2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 2 Preview
We might not have had a lot of six and seven game series in the first round but we did have a lot of one goal games and set a record for most overtime games (18) in the first round. I got three series wrong which is a little high. Who would have known that the All-Star game would foreshadow the playoffs. I commented on how poorly the Blackhawks line played together and they played the same way in the playoffs. But they should have won Game3, which might have changed things. More on that in a bit. As for the Wild, I had wrote how the marriage of the Wild and Bruce Boudreau would be a disaster. I should have taken my own advice. But I just thought the Blues had lost too many players and I didn’t think Jake Allen would play well. Him playing well was the difference. As for the Senators, they are by far the worst team left. If the Maple Leafs had won against the Blue Jackets, the Maple Leafs would have beaten them. Bobby Ryan was huge and I almost had put him as an X-factor in the preview. But the series was really poorly officiated and the Bruins got the short end of them most of the calls. Bobby Ryan should have also been called for a penalty, for hitting him right in the face, instead of remaining on the ice to score the overtime winner. That was just one of many officiating blunders.
I’m with Jeremy Roenick, in that I don’t know what is goalie interference anymore either. The Bruins ended up winning Game 5 but the goalie interference that negated an earlier goal should not have. Sean Kuraly made a move on goal, barely made contact with Craig Anderson, who tripped him to send him flying, and made the initial save. No one else interfered with him and the rebound was tapped in. That’s a goal. Minimal contact made on a move towards the net and there was plenty of time for Anderson to recover on the rebound. Which brings me to the no goalie interference call in Game 3 of the Predators vs Blackhawks series. Which makes the above call even more baffling. On Filip Foresberg’s game tying goal in the third period a Predator, don’t recall who, clearly interfered with Corey Crawford as he was trying to make the save. You can see on the replay that he hit Crawford’s head and moved his head and body away from the puck. He probably would have stopped it otherwise. They say no interference and their only reason was it was incidental. Okay but that’s not relevant. Incidental only means no penalty should have been called. And that’s correct. But that has no bearing on whether it was interference or not. It was. And you really can’t say the Senators interfered and the Predators didn’t. That doesn’t make sense on any level. That goal could have changed the series.
One thing I don’t agree with is, Roenick saying the Rangers upsetting the Canadiens is like a one beating an eighth seed. No, it’s not even remotely like that. The Rangers were basically a fifth seed and had only one point less than the Canadiens. They even had more regulation and overtime wins than the Canadiens. Such a stupid comment.
I thinking we are heading to a Penguins vs Oilers showdown. Crosby vs McDavid. We’ll see how it plays out.
A2 Ottawa Senators vs. W1 New York Rangers
Season Series: 2-1 Senators
Playoff Series History: 1-0 Rangers
What We Learned: The Rangers benefited from the strange NHL playoff formatting and the Senators did too, winning the series between the sixth and seven seeds that should never have happened.
Stars to Watch: Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson and Derick Brassard will all have to play as well as they did against the Bruins for the Senators to have a chance against the Rangers. The Rangers are a very deep team but it was still surprising to see the heroes that emerged against the Canadiens. Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast were all surprises to me. I still think it’s likely that someone else will emerge, like Jimmy Vesey or Rick Nash.
X-Factor: Both of these teams were in a lot of overtimes so fatigue might be a factor if this series goes into a lot of overtimes. But, right now, the Senators are basically a three person team. Ryan, Karlsson and Brassard. If any of them gets cold or injured, I don’t see who else would emerge for them or how they could win. Only Mark Stone comes to mind.
Goalie Problem: Henrik Lundqvist always raises his game to another level during the playoffs and he did so against the Canadiens. There’s no reason to believe it won’t continue here. Craig Anderson was no slouch against the Bruins either. But the Rangers will likely generate higher scoring opportunities This will likely turn into a goaltending duel.
Fun Fact: Erik Karlsson logged the most ice time in the first round at 30:23. He was the only player to log over 30 minutes.
Prediction: I think this is the easiest series to predict. The Senators don’t really belong here and they will show that here. The Rangers have more experience, a better coach and a more spread out offense. I also trust Lundqvist more than Anderson. Rangers in 6. I also hope the NHL looks at their playoff format after this series and realizes how flawed it is.
M1 Washington Capitals vs. M2 Pittsburgh Penguins
Season Series: 2-2
Playoff Series History: 8-1 Penguins, yikes
What We Learned: The Capitals actually won a close series. The Penguins continued to roll.
Stars to Watch: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are clicking. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust also played big roles in the win over the Blue Jackets. That’s a problem for the Capitals. There’s no line that can’t score. Alex Ovechkin was fairly disappointing against the Maple Leafs. Perhaps that’s a good thing that he was and they still won. But if they expect to beat the Penguins, he needs to be almost unstoppable. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom continued their strong seasons.
