Archive for April, 2018
Last Friday night on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy presented some more Stanley Cup Playoffs Superlatives. ICYMI, here’s the video:
A1) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. A2) Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are going to come into to this second-round series with a lot of momentum after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in a hard-fought series that went the full seven games. For their opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, they have led the NHL for a majority of the regular season. But in the Bolts’ quest for their first Stanley Cup Championship in 14 years, this will undoubtedly be the toughest test the Lightning will have to go through in the playoffs. Why? They can grind you down with their physical play. Also, the top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand are LETHAL when all three are producing on a frequent basis. If there is one weak spot the Lightning have that the Bruins can exploit, it’s this: since the calendar flipped to 2018, the Bolts have given up the 6th most shots in the NHL. For the Lightning to get to the Eastern Conference Final, they need more production from other than the top line. (The Triplets 2.0 line, I’m gonna keep an eye on you during the entire series…) The Bruins won three out of the four regular–season meetings against the Lightning, but all of that really means nothing now.
Prediction: TB in 7
M1) Washington Capitals vs. M2) Pittsburgh Penguins
For the third straight year, the Penguins and the Capitals will meet in the second round of the playoffs. You know the story: the Caps have never made it past the second round of the playoffs in 20 years. The Pens look to win their third straight Stanley Cup Championship, and each of the previous five times they won the Cup, Washington was one of the teams they conquered en route to the raising Lord Stanley. This will be the fourth time Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin meet in a playoff series. Three of the previous four times they have met, the series went the full seven games. I honestly won’t be surprised if THIS series also goes the distance. For the Pens continue to pursue their quest for a three-year, they have to keep the pedal to the metal. Their offense was ranked the best in the NHL, and they have to pelt a suddenly resurgent Braden Holtby in net. For the Caps to finally get over the hump, every time the Pens go shorthanded, they need to punish them with power play goals. In their previous series with Columbus, the Caps had a 33% conversion rate on the man advantage. That’s saying something!
Prediction: PIT in 7
C1) Nashville Predators vs. C2) Winnipeg Jets
This a battle not just between the top two teams in the Central Division, this is a battle between the top two teams in the NHL. Much like the aforementioned Lightning–Bruins series, for the Nashville Predators, the Winnipeg Jets will most likely be the toughest test they will go through in the playoffs because the Jets play a style that combines skill with physical play. Not only do the Jets have the entire city of Winnipeg to support them, they’re the last Canadian team left in the playoffs. For them to win the series, their depth at center has to engage on all four lines. For the Preds to get back to the Western Conference Final for the second straight year, they need the JOFA Line (Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson) to get going from the start of the series. Three of the Predators’ top six scorers in their first round series against Colorado played on the third line, and that will not help the Preds one bit in the second round.
Prediction: NSH in 6
P1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. P2) San Jose Sharks
Both the Golden Knights and the Sharks had nearly over one week’s worth of rest after both teams swept out the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks respectively in four straight games. But, like I mentioned last year, sometimes in the Playoffs, rest is rust. Both teams are use the first 20 minutes of Game 1 to feel out what the tempo is and what tactics both teams will use to dictate the direction of the series. The two hottest goaltenders of the first round will be the focus in net for this series. Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury let in as many Los Angeles Kings goals in the first round as does the number of Stanley Cup Championship rings he has won — three. San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones allowed four goals total in the Sharks’ four-game sweep of the Anaheim Ducks. Jones will be under more pressure in this series because in the previous series, the Sharks gave up an average of 33 shots on goal. For Vegas to keep their Cinderella run going, their top line of Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson must do more to contribute in this series. One of these players must play the role of momentum catalyst and step up their game to the proverbial next level in this series.
Prediction: VGK in 6