2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 2 Preview
I don’t know who does the NHL’s scheduling, but they are terrible at it. I thought since the NHL was doing the scheduling from only two rinks they had all to themselves, they wouldn’t screw it up. But they did anyway. Scheduling five games in one day several times and making teams play back to back. All you had to do was schedule four series a day and have them play every other day. How hard is that NHL? I suppose their cockamamie scheduling enabled the playoffs to end a day or two earlier. Whoopee!
I’ve never been the biggest Steven Stamkos fan. I never thought he made the Tampa Bay Lightning better, and I think that’s now been proven. He was part of the reason they lost to the Blue Jackets last playoffs when he talked about how unfair it was they were going to play the Bruins before the playoffs even started. Now the Lightning beat the Blue Jackets without him. He scores the most meaningless goals. I’d trade him. And now they will play the Bruins.
I figured the Dallas Stars vs. the Calgary Flames would be a hot mess, and boy did they deliver. Their Game 6 was a microcosm of both teams. It certainly was entertaining to watch.
One thing three of the four teams in the Western Conference have in common is a young stud defenseman. Quinn Hughes of the Canucks is 20, Miro Heiskanen of the Stars is 21, and Cale Makar of the Avalanche is 21. Defenseman is the hardest position to play as a rookie/young player, and these guys make it look easy. Be sure to watch them this round.
One thing that’s very likely to happen in the second round is a lot of overtime games. All four series feature teams that are almost mirror images of each other.
1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. 7 New York Islanders
Season Series: 3-0 Islanders
Playoff Series History: 3-1 Flyers
What We Learned: The Flyers took a step backward but eked out enough wins. The Islanders kept right on rolling, and Barry Trotz showed the Capitals what they’re missing.
Stars to Watch: Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers in playoff scoring with eight points, three from one game, followed closely by Kevin Hayes. Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier have emerged as a potent scoring combo for the Islanders. Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson are right behind them.
Goalie Problem: Carter Hart had some good saves against the Canadiens, but he looked shaky on some goals and even on some saves. He’s still the man, but I wouldn’t have the utmost confidence in him for this series. Semyon Varlamov was better than I thought he would be. This is his fourth playoff run and his best.
X-Factor: Apparently, the Islanders love playing in the bubble, and it’s one of the reasons they’ve played so well. They are 7-2 in the bubble, and both losses were only by one goal. Will their bubble burst? I doubt it. Expect some more bubble magic. How many more times can I say bubble? One other thing to watch for is both these teams almost always win when they have an early lead in the bubble (1 more). 10-1 combined record when leading after the first period. The Islanders have the only loss.
Fun Fact: The Flyers are only generating 25 shots a game. 23rd out of the 24 playoff teams. The only team worse than them just lost to the Islanders. They’re still the best team left in winning face-offs and 2nd out of the 24 playoffs teams.
Prediction: The Flyers didn’t play well against the Canadiens. They were outscored in a series they won. They’re already struggling to score, and now they’re going up against a well-oiled machine that shuts down the top lines of opposing teams. The Flyers top line won’t even have a chance to get going. This series could get ugly in several ways. Either physically or the Islanders steamrolling the Flyers. I don’t think it’ll be a sweep, but the Flyers chances don’t look great. Unless Carter Hart turns into Binnington of last year and Varlamov chokes, I don’t see how the Flyers can win.
2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 4 Boston Bruins
Season Series: 3-1 Lightning
Playoff Series History: 3-1 Lightning
What We Learned: The Lightning conquered their past. The Bruins really like playing against the Hurricanes.
Stars to Watch: Brayden Point scored two monster game-winning goals against the Blue Jackets. He’s also the leading playoff scorer for the Lightning with ten points. Nikita Kucherov is right behind him with nine points. David Krejci has had a few nice playoff runs in the past, and he’s doing it again. He’s leading the Bruins in playoff scoring with nine points. The top line isn’t clicking yet, but they did enough against the Hurricanes. Part of the problem was David Pastrnak’s injury. But Brad Marchand had seven points in a four-game stretch, and Patrice Bergeron had an overtime game-winner, the fourth in his playoff career.
Goalie Problem: Andrei Vasilevskiy is still good. Nothing else to say. Jaroslav Halak is now the man with Tuukka Rask leaving. He was pretty decent considering the situation he was thrust into.
X-Factor: These are the two lowest-scoring teams remaining besides the Flyers. Every goal will count. The Lightning have had seven of their 20 goals either deflected or tipped. Whoever can effectively screen the opposing goalie and establish their net presence will have a big advantage.
Fun Fact: If it weren’t for the Blue Jackets upsetting the Lightning, these teams would have met in the second round three times in a row. Hooray for division seeding (not). We didn’t even have the division bracket these playoffs, yet they still met anyway. Of course had they not reseeded, this wouldn’t have happened. I wish they’d do the NBA bracket. I’m sure they’ll meet next year too.
Prediction: This is the toughest of the second-round series to predict. I’d say the Bruins are a slightly better team but not by much. The determining factor in the series might be Halak. He can’t do stupid things like passing the puck to the other team from behind his net. The Bruins top line is more fearsome than the Lightning. If that line and Halak play well, the Bruins will win. Otherwise, the Lightning will take it.
1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. 7 Vancouver Canucks
Season Series: 1-1
Playoff Series History: None
What We Learned: The Golden Knights showed how dominant they are. The Canucks showed off how much young talent they possess.
