2021 NHL Playoff Predictions: Round Two
My predictions for the opening round of the playoffs weren't too reliable, and now that the first round is FINALLY over (thanks Leafs) we can move onto the second round. With the Islanders moving on past the Penguins and the Oilers getting swept against the Winnipeg Jets, it's time for me to redeem myself. Here are my predictions!
Boston Bruins vs New York Islanders
The Bruins got rid of the Caps in five, but three of those games needed extra time. Boston lost the first game in overtime but won four straight thanks in part to their physical play. Alex Ovechkin was kept in check, and in turn kept most of the momentum to themselves. They also shutdown Nicklas Backstrom, who managed to record just a single point the entire series. It could be a long series for New York if Boston can put forth this same effort.
The Islanders proved me wrong again! Despite not having one of their best forwards in this series, their offence kept rolling. In five of the six games in the series, the Islanders scored more than two goals in a game. They averaged 3.5 goals against the Pens in the series which is higher than what they averaged this season. They came in as heavy underdogs once again against the Pens, but they were able to figure out Tristan Jerry and exploit him.
Goaltending is going to be the key for the Bruins. Rask was solid against the Caps and has as much experience in the playoffs as anyone in the game today. He'll be the Bruins difference maker in this series. The Islanders defence will also be a point of emphasis. They shut down the Pens and had success against the Bruins this season as well, and with Sorokin's lack of experience against Beantown, the D will play a big part in his comfort level.
Prediction: The Islanders proved me wrong against the Penguins but the Bruins are a more complete team. Both offensively and defensively the Bruins could give this Islanders team fits, and I think they will. The Bruins will power through and win.
Bruins in 6.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Carolina Hurricanes
The Lightning were glad to see Nikita Kucherov and their captain Steven Stamkos back in the lineup. The dynamic duo combined for 20 points last round, and Kucherov led they way with 11 points. The Lightning's offence put up 22 goals in six games against Florida, and were able to chase former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in the series. Yes, they are very good.
The Hurricanes were pushed hard by the Predators, yet Carolina rallied back and Sebastian Aho put the nail in the coffin in Nashville’s playoff hopes. We talk about Tampa’s offence, but Carolina aren’t pushovers themselves. Their offence scored 22 goals, and averaged close to 4 goals a game. They’ll need to continue to bring that effort if they hope to compete.
This is going to be a close matchup. The season series was split at four games apiece, but surprisingly enough the scoring has been limited with Carolina having the edge 18-17. However, with Kuch and the captain back, things could look a lot different. Lifetime against the Hurricanes Kuch has produced 21 points in 19 games, while Stamkos has piled up 40 points against the Hurricanes his career.
The Lightning vs Hurricanes should be a fun series. And now that both teams are firing on all cylinders, the fireworks should be abundant. I feel Tampa will be a little bit too much for the rookie Alex Nedeljkovic and the rest of Carolina’s goaltending squad. I expect Vasilevskiy to be in fine form.
Bolts in 6.
Colorado Avalanche vs Vegas Golden Knights
The Avalanche and Golden knights feel like a heavyweight boxing match, and if this were any other year we probably wouldn’t be seeing this matchup until the conference finals. It took the final game of the year to determine who would be the division winner and the president's trophy holder. If you ain’t pumped for this then I don’t know what you’re waiting for.
With all that said, the Avalanche slipped through as the best team in the league. They made light work of the Blues as expected, and in saying that it was their first playoff sweep since 2001. All four of Colorado's victories were by a margin of three goals or more. They simply terrorized Jordan Binnington. The trio of McKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen put up a combined 24 points and will absolutely be the key to get past this tough Vegas side.
The Golden Knights had to fend off the pesky Minnesota Wild, and did so in seven. While Mark Stone had a good series, the Golden Knights top players were basically non-existent. Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson only potted two goals together. Funny enough, Janmark's hat trick in game seven places him as the Knights leading goal scorer this postseason. They’ll need that to change big time if they hope to keep up with Colorado’s big arsenal.
This series is going to be seven without any question. It’s gonna be a barnburner, a slobberknocker, a showstopper, or any other supervative you can think of! Defense wins championships and I think Vegas will put the breaks on the high octane offence of the Colorado Avalanche.
Golden Knights in 7.
Winnipeg Jets Vs Montreal Canadiens
In surprising fashion, the Jets swept the Oilers in four games. In three of those four games we needed extra time, including coming back 3-1 late in the third period and stealing game three. Defensively, they gave up just eight total goals in the series, pulling the rug out from under Edmonton’s superstars. Only two Oiler players put up more than 2 points in the series, so that should tell you all you need to know about where they are on the back end.
What can be said about the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs pulled off the biggest UPSET of the playoffs by knocking off the North division champs despite looking dead to rights. Trailing 3-1 to the Leafs, the Habs put their hardhats on and went to work. Carey Price, who despite giving up multiple goal leads in games five and six, came up big when his team needed him the most. Their D also needs a shoutout for completely shutting down Marner and Matthews.
The Jets won the season series against Montreal, and they also outscored Montreal 31-28 as well. Kyle Connor produced 10 points throughout the season against the Habs and will look to continue his hot streak against the bleu blanc et rouge. Realistically, Winnipeg's key to the series is solving Price. They were able to do it during the regular season, but this is playoff Price we’re talking about.
If the Habs can lean on Price once again and capitalize off of Winnipeg’s mistakes like they did against the Leafs, they may be able to pull off another upset.
Both teams were the underdogs in their previous series but came out victorious. Winnipeg's offence looked good against Edmonton but they're facing Carey Price. Both Hellebuyck and Price will be the keys to each team's success. Both goalies have played well against one another, posting solid stats, but if Montreal survived the Leafs, and I hate to say this, I think they can survive the Jets.
Habs in 6.