Second Round Predictions – 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
The first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs is history.
We saw the defending champion Colorado Avalanche upset by the underdog Seattle Kraken.
The Florida Panthers overcame a 3-1 series deficit to knock off the record-setting Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.
For the first time in 19 years, the Toronto Maple Leafs won a playoff series by eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I went four-for-eight with my opening-round predictions. Let’s see how I fare with my second-round picks.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS VS FLORIDA PANTHERS
The intro explained how these two got here. With 111 points, the Leafs finished 19 points ahead of the Panthers in the Atlantic Division, who overcame a shaky first half to qualify for the playoffs on the last week of the season. Both clubs aren’t that far apart in terms of offense and goaltending but the Leafs have better penalty-killing and faceoff win stats.
Led by their core of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly, the Leafs pack a potent scoring punch. They’ve received reliable goaltending from Ilya Samsonov while two-way center Ryan O’Reilly has provided a steadying influence.
The Panthers, however, aren’t to be taken lightly. Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour can light the lamp while the tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Alex Lyon backstopped them past the Bruins.
PREDICTION: MAPLE LEAFS IN SIX GAMES
EDMONTON OILERS VS VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The Oilers advanced by eliminating the Los Angeles Kings from the first round for the second straight year. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights made short work of the Winnipeg Jets.
Getting two-way winger and team captain Mark Stone back in the lineup for the postseason provided a big boost for the Golden Knights in the first round. Jack Eichel has played well thus far in his first NHL postseason as Vegas sits fourth among playoff scorers.
The Oilers remain the offensive juggernaut they were in the regular season, leading all playoff clubs in scoring and power-play percentage. Superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl remain in top form and could feast on a Golden Knights penalty kill that was 15th among the 16 first-round clubs.
PREDICTION: OILERS IN SIX GAMES
CAROLINA HURRICANES VS NEW JERSEY DEVILS
This battle of the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division came about as the Hurricanes despatched the New York Islanders in six games while the Devils overcame a 2-0 series deficit to eliminate the New York Rangers in seven games.
The Hurricanes got this far on the strength of their goaltending depth and their solid defensive game, including a playoff-best penalty-killing percentage. They’ve got plenty of postseason experience led by stars such as Sebastian Aho and Brent Burns.
While the Devils are near the bottom in postseason scoring, they’re loaded with swift-skating young talent led by Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. They also got a shot of confidence from the solid play of rookie goalie Akira Schmid. They could be poised to pull off an upset here.
PREDICTIONS: DEVILS IN SEVEN GAMES
DALLAS STARS VS SEATTLE KRAKEN
The Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild in the opening round in six games while the Kraken as noted in the intro upset the Avalanche in seven games.
Dallas still has veteran leaders in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski but younger stars like Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Miro Heiskanen and goalie Jake Oettinger played key roles in eliminating the Wild. They’ve got the lowest goals-against per game in this postseason thus far.
The Kraken’s upset of the Avalanche shows they’re a club not to be taken lightly. They got clutch goaltending from Philipp Grubauer, a strong forecheck and penalty kill, plus they can spread their scoring throughout their lineup. However, it may not be enough to defeat the Stars.
PREDICTION: STARS IN FIVE GAMES
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I’m almost opposite. Kraken in 6. Oil in 5. Devils in 6. Florida in 6.
As I posted yesterday,
Toronto over Florida in 6
Carolina over NJ in 7
Dallas over Seattle in 6
Vegas over Edmonton in 7
And so, what happens hours later? Both visiting teams – Florida and Seattle – take away home ice advantage by winning the openers on the road.
Now the collars get just a tad tighter in Toronto and Dallas.
I don’t recall another Stanley Cup playoff season where there seems to be a “home ice disadvantage” like there has been so far this year.