We’ll have a new champion this season after the Canucks send the Blues into the first round. Which of these eight teams will win the Stanley Cup next month?
Flyers vs. Islanders
Sean Leahy, écrivain NHL: Flyers in 7. If Carter Hart continues his magical journey, the Islanders are going to make him work for it. New York has scored the seventh lowest number of evenly matched goals in the regular season, but found its scoring touch in the playoffs. Hart has been good. Semyon Varlamov was even better. Which give? The New York offensive dries up at the wrong time here.
Adam Gretz, écrivain NHL: Flyers in 6. The Flyers weren’t perfect in the first round, and maybe a better team will beat them (and they’ll definitely play one now), but I still love the position they’re in here. Carter Hart is the goalie they needed, and I’m confident their top scorers will break through. They must. When they do, the Islanders will have a lot to do, and I’m not sure they can. I know the Islanders just shut down the Capitals, but I love how the Flyers played a lot more than the Capitals did in this game.
James O’Brien, NHL Writer: Flyers in 7. Woof, this one is tough, especially since the Islanders looked downright demonstrative as they took down an almost selfless Capitals team. But the Flyers’ versatility gives them an ever-light advantage, including a power play that (while struggling) seems more likely to push Philly just a little over the finish line in this one.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Editor / Senior Editor: Islanders in 7. I agree with James that it will be the most difficult series of the second round. I love Flyers defenders, but I think the Islanders’ amazing work ethic will prevail overall. Look for Semyon Varlamov to have another great streak and Mathew Barzal to give New York enough offensive punch to win the low scoring streak.
Jake Abrahams, Editor-in-Chief, NHL Content: Flyers in 6. We haven’t seen this playoff game since 1987, and I can’t wait. There is a lot of intrigue with these two teams. The Islanders are an improved team over last year’s version – especially on offense – but these Flyers won the seed and entered the second round with virtually no goals from their top players. It will change. As long as Carter Hart continues, I think Philly can get ahead of the Islands.
Lightning contre Bruins
Sean Leahy, NHL Writer: Lightning in 6. The Bruins are alive with Jaroslav Halak after sleeping through the round robin. Tampa, however, fought a brave team from Columbus with a timely score and superb play from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Another threat to the Bruins would be the possible return of Steven Stamkos as another weapon.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. I still think this will end up being the year Tampa does, so I stick with them. This roster is so loaded with talent – even if Steven Stamkos stays on the sidelines – and they still have all the possible ingredients a winning team needs. With all due respect to Jaroslav Halak, the Lightning have the best goalie and I really like the way their Blake Coleman – Barclay Goodrow line played against Columbus. This line just gives them another dimension and another level that they didn’t have a year ago.
James O’Brien, NHL Writer: Lightning in 6. As mentioned before, I’m sticking to my preseason picks as much as possible, so the Lightning as Champions and Brayden Point as Conn Smythe still live on, while the Blues as a runner-up? Erp. It depends on whether the Lightning is playing freely and confident after killing this Tortorella dragon, even if the Bruins feature a whole different beast. Get ready for the best game against the best in the East, and maybe the best game in the NHL to start.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Editor / Senior Editor: Lightning in 5. The Bruins looked good the last three games to beat Carolina, but the Lightning is another story. Boston lost a big chunk when Tuukka Rask retired last week, and while Jaroslav Halak performed well in the first round, he’s not Rask. The Lightning have a ton of firepower and have yet to bring Steven Stamkos back into the lineup. Brayden Point was a star of the last series as the Bolts boast NHL’s top goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and possibly Victor Hedman’s best defenseman.
Jake Abrahams, Editor-in-Chief, NHL Content: Lightning in 7. The Lightning was my go-to cut to start with, and I’m not changing now even though they face the Bruins, the defending Eastern champions. Tampa exorcised their demons by beating the Blue Jackets and found different ways to win those four games. The absence of Tuukka Rask will make a bigger difference than that of Steven Stamkos. Always so light edge to the lightning.
