A2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. EWC1) New York Islanders
The Lightning are coming in on seven days rest after dispatching the Detroit Red Wings in five games. The New York Islanders come in after beating the Florida Panthers in six games, winning their. first playoff series for the first time since the 1993 Patrick Division Final. Even though the Lightning still don’t have their big-name players like Steven Stamkos or Anton Stralman, Jonathan Drouin and Matt Carle stepped up big time and helped the Bolts cruise through the Wings in five in the first round. The Isles had to survive back-to-back 2-1 double-overtime games to earn their way to the second round. In the three regular-season meetings between the Lightning and Islanders, the Islanders won twice. That is an advantage the Islanders have, but the Lightning are the last team in the field of eight that made a run past the second round in last year’s playoffs. Experience counts, and that is an advantage the Lightning have for this round.
Prediction: TB in 5
M1) Washington Capitals vs. M2) Pittsburgh Penguins
For the first time since 2009, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins meet Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. This just might be the best second-round series to watch in the playoffs, just because of the names. The Caps defense was bolstered in the offseason with the addition of former Penguins Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. Eric Fehr provides a foundation to the Penguins bottom-six forwards. Braden Holtby has undoubtedly been the best goaltender throughout the regular season. Matt Martin has stepped up from starting goaltender in Wilkes-Barre to starting goaltender in Pittsburgh with the injury to Marc-Andre Fleury. However, Martin just went from fish in a bowl to fish in a lake to fish in ocean, and the Capitals are the Great White Sharks. Can Murray swim with the sharks and keep the Presidents’ Trophy winners in check? Much like 2009, a series ;ike this should go the distance.
Prediction: WSH in 7
C1) Dallas Stars vs. C2) St. Louis Blues
The Blues did it. The St. Louis Blues finally got over the first-round hump and slayed the dragon that was the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in an epic seven-game series. But the road doesn’t get any easier from here on out. The Blues now face the Dallas Stars in a playoff series for the first time since 2001, when the Blues swept the Stars away in four straight games. In that series, Roman Turek only allowed six goals against the then-Ken Hitchcock-coached Stars, In the Blues last playoff series, they proved that they really are a completely different team from the ones that were bounced in the first round in the last three years and failed to live up to expectations. Now in this series, the Blues have to prove that not only is this a completely different team, but this is a team that can finally give St. Louis a Stanley Cup championship for the first time in 49 years of operation. On paper, the Blues look to be the most complete team in the Western Conference. But take a look at the Dallas Stars. There’s a reason why they are the highest-scoring team in the NHL this season. They come at you and they come in waves. Add two goaltenders that could be platooned to whatever the situation is on the ice, and there’s a reason why the Stars won their first division title in ten years. In the regular season, the Blues won three of five games; the last two games won in overtime by Blues defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues are battle-tested after their series against Chicago. Do they have enough to beat an offensive juggernaut in Dallas in a best-of-seven series?
Prediction: DAL in 6
P2) San Jose Sharks vs. WWC1) Nashville Predators
Two teams that weren’t expected to be here, are actually here. The Sharks, using their road-warrior mentality, beat the Los Angeles Kings in five games to get to the second round. The Predators got to the second round by keeping the trend in Anaheim going where the Ducks had a 3-2 series lead, lost Game 6 on the road, and then went on to lose Game 7 on home ice. This is only the second time where the Predators have won a playoff series. Both came at the expense of those same Ducks. Now they reach uncharted territory for the second time in franchise territory. In 2012, the Predators bowed out to the Arizona Coyotes in five games. They’re gonna be facing a team that has experience in the playoffs. Everything is clicking for the Sharks right now. Can the Preds be defensive enough to keep the Sharks in check and have enough offense to pepper Martin Jones?
Prediction: SJ in 6