Stars to Watch: Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and Shea Theodore are each averaging about a point per game. The Golden Knights rarely have one guy dominate. They are such a well-oiled machine. Elias Pettersson is 2nd in playoff scoring with 13 points, Quinn Hughes, and his sensational passing is 11th, and J.T. Miller is 12th. Bo Horvat scored four great goals against the Blues, including a shorthanded one, in the first two games, and then disappeared. I suspect he will reemerge. The Canucks have some scrappy lower line players. Tyler Motte had four goals in the last two games against the Blues matching his whole season total. He caused turnovers in the Blues series with his forechecking.
Goalie Problem: Robin Lehner played reasonably well in net. Marc-Andre Fleury was great in the one game he played. My guess is Lehner still gets the nod. I gave Jacob Markstrom a lot of crap in my round one preview, but he was imposing against the Blues. He made keys saves when they were really needed.
X-Factor: The Canucks take a lot of penalties. They are 3rd out of the 24 playoff teams in PIM per game. The Golden Knights are 23rd in these playoffs. That’s a big discrepancy. It could become a factor. Both teams have decent power plays.
Fun Fact: The Canucks have two shorthanded goals in the playoffs so far, and the Golden Knights have one. We’ve had more shorthanded goals this playoff than last year’s whole playoffs.
Prediction: This will be a fun series. These are two of the best passing and fastest teams in the NHL. Some of the goals might be real beauties. It should be high scoring too because they both have great depth, and when these teams are humming, they are really humming. The Golden Knights have the experience advantage and are still my pick to win it all. I don’t think the Canucks will derail them. It wouldn’t shock me if the Canucks beat them. But I don’t think they will for the same reason the Blackhawks weren’t going to beat them. They rarely play a bad playoff series.
2 Colorado Avalanche vs. 3 Dallas Stars
Season Series: 4-0 Stars
Playoff Series History: 2-2
What We Learned: The Avalanche dispatched an overwhelmed Coyotes team. The Stars managed to meltdown less than the only team that can meltdown more than them.
Stars to Watch: Nazem Kadri scored the game-winning goal against the Blues in the final seconds, and I wondered if that would mean anything. It didn’t matter in the next two round-robin games, but it did against the Arizona Coyotes. He racked up five goals and seven points in the series with his phenomenal net presence. He could be a big factor against the Stars. Nathan MacKinnon is your leading playoff scorer with 13 points. Mikko Rantanen is 7th in playoff scoring right behind Kadri. Cale Makar has scored a point in every game against the Coyotes. Miro Heiskanen is 3rd in playoff scoring. Joe Pavelski has 8 points and a hat trick in a crucial win over the Flames. Denis Gurianov exploded for five points in Game 6 against the Flames. Corey Perry is contributing in a myriad of ways with his hustling despite his breakaway looking super sad. I’m pretty sure I remember him being fast in his prime. Tyler Seguin had three points against the Flames, and Jamie Benn had four points. Both are mostly invisible.
Goalie Problem: I don’t know what’s going on with Ben Bishop, but Anton Khudobin has stepped up his game during the last few games. Philipp Grubauer is apparently one year younger than Pavel Francouz. I still think Francouz is better, but they’ll go with Grubauer. I can’t say I blame them. He played well against the Coyotes.
X-Factor: These teams are almost mirrored images of each other, a top young defenseman, a top-heavy line, and some pretty good depth. They also both lost in Game 7 of the playoffs last year. Both of these teams have Stanley Cup aspirations. Whoever wants it more and can do the little things better should have the edge.
Fun Fact: The Avalanche have the best power play in the playoffs and the best remaining penalty kill. Both are up significantly from the regular season. The Stars are 2nd of the 24 playoff teams in giveaways per game with over 15.
Prediction: The Stars have not looked good so far. They are extremely lucky to be in the second round. While luck is a major factor in winning (just ask the Blues), you can’t rely on luck to beat the Avalanche. The Stars can win when they are firing on all cylinders, but they are not consistent, and when they are bad, they are putrid. You won’t be able to spot the Avalanche three goals as they did against the Flames and expect to come back and win. I trust the Avalanche way more to do the little things better. The most interesting thing about this series is we have the potential to get a few 7-6 games, a few 2-1 games, and even some 4-0 games. It’ll be a mixed bag for sure. It should go long, but the Avalanche should take it. Unless Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have a beast mode they’re going to unleash. But I haven’t seen either play like that in a long time.http://hockeyrecaps.us/2020/08/22/2020-nhl-stanley-cup-playoffs-round-2-preview/2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 2 Previewhttp://hockeyrecaps.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2020-nhl-stanley-cup-preview-round-2-1024x557.jpghttp://hockeyrecaps.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2020-nhl-stanley-cup-preview-round-2-300x300.jpgPlayoff PreviewsAndrei Vasilevskiy,Anton Khudobin,Arizona Coyotes,Ben Bishop,Bo Horvat,Boston Bruins,Brad Marchand,Brock Nelson,Cale Makar,Calgary Flames,Carter Hart,Colorado Avalanche,Corey Perry,Dallas Stars,David Krejci,Elias Pettersson,Jakub Voracek,Jamie Benn,Jaroslav Halak,Joe Pavelski,Josh Bailey,Marc-Andre Fleury,Mark Stone,Mathew Barzal,Mikko Rantanen,Miro Heiskanen,Nathan MacKinnon,Nazem Kadri,New York Islanders,Nikita Kucherov,Patrice Bergeron,Pavel Francouz,Philadelphia Flyers,Semyon Varlamov,Stanley Cup,Steven Stamkos,Tampa Bay Lightning,Tuukka Rask,Tyler Seguin,Vancouver Canucks,Vegas Golden Knights