Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs start tonight at 8 pm ET with the Colorado Avalanche taking on the Dallas Stars. Here are my previews and Predictions for how this round will go:
Vegas Golden Knights v Vancouver Canucks
The Vegas Golden Knights was the first team to qualify for Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, giving them the longest break of any team left in the Playoffs. Could that break be a help or hindrance to Vegas? Shea Theodore has produced on the back-end with four goals and three assists for seven points. Meanwhile, forwards Reilly Smith (three goals and five assists) and Mark Stone (four goals and four assists) are both averaging a point a game so far in the postseason. The Golden Knights are one of the best defensive teams left in the Playoffs, holding their opposition to 25.2 shots per game.
The Vancouver Canucks will be full of confidence after knocking out the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, St Louis Blues, in the first round. Canucks have gotten big moments from star forwards Elias Pettersson and JT Miller while rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes trails only Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen in points for defensemen during the playoffs. They have also gotten elite goaltending from Jacob Markstrom who has a .927 SV% over the nine games played so far in the postseason.
Vegas will want to slow the game down and play at their pace as if they allow the likes of Pettersson and Hughes to dictate the tempo it could spell trouble. Ultimately the Golden Knights should have enough to overcome the Canucks, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Canucks drag them all the way to game seven.
Vegas Golden Knights win the series 4-3
Colorado Avalanche v Dallas Stars
The Colorado Avalanche are on a roll with 14 goals in the last two first-round games against the Arizona Coyotes. Nathan MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri have been on fire, combining for 24 points over eight postseason games. Kadri in particular has lightened the load on MacKinnon as the second-line center, scoring six goals in those eight games. Only two players, Valeri Nichushkin and Ian Cole, on the Avalanche, have yet to record a point. All that said, Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was where the Avalanche fell last year to the San Jose Sharks and nerves will be there to advance further.
The Dallas Stars will have a decision to make should Ben Bishop be healthy. Bishop played in the round-robin game against Vegas and in game two of the Calgary series, but has been deemed unfit to play in the other seven games. Anton Khudobin has been a more than capable stand-in during those games, putting up a .919 SV%. The Stars will be hoping veteran players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn get going as they have combined for only seven points so far this postseason. They will also be hoping defenseman Miro Heiskanen keeps up his postseason form of 12 points in nine games.
The Avalanche are feeling it right now and don’t seem to be taking their foot off the gas. Game one being moved forward to Saturday evening will not bother Jared Bednar and his team as they look to keep their momentum going. The Dallas Stars has the best defensive record during the regular season, but that hasn’t transferred into the postseason and for the Stars to stand any chance that will need to revert back.
Colorado Avalanche win the series 4-2
Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins will be hoping David Pastrnak is back for good after only playing five games so far in the postseason. The forward, who tied with Alex Ovechkin for most regular-season goals, is a huge part of the Bruins attack and especially the power-play unit which has struggled this postseason. Losing Tuukka Rask will also be a massive blow to the Bruins, but backup Jaroslav Halak showed during the regular season that he can step in and perform. The Bruins will need that for the remainder of these playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning remains without Steven Stamkos. The center, and captain, has yet to play a postseason game and looks to be out indefinitely. In his absence Brayden Point has led the Lightning in goals scored and points while Nikita Kucherov has also chipped in with two goals and seven assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy has also helped the Lightning with a .927 SV% and allowing only 1.98 goals per game since the postseason began.
Boston has yet to really click during the postseason, but if they do there are few teams on the East that can stand to them. The Lightning is one of those few teams. They have the firepower to go shot-for-shot with the Bruins and also have an experienced defensive core to pit against the Bruins top line. With that said, this series could come down to the man between the pipes, and if it does the Lightning hold a distinct advantage with Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay Lightning win the series 4-3
Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders
The Philadelphia Flyers got through the Round Robin as the top seed and then beat the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, yet they have yet to see their top players get going. Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux combined have zero goals yet this postseason. That can’t continue should they want to be true Stanley Cup contenders, but on the flip-side should those three start hitting the net the Flyers could be favorites to win the Eastern Conference. They have gotten depth scoring and while Carter Hart had a couple of disastrous games against the Canadiens he is still averaging a .943 SV% allowing only 1.71 goals per game.
The New York Islanders don’t need to change much. Head Coach Barry Trotz has his team well organized both offensively and defensively. They are in the top four of remaining teams for goals scored during this postseason with 30 and trail only the Colorado Avalanche for the least amount of goals allowed with 15. They have also had a hot goaltender in Semyon Varlamov who has posted a .934 SV% and allowed only 1.67 goals per game.
The New York Islanders are not to be taken lightly by any means, but should the Flyers get that threesome of Hayes, Couturier and Giroux going it’s hard to look past Philadelphia advancing from Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Philadelphia Flyers win the series 4-2