The second round of the 2017-18 NHL playoffs kick off Friday morning Australian time. We preview each of the series and provide our predicted series scores below!
The Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Washington to face the Capitals in yet another second round matchup against these two powerhouse Eastern Conference teams.
The Penguins knocked off the Flyers in six to advance to yet another second round and face the team they defeated in last year's second round. Jake Guentzel was outstanding in the last win, scoring four goals and is doing what he did last year in the playoffs, scoring goals. Guenzel once again leads all playoff scorers with six goals and 13 points. Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin will both miss game one as they recover from injuries that occurred against the Flyers. Without those two players the Penguins still have the ability to win game one and the series. We might see more ice time from Derick Brassard who has been quiet with only two points in six games, and they still have Crosby, Guenzal and Phil Kessel to name just a few.
The Capitals dropped the first two games in round one against the Blue Jackets but pulled it together after those games putting on a clinic winning the next four games. Brayden Holtby replaced Philipp Grubauer in game two of the Blue Jackets series after he lost his first two playoff games. Holtby has been great giving up nine goals in the last four games and was certainly the difference in the first series. Washington has lost the previous three series against the Penguins, will this be the year Ovechkin and the Capitals make the Conference Finals?
The Sharks were unbelievable in their series against the Ducks as they won the series 4-0. The Sharks were never threatened as they put 16 goals in the back of the net in the four games including a 8-1 win in the third game. Matt Jones also proved that he is one of the best in the league allowing only four goals in four games. The Sharks will put the regular season behind them after losing the series 1-2-1. The Sharks have the playoff experience with Brent Burns leading the pack along with Injured Joe Thornton who looks like he's ready to go in game one. Three players scored more than three goals in the series with Evander Kane leading the way with three goals and one assist. This team is stacked and I feel that experience will get them over the line.
The Golden Knights series was similar to the Sharks series as they beat the LA Kings in four games. The series against LA was what the Knights needed to see if they could hold their nerve against the best defensive team in the league. All games were separated by one goal with both goalies relentless in all four games. Besides Fleury who allowed three goals in four games, Reilly Smith caused trouble for LA and registered three points for the series. Vegas will need more from the first line that includes William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault who only produced two even strength goals in four games, if they are to make into the Conference Finals.
The Jets won their first playoff series since 1987 and are well equipped to go all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. The Jets took care of the Wild winning the series 4-1 and closed out the final two games with consecutive shutouts. Mark Scheifele has been the most consistent forward scoring four goals in the series. Defensively the Jets aren't as strong but Connor Hellebuyck has been holding the fort and only gave up nine goals in the Wild series.
Nashville had a difficult time beating eighth placed Colorado but finally won the series in six with a 5-0 shutout. The Predators won their regular season matchup 3-1-1 over the Jets. The Preds are a all rounded team but show strength is on the defensive end. During the Avalanche series their were defensive lapses and had trouble with some of the speed of the Avalanches. The third line did most of the damage in the first round of the playoffs, they combined for 19 points in that series with Sissons and Watson leading the scoring charge. It's a hard place to win in Nashville and I feel that Nashville will have to much talent in this series.
The Bruins had a hard fought seven game series victory over the Maple Leafs in round one of the playoffs and now will try their luck against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bruins took a commanding lead over the Leafs leading the series 3-1, before eventually taking the series in fashion with a 5-0 victory. Boston defeated Tampa three out of the four times played this year and fancy their chances in the postseason. The Bruins have the best line in the Eastern Conference with Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak leading the charge for the Bruins. Torey Krug has been solid in defense this playoff series, leading all defenseman in postseason goals. I guess the one question is that what defense can control the Lightning forwards? Chara and McAvoy have been the best throughout the year for Boston so it will be interesting to see if they can keep Stamkos and Kucherov in check.
Tampa have been the best team in the league this year and they showed their dominance against a young Devils team, taking out the series in five. Kucherov and Stamkos both caused trouble for the Devils with Kucherov claiming nine points in the series with five goals and four assists. The Lightning have so much depth from the first line featuring Kucherov to Alex Killorn who had four goals in round one of the playoffs. This will be a great series and I expect to see another seven game series ahead of us, but I think Tampa Bay will be too strong.
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