Thu 28 Apr 2016
The NHL had some premature congratulations for the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, as the second round started before the first round was finished. So we locked in our picks for that series while waiting to see if the Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators would advance. (Spoiler: It was a Game 7, so you fill in the blank.) Now, here are the picks for the rest of the second round series, as the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Washington Capitals; the Dallas Stars face the St. Louis Blues; and the San Jose Sharks face the Nashville Predators. And here … we … go. Sean Leahy, Puck Daddy Editor Penguins in 7 You could basically flip a coin for these Round 2 series and come up with a prediction that wouldn't be too crazy. Pens-Caps? Alex Ovechkin and Barry Trotz are long overdue to get out of the first round. But with the way the Penguins have been playing in the second half and with the fact that Matt Murray has kept their goaltending situation stable as Marc-Andre Fleury recovers from a concussion, it's tough not to see them continuing this run. Blues in 7 Blues-Stars? St. Louis just finished off an emotional series win and face a Dallas offense -- while lacking Tyler Seguin for the near future -- that is dangerous. The series will probably come down to goaltender where the Brian Elliott will get an edge over Kari Lehtonen first, and potentially Antti Niemi later in the series. Sharks in 6 Sharks-Preds? This one might be a tad easier to predict, but with the way Pekke Rinne is playing and the balanced scoring Nashville is supplying, it's tough to make this an easy out for the Sharks. But much like the Blues and Islanders, San Jose exorcised a playoff demon and looked like a well-oiled machine in Round 1. How will the Preds find a way to slow down Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and crew? Josh Cooper, Puck Daddy Editor Capitals in 6 The Capitals are the most talented left in the NHL playoffs. They can beat you so many ways and I think this is enough to overcome the Penguins’ star players in what should be the best series of the second-round. So much publicity goes to Alex Ovechkin and Washington’s powerful offense, but the Capitals are also one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. Their ability to marginalize Pittsburgh’s powerful attack will be the difference. Past Capitals teams didn’t have gritty two-way players on the blueline like John Carlson and Matt Niskanen. And they didn’t have playoff-tested all-around players at forward like Justin Williams. Stars in 6 Dallas captain Jamie Benn will be the driving force for the Stars in the second-round. He’s a matchup nightmare for teams and tough to stop both on the wall and in open ice. The Blues don’t have a player with the all-around talents of Benn, and he’ll be the biggest difference-maker in this series. The Blues climbed a major mountain in beating the Chicago Blackhawks in the first-round, but Chicago isn’t as deep as the Stars. Dallas developed a strong defensive identity near the end of the season, and I think their balance of speed and size will be too much for the Blues to handle. Sharks in 6 The Sharks are arguably the deepest team left in the Western Conference. They can roll four lines and three defense pairs and when they get on the power play, it’s almost an automatic goal. The Predators did a nice job beating the Anaheim Ducks in seven games, but the Sharks are a motivated group that’s playing the right type of playoff hockey. The line of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl will get a heavy dose of Shea Weber and Roman Josi, which will open up Logan Couture’s trio on the second-line to have a big series. Pekka Rinne will keep the Predators stable, but it just feels like a special year is brewing for the Sharks. Jen Neale, Puck Daddy Editor Capitals in 7 This series is going to come down to goaltending. Matt Murray may be able to steal a couple games for the Penguins; however, Braden Holtby continues to be a beast. All he needs is the run support in front of him, something surprisingly lacking in this first round. Blues in 6 I don't trust Dallas's goaltending tandem, and the series against Minnesota showed why. Said it the first round: it doesn't matter if you can score a million goals when your goalie can't stop a million and one. Plus the Blues have finally accepted Brian Elliott as their goaltender and savior. He's coming up huge for them. San Jose in 6 Pekka Rinne is holding the Predators together. They have a couple dangerous forwards and two extremely talented defensemen. San Jose has the size and skill to exploit everything the Ducks couldn't. Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy Columnist Penguins in 7 These are the two best teams remaining in the East by a good distance, and it's going to be a slugfest. The way Pittsburgh has played since Mike Sullivan took over is still only just enough to convince me they can dispatch the Capitals by the slimmest of margins. Both are teams that can go strength-against-strength with anyone in the league and expect to come out on top, so for all intents and purposes I think we may as well consider this the unofficial Eastern Conference Final. I'm pumped for every second of this series. Blues in 7 The amount I trust Dallas's goaltending against anyone is very small, and while the Blues obviously don't have the knockout punchers in a quality or quantity that can match Dallas, I also fear for what Vladimir Tarasenko is going to do to Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen in this series. There's a legitimate possibility things get very ugly, hockeywise. Meaning coaches probably won't be happy with how their clubs play. This feels like a series with a lot of 4-3 games. In the end, because the Stars struggled with the Wild — as deeply mediocre a team as there was in the league this year — I have to give the edge to St. Louis. Sharks in 6 I love the Sharks and I want them to win. If they can crush the Kings in five games, the Predators, for as good as they have been and as well-coached as they will continue to be, don't look like a particularly significant threat.
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