After a four month layoff, wow, what a fairly normal first round. Although the defending Stanley Cup Champions were eliminated just like last year, this year’s version didn’t produce as many upsets. I expected more bubble-bursters. Now, we have eight very good teams remaining that have proven that they can win a series. All this will add up to more competitive series moving forward.
Vegas oddsmakers have the Vegas Golden Knights as the leading favorite to win the Stanley Cup at 7/2 odds.
I have teamed up once again with former San Jose Shark/Kansas City Blade J.F. Quintin to handicap the second round. Here is our predictions:
#6 New York Islanders vs #1 Philadelphia
Commentary: This will be one of the better second-round matchups. Barry Trotz has the New York Islanders playing a great brand of defensive hockey and they have enough talent to be dangerous with Matthew Barzal. Philadelphia Flyers have more depth and really are the better team on paper. But they play these games on the ice as the old saying goes. Flyers goaltender Carter Hart looked shaky at times during the series with Montreal. I’ll take the Islanders in an upset. J.F. will take the Flyers.
- My prediction: New York in 7 games
- J.F’s prediction: Philadelphia in 7 games
#4 Boston vs #2 Tampa Bay
Commentary: The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning both took out their first round opponents in 5 games. The Bruins were dealt a blow with goaltender Tuukka Rask opting out of the season during the series. Boston’s Cup hopes will now rest with their backup netminder Jaroslav Halak. The Lightning demonstrated that they have bought into Jon Cooper’s defensive system, something that they failed to do in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs where they were swept in four games by the Bluejackets. Both of these teams are loaded with talent. Tampa Bay’s power-play has sputtered thus far in the playoffs. But they seem to have Boston’s number. In the last two seasons, the Lightning are 7-1 vs the Bruins. Overall, I think this series will come down to goaltending. I’ll put my money on Tampa Bay and Andrei Vasilevskiy. J.F. likes the Bruins.
- My prediction: Tampa Bay in 6 games
- J.F’s prediction: Boston in 6 games
#5 Vancouver vs #1 Vegas
Commentary: The Vegas Golden Knights have went 7-1 (best in the NHL) since coming back from the layoff. They looked impressive in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Golden Knights goaltender situation now appears to be set with Rob Lehner. If he falters, Marc Andre Fleury looked sharp in Game 3. and he has backstopped a team to a Stanley Cup Championship before. Vegas winger Max Pacioretty now appears to be healthy after missing all of the Round Robin games. Vancouver is a young team with speed and a great power-play that could give the Golden Knights some trouble. They knocked out the defending Stanley Cup Champion St Louis Blues but I’ll go with Vegas and their experience in 6 games. J.F. likes Vegas in 5 games.
- My prediction: Vegas in 6 games
- J.F’s prediction: Vegas in 5 games
#3 Dallas vs #2 Colorado
Commentary: If you would have told me that Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop would only play in one game in the first round vs the Calgary Flames, I’d would have bet big on the Flames to win that series. But Stars goalie Anton Khudobin held the fort down and the Stars advanced. The Colorado Avalanche, led by Nathan MacKinnon, are young and fast and proved to be too much offensively for the Arizona Coyotes. The Avs have the best power-play percentage in post-season (30.6%) and they won’t implode like Calgary did. I’ll take Colorado in 6 games. J.F. will opt for the upset special and Dallas in 7 games.
- My prediction: Colorado is 6 games
- J.F’s prediction: Dallas in 7 games
Stanley Cup Finals Prediction
Overall, I can see scenarios where any of the eight teams remaining could reach the Stanley Cup finals. Winning it is a different story. J.F. and I both like the Vegas Golden Knights coming out of the West. We differ on who we think will come out of the East. I like the upstart New York Islanders, J.F. likes the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Eastern Conference is more wide-open than the West so I won’t be surprised who comes out of that side of the bracket. Could this be the year that the Tampa Bay Lightning finally fulfill previous expectations? If they have a healthy Steven Stamkos, I’d give them the edge over the New York Islanders.
Prior to the first round, I had been leaning towards the Vegas Golden Knights as my Stanley Cup Champion. I am no longer undecided, the Vegas Golden Knights are officially my Stanley Cup champion favorite. This Vegas team has more team speed and experience than the one that went to the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago.