2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 2 Preview
What a crazy first round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs that was. Based on the way the series unfolded and because many of x-factors came true, I’m changing the way I do predictions. It’ll now consist of what would each team would need to happen to win.
For the first time ever doing a preview, I forgot to mention a few things I wanted to say and I made some mistakes. This was mostly because I only had two and a half days to write most of it because most series weren’t set until the last day of the season. Simply not enough time. I have even less time to write this.
Most of the series had the hotter team winning and none of the division winners winning. The only upset that surprised me was the Carolina Hurricanes beating the Washington Capitals. I really though this Capitals team was better and the Hurricanes were the worst team in the playoffs. But the Capitals reverted to their old ways. Last season was apparently an aberration. And guess who assisted on the game winner? Mr. Game 7 Justin Williams.
Looking back, it’s not that surprising the Tampa Bay Lightning lost. It was the perfect storm. I forgot to mention in the preview they seemed overconfident. Steven Stamkos had already proclaimed it was our year and he thought it was unfair they would have to play the Bruins in the next round. Clearly overlooking their first round opponent. The Blue Jackets were their toughest potential first round match-up. The Blue Jackets also had a chip on their should from losing the series against the Capitals last playoffs after being up 2-0. They’ve also never won a playoff series. The strangest part of all this was after the Lightning went up 3-0, they were probably at peak confidence. But after the shorthanded goal tied the game, the series was already over. On the NHL’s top power play a turnover leads to a goal where one of their best players, Steven Stamkos, takes out his own goalie on a mistake. You could see it in their eyes they looked stunned and confused. That this shouldn’t be happening and they didn’t know what to do. They had that look for most of the rest of the series. That was the moment their confidence bubble burst and the Blue Jackets bubble grew. It’s hard to imagine NHL players on a team that made it to the last two conference finals with a coach that won at every previous level would not know what to do. They look like they had no idea what to do when things weren’t going their way or they were behind. It makes no sense. I mean how do you follow up that first game loss with a 5-1 thrashing at home?
The Central Division has had such a high turnover at the top and it usually has upsets in the playoffs. This season was no different. I actually had a slight hunch both higher seeds would be upset. But I thought it was unlikely. I guess not. For the Flames, I knew they were going to lose in the second round but I expected them to win in the first. The Avalanche gave everyone in the NHL the blueprint to beating the Flames, slash the heck out of Johnny Gaudreau. I could be wrong but I don’t recall any of the Flames hitting or fighting back on any of those players. This sets a bad precedent for other teams because they know they will get away with it. It’s also bad that taking out one player can neutralize a whole entire team.
I believe we are heading toward a Bruins vs Golden Knights Stanley Cup finals. I literally wrote that a few minutes before “the call”. That was until the refs decided to gift the Sharks the series win. I’m sorry but as unfortunate as what happened to Joe Pavelski was, you cannot give a team a five minute major power play in the 3rd period of a Game 7 at home. The penalty wasn’t that bad. It was only bad because of the way he landed. It should have only been a two minute minor penalty maybe a double minor. The game was over. The Golden Knights won. You can’t give a team a license to score. It was obvious they were going to rally around what happen to Pavelski and they did. The refs decided the series. If he wouldn’t have lost in balance and cracked his head open it would have ended 3-0. A player losing his balance is literally what decided a series. And I know many will say, “Well they had chances to win in overtime.” They did. But it’s a different mindset. If you are mentally thinking you are going to win and all you need to do is grind out the final minutes, it’s a huge change to go from that to o shit we are behind and now it’s tied. It’s a huge psychological hurdle to overcome. Momentum had also greatly shifted to the Sharks. I’m not writing a preview for the Sharks vs Avalanche because in my mind, it doesn’t exist. I’m pressed for time anyway. But onward to the second round.
A2 Boston Bruins vs. W2 Columbus Blue Jackets
Season Series: 2-1 Bruins
Playoff Series History: None
What We Learned: The Blue Jackets played the series of their life. The Bruins took out an old foe, again.
Stars to Watch: The Bruins top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron all majorly produced against the Maple Leafs. But it didn’t stop there. David Krejci, Charlie Coyle, Torey Krug and even someone named Matt Grzelcyk all chipped in with four points or more. 13 players scored two points or more. Even at 42 years old, Zdeno Chara was a major defensive presence against the Maple Leafs. Matt Duchene broke out in the playoffs. He scored his first career playoff goals and led the Blue Jackets with 3. Artemi Panarin continued his strong play and the Blue Jackets got a lot of scoring from the backend led by Seth Jones and Zach Werenski.
X-Factor: The Blue Jackets are now in a bad situation. They’ve had a lot of time to rest so much they may actually be quite rusty. I can barely remember those games. They are also coming off their first playoff series win and it was a major one. You can help but think they are due for a major letdown. The first game of the series will be key.
Goalie Problem: Tuukka Rask played pretty well against the Maple Leafs and more importantly he made the big saves when needed. He got frustrated when a lot of goalie interference calls didn’t go his way. I can’t say I blame him but he needs to keep his cool. Sergei Bobrovsky helped shut down the Lightning. He was exceptional at the end of games. He should keep it going.
Fun Fact: The Bruins had 88 giveaways in the first round and the Blue Jackets had only 18. Granted there is a big difference in games played but even if you double the Blue Jackets number, it’s still a significant difference. The Bruins can’t be as sloppy.
Prediction: The Bruins are the best team, talentwise, left in the playoffs. They have the goaltending, experience, defense and four lines that can score. But based on this playoffs that may not be such a good thing. If they can keep doing what they are doing and stay out of taking dumb penalties and making dumb turnovers, there’s no reason the Bruins won’t win. The Blue Jackets can win if they can continue riding their momentum and they can shut down the Bruins top lines like they did against the Lightning. But those are big ifs.
M2 New York Islanders vs. W1 Carolina Hurricanes
Season Series: 3-1 Islanders
Playoff Series History: None
What We Learned: The Islanders continued their defense first philosophy and shut down the Penguins. The Hurricanes completed a remarkable comeback series win against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Stars to Watch: Jordan Eberle was big in the first round and he led the team with 4 goals. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson were really the only two other Islanders to score. Scoring depth might be a bit of a problem. Mathew Barzal didn’t score a goal but he did have five assists. Despite being too afraid to engage Alex Ovechkin, Dougie Hamilton tied for the lead in points on the Hurricanes in the first round. He’ll need to be better engaged defensively in this series. Warren Foegele, of all people, led the Hurricanes in goal. It’s good for the Hurricanes when guys like Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are not in the top four in scoring but yet still produced.
X-Factor: There’s a guy behind the Islanders’ bench named Barry Trotz who led the Capitals to their own Stanley Cup. He also single-handedly turned around the Islanders franchise. The Islanders are playing like the Capitals and Predators teams of his past. What influence will he continue to have? There’s a guy on the Hurricanes named Justin Williams who has won three Stanley Cups and has scored the most points ever in Game 7’s. He had a big influence on the Hurricanes beating his old team. What influence will he have here?
Goalie Problem: Robin Lehner continued his strong play from this season with even stronger play in round one. I think it’s highly unlikely he will start playing poorly now. Petr Mrazek showed why he is underrated. He made the key saves when needed and played great in the overtime to close out the Capitals. He won’t out dual Lehner but he will keep it interesting. This probably won’t be a high scoring series.
Fun Fact: Lehner led the first round with a .956 SV%. Mazrek has the worst SV% of the remaining starting goalies with a 8.99 SV%. It’s not really indicative of his play though.
Prediction: The Islanders might be the best team that plays like a team left in the playoffs. They are also the strongest defensive team. If they can get a little more offense, they should win this series. The Hurricanes can win if they stretch the series out and Eberle, who previously had no goals in 13 playoff games, becomes cold, no other Islander steps up and Lehner slips a bit. That’s a lot of ifs.
C3 St. Louis Blues vs W1 Dallas Stars
Season Series: 3-1 Stars
Playoff Series History: 2-2
What We Learned: The Blues stayed hot. The Stars finally found their elusive and much needed scoring depth.
Stars to Watch: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov carved up the Predators defense. It’s amazing they didn’t have more goals in the series. But guys like Mats Zuccarello, the fun to say Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson all showed up and scored big goals. John Klingberg scored the series winner and dished out five assists. Miro Heiskanen will only get better. The Blues were abnormally balanced in scoring in the first round. 13 payers had two or more points. Alex Pietrangelo led them in assists and Jaden Schwartz lead them in goals. Vladimir Tarasenko had a rather quiet two goals.
X-Factor: This is going to be a low scoring goalie duel just like the Stars vs Predators. Although depth scoring will always matter, what the stars do in this series will actually matter more. Tarasenko will need to score more if the Blues are to have any chance of winning. If the Blues can’t find a way to slow down the Stars top line, it’s unlikely Binnington can keep saving everything that comes his way.
Goalie Problem: Jordan Binnington finally showed some cracks but he battled through it. Ben Bishop was fantastic against the Predators and he outplayed Pekka Rinne. Bishop is actually the better goalie in this series.
Fun Fact: The Stars held the Predators to an embarrassing 0 for 15 on the power play. If they can do that against the Blues, it gives them an even greater advantage to win the series.
Prediction: These teams are pretty similar and this should be a long series. If the Stars can continue playing like they’ve been, there isn’t any reason to think they can’t go far. As long as the depth players keep producing, they’ll be in great shape and the Stars should win. But if Binnington can outplay Bishop and the Stars suddenly lose their scoring depth or if Seguin and Benn get cold, the Blues should win.
P3 Vegas Golden Knights P2 San Jose Sharks vs. W2 Colorado Avalanche
This series does not exist. But if you watch it, I might not, keep an eye out for the Avalanche’s top line and rookie defenseman Cale Makar. Also watch out for how banged up the Sharks are and how short their bench is. I still think Martin Jones is shaky and I don’t trust him against an Avalanche team whose shooting is red hot right now.http://hockeyrecaps.us/2019/04/25/2019-nhl-stanley-cup-playoffs-round-2-preview/2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 2 Previewhttp://hockeyrecaps.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2019-nhl-stanley-cup-preview-round-2-1024x587.jpghttp://hockeyrecaps.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2019-nhl-stanley-cup-preview-round-2-300x300.jpgPlayoff PreviewsAlex Ovechkin,Alexander Radulov,Ben Bishop,Boston Bruins,Brad Marchand,Carolina Hurricanes,Colorado Avalanche,Columbus Blue Jackets,Dallas Stars,David Krejci,Jaden Schwartz,Jamie Benn,Joe Pavelski,Johnny Gaudreau,Jordan Eberle,Josh Bailey,Martin Jones,Matt Duchene,New York Islanders,Patrice Bergeron,Pekka Rinne,San Jose Sharks,Sergei Bobrovsky,Seth Jones,St Louis Blues,Stanley Cup,Steven Stamkos,Tampa Bay Lightning,Torey Krug,Tuukka Rask,Tyler Seguin,Vegas Golden Knights,Vladimir Tarasenko,Washington Capitals,Zdeno Chara