the Kid’ vs ‘The Great 8’
The NHL is licking their chops with this matchup, as they once again get ‘Syd the Kid’ vs ‘The Great 8’ in a playoff matchup. The Penguins took care of business against in state rival, Philadelphia. Meanwhile, it took a few games for Washington to wake up, as they fell into a quick 0-2 hole after dropping the first two games at home to Columbus (both in OT). On paper, the Capitals are a deeper team from top to bottom, however the Penguins have their equalizer(s) with Sydney Crosby, and Evegni Malkin. Are those two alone good enough to beat the Capitals? Probably, as they’ve single handedly carried this team before. However, one has to think the Capitals will finally ‘have their day.’ For years they’ve been known as a ‘regular season team,’ and the extra motivational factor will help the better team carry on to the Eastern conference finals. Capitals in 7.
1 Nashville Predators
2 Winnipeg Jets
This series is going to be fun. We emphasize, FUN. Both teams have little to no weaknesses, and while the Jets were a tad inconsistent at times securing their fate as the 2 seed, that doesn’t mean their ceiling isn’t as high as the top seeded Predators. Both teams have top tier goaltending, scoring capability, and perhaps the most important playoff element, a reliable defense. It’s shame these two are meeting in the second round, because this is a type of series that could have easily been an enticing conference finals duel. This series should be long, it should have all elements any fan looks for in playoff hockey. Don’t be surprised if either team wins this series, as many have Nashville as the undisputed favorite out West. We’re going to have some fun and go with Winnipeg, but we’re writing that in pencil, not pen. Jets in 6.
1 Las Vegas Golden Knights
3 San Jose Sharks
Battle of the Undefeated
Oh, well hello Vegas. Don’t mind the rest of the league, just come right in, and be the team to beat out west in your inaugural NHL season. The Knights have yet to lose a playoff game, and the Kings were not an ideal wild card team any top seed wants to see in the first round. Well they didn’t get the message, as close defensively contested battles went to Vegas four out four times in the opening round. San Jose on the other hand was supposedly gearing up for long, tough physical series against the 2 seeded Anaheim Ducks. Yeah, again, they didn’t seem to get that memo either. Not only did the Sharks manhandle the higher seeded Ducks, they quadrupled their goal total with a tally of 16-4 in a quick four game sweep. So now the two collide, and someone has to lose. Seriously, neither has lost a single game yet. It’s tough to pick against either of these two right now, as they are clearly the hottest teams in the league. In hockey, paper doesn’t matter, especially when a team catches fire, usually they’re pretty damn tough to beat, regardless of seeding. Until someone can actually take a stand, and dethrone Vegas, you can ‘Knight’ them the winner of this series. Golden Knights in 5.