The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs had a record 15 overtimes and was full of surprises, the biggest being the Predators knocking off the Blackhawks and the young and exciting Maple Leafs coming within an overtime goal of taking the heavily favored Capitals to Game 7. With such drama and upsets, comes plenty of bracket-busting and yours truly was victim to that! The beauty of the playoffs though is that many bracket pools allow you to pick round-by-round and therefore here are my 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs second round predictions:
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Washington Capitals over Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 – “This is the year for the Capitals!” Doesn’t it seem like we’ve been hearing that since 2010 and every season, Alexander Ovechkin and his comrades lose their way and choke again? Well despite the fact that the noose of playoff failure almost wrapped around them again in the first round against the Maple Leafs, this truly will be the season. In fact, that scare they had against what appears to be a future dynasty in Toronto, may be the best possible recipe for them to finally find Cup glory. Five of the six games — including the clincher — went to overtime and the Caps won four. That alone is the type of character building experience that can send a team to the promised land and starting Thursday, knock off their rival and the defending Stanley Cup champions, Pittsburgh Penguins.
This one promises to be another classic between two bitter rivals.
Ottawa Senators over New York Rangers in 6 – I’m based in Boston and I’ll tell you, the lack of respect by media pundits and fans alike shown towards the Ottawa Senators and more specifically Norris Trophy finalist Erik Karlsson was astonishing! Many questioned my sanity picking the Senators to beat the hometown Boston Bruins, let alone pick them in five games. I’m not sure if it’s them thinking the Bruins are better than they are or simply not watching the Senators enough this season or just plain denial looking through their black and gold glasses but the Senators advancing should not be considered an upset and it wasn’t simply because the Bruins’ blue line was decimated.
The Senators are a solid and balanced team with playoff caliber goaltending in Craig Anderson, but don’t be surprised if Rangers fans view them the same way as Bruins fans not only did but comically still do despite Ottawa taking eight out of ten (regular season and playoffs) games against Boston this season. The Sens will now face a much tougher challenge and a rejuvenated Henrik Lundqvist but something tells this puck scribe Ottawa could very well be this year’s Cinderella team and they will once again be led by a defenseman who is now being mentioned in the same breath as Bobby Orr
Western Conference Semifinals
Nashville Predators over St. Louis Blues in 6
Rinne became just the fourth goalie to win four postseason games with a goals-against average of 0.70 or less and allowed only three goals on 126 shots including this one off the end boards:
Allen, who has struggled to reach his potential and in big games, decided that the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs would be his time to erase any doubts that he can be an elite NHL goalie and went right to work in a overtime win in Game 1 with 51 saves.
Look for both these netminders to continue their brilliance but it will be the new found scoring punch led by Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson that crack Allen and lead the Predators back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2012 and only the second time in franchise history. I also wouldn’t rule out an impact performance from P.K. Subban who always seems to step up as the lights shine brighter.
Edmonton Oilers in 7 – Make no mistake and much like the Leafs with Auston Matthews, the Oilers are once again going to be a dynasty with Connor McDavid leading the way aa plethora of first round picks finally realizing their potential and legit No.1 goalie in Cam Talbot. The reigning Western Conference champions San Jose Sharks found that out in the opening round and now it’s time for the Anaheim Ducks to do the same.
The Ducks swept away a young Flames team who clearly doesn’t have their No. 1 goalie sorted out yet and look like they’re ready to erase some playoff failures of years past, but this Oilers team is more than just McDavid. Leon Draisaitl was just as key, if not more, in the first round and veteran Milan Lucic will prove his playoff value the deeper they go as he did so many times for the Bruins. The Ducks have a bright future as well, especially on the blue line, but with a hockey-crazed city that has been longing for the Glory Days again behind them, the Oilers will advance to the conference final for the first time since their Cinderella run in 2006. The question is, can Rogers Place rock the way Rexall Place did in the spring of 2006?