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Golden Knights contre Canucks
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 6. Vegas even dominates strength like no other team so far in the playoffs. A little free time before the second round will help, even if they face a Canucks team that will be playing non-pressure hockey. Robin Lehner vs. Jacob Markstrom will be a fun watch.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Golden Knights in 6. I think this has the potential to be a really fun series. Vegas are the better team, the deepest on paper, but Vancouver is among the league’s most exciting young talents and playing with a ton of confidence right now. I didn’t expect the Canucks to be at this point right now. The Golden Knights, however, are a force and if they can secure quality goalkeepers from Robin Lehner and / or Marc-Andre Fleury, they will be tough on any opponent.
James O’Brien, NHL Writer: Golden Knights dans 6. Wow, the Canucks looked great, but the Golden Knights are a buzzsaw. Again, I feel like versatility matters. Vegas has a fierce pre-chess that can cause problems for most teams. Beyond that, they not only have a skilled top line, but the elements of what was once a really good top line to back them up. I would be absolutely blown away if this isn’t the most purely entertaining series of the second round.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Editor / Senior Editor: Golden Knights dans 6. It might be upset if it ever happened in Game 7. The Canucks were my upset pick at the start of the next season because I thought they could be one of the West’s top four seeds. That’s what they did when they knocked out Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the first round, but the Golden Knights appear to be a bit stronger than the Canucks. The Golden Knights might be suspect in the net as Marc-Andre Fleury has been replaced by Robin Lehner, but the Canucks’ core is young and may not be able to break through the Vegas defense. Vancouver might be a year away so I’m leaving with Vegas.
Jake Abrahams, Editor-in-Chief, NHL Content: Golden Knights dans 6. The Canucks will bring a major mojo to this series after knocking out the defending champions, scoring 22 goals in the process. The biggest difference I see between the Blues and this Vegas team is between the pipes: I just can’t see rockstar Robin Lehner-Marc-Andre Fleury’s tandem being as porous as Jordan Binnington (for three starts) and Jake Allen (for a. start) were for St. Louis. Despite the momentum from Vancouver, I’m giving Vegas the edge on paper.
Avalanche against stars
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Avalanche in 5. Nathan MacKinnon will continue to be out of this world and the Stars will face one of the deepest teams in the NHL. Rantanen, Landeskog, Kadri, Donskoi, Burakovsky, Compher. Dallas may not have enough answers for what Colorado will send him.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. The Stars offense went in a way I didn’t anticipate in the first round against the Calgary Flames, and they’ll likely find an even higher level against the Colorado Avalanche. They have the Superstars at the top of the list and with Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and all of their other additions from last year now in the mix, they have the secondary score to top them off. The forwards are as dominant as any other team in the NHL, the defense has an emerging superstar in Cale Makar and solid pieces around him, and the goalie is better than he deserves. This team is loaded. I’m not sure anyone in the West will beat them this season. The Stars will need a Herculean effort from Miro Heiskanen and their goalkeepers to stop this Avalanche team.
James O’Brien, NHL Writer: Avalanche in 6. The Avalanche have done a great job making their team more than “Nathan MacKinnon’s line doing amazing things”, and Nathan MacKinnon’s line always does amazing things. It will be a fascinating test for the rising Avs, as the Stars are made up of a squad that could give them a big headache. Then again, the Stars will have to adjust to an Avalanche team that can bend and break a defense in ways the Groping Flames rarely could. I’ll go with the team that impressed me the most often, even though Dallas showed me something in the first round.
Michael Finewax, Editor / Senior Writer of Rotoworld: Avalanche in 4. My pick for the Stanley Cup, the Avs looked solid against Arizona, led by Nathan MacKinnon as well as Nazem Kadri, who gives Colorado brand and spirits, two important ingredients of playoff hockey. The Stars have looked great, beating Calgary, but will have too tough a time with Colorado, unless Ben Bishop comes back to the net and stands on his head.
Jake Abrahams, Editor-in-Chief, NHL Content: Avalanche in 6. The Avs steamed the Coyotes. They look like the full package. But the Stars, even without Ben Bishop, are still a threat. Heck, they got to this point without a single goal from Tyler Seguin. In the end, I think the team with Nathan MacKinnon wins in this series. He’s just so good.