NHL Playoffs: Round One Review and Round Two Preview

Ranging from the Islanders’ surprise to the upstart Hurricanes and a much-anticipated matchup between Colorado and Vegas, the NHL playoffs are heating up after an exciting opening round.

Nathan+McKinnon+%28above%29+and+the+Avalanche+dominated+the+Golden+Knights+to+claim+the+first+two+games+of+the+second+round+series.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

Nathan McKinnon (above) and the Avalanche dominated the Golden Knights to claim the first two games of the second round series. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Chris Hennessy, Staff Writer

The first round of the NHL playoffs has concluded and there are some extremely intriguing matchups in the next round which began last weekend. 

The second round’s opening game was between the Islanders and Bruins on Saturday after they both cruised through the first round. Boston beat a discombobulated Washington Capitals squad in five games, three of which were decided in overtime. New York beat Pittsburgh for the second time in three years in six games, clinching the playoffs with a 5-3 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. 

This is the matchup I envisioned at the beginning of the playoffs, so I will stick to my prediction of the Islanders advancing into the semifinals. That being said, Boston has a phenomenal top line and a goaltender playing at the top of his game. Taylor Hall has been such a great addition to the second line, providing the depth they lacked at the beginning of the season. I expect the Bruins to be favored and not go down easy against the Isles, but Barry Trotz’s squad has played spoiler to many division opponents in the past three seasons. I’ll pick the Isles in seven, but this is going to be a great tilt. 

One of the two highly anticipated series in this second round is the matchup between Carolina and Tampa Bay. The defending Stanley Cup champions went through three separate goalies in their defeat of Florida. It was a great effort from 20-year-old Spencer Knight and the Panthers, but the high-flying Bolts offense proved too tall a task. That pressure will now turn to 25-year-old rookie Alex Nedeljkovic. Ned, as they call him, outdueled Juuse Saros and helped close out the Predators in six games in the first round. The season series was remarkably even, with both teams going 4-3-1 against each other. Carolina put 18 goals past the Lightning compared to 17 for Tampa. Carolina has been phenomenal all season long, but the Lightning are healthy and poised for another run. I am going to pick Carolina in seven games. The Bolts are great, but this is the Canes’ year, and they will move on to the semifinals. 

Colorado and Vegas will finally meet in the playoffs for the first time ever. They were a game seven away from facing off for the Western Conference title last year, but Dallas played spoiler against the Avalanche. This year, Colorado dominated St. Louis in the first round after a President’s Trophy season. The sweep was pretty uneventful outside of another Nazem Kadri suspension that has him out until game seven of this series. 

Vegas was pushed to game seven against Minnesota after taking a 3-1 series lead, already the third time in franchise history that has happened. A second period onslaught pushed Vegas past the surprising Wild and set up a date with Colorado. This is the most intriguing matchup in recent playoff memory and will be seven games of must-watch television. Colorado in seven is my pick, I had them as the champs in preseason and they have been even better than I anticipated.

After an epic collapse by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal moves on to face Winnipeg. The Jets made easy work of the Oilers and have a rested Connor Hellebuyck, who they will have to lean on again if they want to advance. I’m taking the Habs to move on to the semifinals in a six-game series. As good as Hellebuyck is, Montreal has the momentum after their comeback and when a team sits for this long after a sweep, it does not always go well. Montreal going to the final four at the beginning of the playoffs felt near impossible, but here we are. 

We have already seen some great hockey in round two and that will only continue for the next few weeks.