NHL Playoff Bracketology – Second Round Breakdown
By Tyler Hinds, because it’s the cup. (@THinds3)
What an exciting and unpredictable first round of the 2016 NHL Playoffs! We’ve seen a little bit of everything so far:
- Success for the chronically underachieving Blues, Sharks, & Preds
- A wide open West with early exists from the Blackhawks & Kings
- The resurgence of the once threatening Penguins
- A couple new kids on the block (Stars & Capitals) flexing their muscles
Washington vs. Pittsburgh
Just what the league wants; their two poster boys, Sid & Ovi, duking it out in the second round of the playoffs. Having won 18 of their last 21 games, the Pens don’t seem to have missed a beat without their starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. In fact, there could be a changing of the guard in Pittsburgh with the young 21-year-old Matt Murray playing well beyond his years. As good as the Pens have been down the stretch, I still don’t think their team is deep enough to out perform the Caps, who have been the class of the NHL this season. Holtby continues to play possessed and looks damn near unbeatable.
- Prediction: Washington in 7
Tampa Bay vs. NYI
I know this series has already begun but here are my thoughts anyways. The big guns of Tampa Bay (minus the injured Stamkos) were firing on all cylinders against Detroit. Nikita Kucherov picked up a goal per game, Tyler Johnson continued his post-season dominance with 7 points, and despite getting yanked in game 1, Ben Bishop has been rock solid posting a 1.61 GAA with a .950 Save Percentage in the first round. John Tavares led the way for his squad with two huge back-to-back goals to secure the series win over a relatively inexperience Panthers group. After being heavily outshot and potting a few lucky goals on a subpar performance from the Bolts net minder, the Isle find themselves up a break. Unfortunately, their lead won’t last long.
- Prediction: Tampa Bay in 6
Dallas vs. St. Louis
The Stars’ stars came to play in the opening series versus Minnesota. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza’s dominance was felt up the middle of the ice but their bodies will be tested by the physical style of play from St. Louis. The Blues registered 20 hits in the first period of game 7 against Chicago. These weren’t just little rub outs on the boards, these were 20 big bone crunching checks that made me wonder whether the Hawks defence were going to pack it in. This will be another tight series that could go either way.
- Prediction: Dallas in 7
San Jose vs. Nashville
The Sharks & Preds were both finally able to shake the monkey off their back and close out a playoff series. One of the most impressive stats from the first round of the playoffs was San Jose did not have a single player average more than 24 minutes of ice time per game. In fact, there were only 4 players averaging TOI in the 20s and 1 player averaging TOI below 10 minutes. This speaks volumes about the confidence head coach Peter DeBoer has in his roster and will help conserve his player’s energy if they advance deep into the playoffs. I’m not sure how much gas Nashville will have left in the tank after their emotionally draining 7-game series with Anaheim.
- Prediction: San Jose in 6
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