How good has the 1st round of the NHL playoffs been? Hoping it will carry over to the 2nd round. Here is 2 conference previews with the next 2 coming tomorrow.
The 3rd and 4th place teams in the Central Division of the Western Conference rose up as underdogs to win their 1st round match ups in 6 games. Both teams used similar formulas to get to the 2nd round with tight defense, outstanding goaltending, and clutch 2nd line scoring. Stars goalie Ben Bishop continued his impressive run from an outstanding regular season to a stalwart performance in the 1st round. Bishop allowed 2 questionable goals in a game 3 loss but overall Bishop's numbers were impressive recording a 1.90 GAA and .945 save percentage against the Nashville Predators and capped it off by saving 47 of 48 shots in the game 6 OT thriller last night. Goaltender Jordan Binnington for the Blues held his own against the high scoring Winnipeg Jets recording a 2.63 GAA and .905 save percentage. Every Blues victory against the Jets was by a single goal and Binnington made a huge clutch save at the end of game 1 and finished it off with a big save against Patrik Laine in game 6 to clinch the series. The Stars got enough production from their top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov with 7 goals and 11 assists but the 2nd line of Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz and Mats Zuccarello also combined for 7 goals. The top line for the Blues Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, and Victor Tarasenko combined for 6 goals but like the Stars got huge production from their 2nd line of Brayden Schenn, Oscar Sundqvist, and Jaden Schwartz combining for 7 goals including a game 6 hat trick from Schwartz. The Stars in their series did not allow a power play goal.
Both teams are very similar to one another and with no huge differences so this is an even match up. The Blues will have home ice but home ice hasn't meant a whole lot so far in the playoffs. Binnington has been sensational in net for the Blues but Bishop has been better and I think the Stars are a little more explosive on the offensive side. Also the Stars have more scoring threats on the blue line with John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen. The one player who could come alive and carry the Blues is Tarasenko so if he gets hot he could be the big difference maker. My pick is Dallas.
Stars in 6 games
The Columbus Blue Jackets shocked the world not only by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning but sweeping them in four games. The Boston Bruins had to win 2 elimination games including game 6 in Toronto and beating the Leafs tonight 5-1 in game 7. The most impressive aspect of Boston's game 7 win tonight was getting 4 combined goals from their 3rd and 4th scoring lines.The Blue Jackets were dominant in all phases in the 1st round averaging 4.75 goals per game, converting 50% of their power play chances, and only giving up 8 goals in the series against the high powered Lightning. The Bruins for most of their 1st round series except for some game 1 defensive lapses played consistent hockey and got good performances from their top forwards Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak and got solid goaltending from Tuukka Rask. On the defensive side Zdeno Chara still looks sharp at the age of 42 and Charlie McAvoy seems to get better each game.
Can the Blue Jackets rise up again and pull the upset against the Bruins? One possible big advantage that the Blue Jackets will have is they will be the fresher team going into game 1 having 9 days off while the Bruins were extended to seven games. Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is in peak form and they have a lot of scoring depth with Cam Atkinson, Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and the suddenly hot Steve Duchene. Jackets coach John Tortorella did a masterful job of getting his team ready for the Lightning and will try again to push all of the right buttons to get them ready for Boston. I think Columbus can extend this series to 6 or 7 games but the Bruins just don't beat themselves and are playing solid mistake free hockey. My pick is Boston
Bruins in 6 games