X-Factor: Justin Williams was pretty much the reason the Capitals beat the Maple Leafs. If he wasn’t on the team, I’m pretty sure they would have lost the series. But this series is basically why he’s on the team. He will need to pull the same magic, and more, against the Penguins if the Capitals hope to win. On the other side, if Crosby and Malkin both get really hot, the Capitals won’t have a chance regardless of how anyone plays.
Goalie Problem: Nobody thought Marc-Andre Fleury would play for the Penguins but he did and he played well. He’ll get the nod moving forward. There’s something about Braden Holtby against the Maple Leafs I just didn’t like. He didn’t look/seem like his usual self. And usually when the Maple Leafs scored, he seemed to always need a drink and you could see a look of doubt in his face. He’ll need to be on the top of his game and be fully confident for the Capitals to have a chance. The goalies will be very busy this series, with a lot of shots coming their way.
Fun Fact: Evgeni Malkin had a 2.2 points per game average in the first round. The only player to break the two mark.
Prediction: The Penguins didn’t really show any defensive liabilities against the Blue Jackets and they dispatched them rather easily. That series, plus the Penguins history against the Capitals, makes me wonder if they will just steamroll them. But this seems like a changed Capitals team. And now this will be a bit of a cop out pick. If the Capitals learned something from the Maple Leafs series of how to win close games, stay disciplined and push themselves, they will in 7. If not, and they they revert to the same old Capitals, then the Penguins will win in 6.
C3 St. Louis Blues vs. W2 Nashville Predators
Season Series: 3-2 Predators
Playoff Series History: None
What We Learned: The Blues and Predators both had minor upsets to prove that they were the better teams in the Central.
Stars to Watch: For the Predators, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson provided the majority of the Predators scoring against the Blackhawks. Giving them the scoring threats they never really had before. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi produced from the blueline. Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen produced nicely for the Blues. While Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester logged a lot of minutes on the backend.
X-Factor: Vladimir Tarasenko had only one goal and three points against the Wild. Which isn’t bad but it’s not really great either. Similarly, James Neal had one assist for the Predators. Whoever breaks out more, might just make the difference.
Goalie Problem: Apparently having Martin Brodeur as your goalie coach makes a huge difference. It’s unlikely Jake Allen could have played any better than he did against the Wild. If he can sustain that play against the Predators, that would be amazing. Pekka Rinne was great against the Blackhawks but they didn’t really play the Blackhawks at their best. The Blues will score more but this will be a hard hitting defensive struggle.
Fun Fact: The Predators have never advanced past the second round in their playoff history. The Blues have only done so six times in their almost 50 years of playoffs history.
Prediction: Although both first round series wins were impressive, the Predators feat was more impressive. They also lost in seven games in the second round last season and are trying to build/atone from that. The Blues made it further last season but they lost a lot of key players from that team. The Predators are just a deeper team offensively and defensively. Plus what are the odds that Jake Allen can sustain that level of play? Predators in 7.
P1 Anaheim Ducks vs. P2 Edmonton Oilers
Season Series: 3-2 Oilers
Playoff Series History: 1-0 Oilers
What We Learned: The Oilers are more than just Connor McDavid and the Ducks made it look easier than it was.
Stars to Watch: Ryan Getzlaf had the series of his life, offensively and defensively, against the Flames. Which is good because he’s going to need to do it again when he goes against McDavid. Rookie defenseman Shea Theodore emerged as the other Duck to keep an eye on the most. Thanks to all their injuries, Theodore has now become a dual threat for the Ducks. Rickard Rakell and Nate Thompson were also decent in the Flames series. You should always keep an eye on Connor McDavid but he didn’t play overly exceptional or anything. The Oilers really beat the Sharks as a team. Leon Draisaitl was sick the first few games against the Sharks and it showed. He should be 100% this time around though and contributing more. Zack Kassian and Oscar Klefbom also had great games at time.
X-Factor: These will be the battle of the two youngest defensive groups in the playoffs. Minus Kevin Bieksa of course. The goal for both teams will be to limit turnovers in their own zone because both of these teams can and will convert those. Turnovers and short handed goals might just determine the series.
Goalie Problem: Despite being pulled in their last playoff game, John Gibson played well against the Flames. He’ll need to be even better against the Oilers though. Cam Talbot showed how much of a workhorse he is against the Sharks with many key saves. He’ll surpass 80 games played this season in this series, which is basically unheard of.
Fun Fact: The last time the Oilers beat the Ducks in the playoffs, they lost in the Stanley Cup final. Will that happen again? They played the Ducks in the Western Conference Finals then.
Prediction: This will be a great tight series, with a lot of hard hitting. But this Ducks team isn’t much different than previous Ducks teams they couldn’t win a Game 7 and it’s likely this series is going long. The longer the series goes, the more it benefits the Oilers. If Ryan Getzlaf actually shows up in a Game 7, then the Ducks could win. But history shows he doesn’t. I think Connor McDavid will. Oilers in 7.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.