Emerald City Hockey Playoff Picks: Round 2

Ready for more hockey? Less than 20 hours after the Vancouver Canucks beat the St. Louis Blues to wrap up the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars will drop the puck to begin the second round of the playoffs.

As I did with my first round predictions, in addition to predicting the winner and number of games, I’ve gone out on a limb and added a bold prediction for each series. The point is for those predictions to be unlikely to happen, but maybe one or two will be accurate. Here are Emerald City Hockey’s 2nd round playoff picks:

Western Conference

1-Vegas Golden Knights vs. 5-Vancouver Canucks

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Golden Knights win in 5 games. While the Canucks looked impressive in a 6 game win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions, I suspect that the series result says a lot more about the St. Louis than it does about Vancouver. The Blues looked completely checked out from the moment they arrived in the bubble, losing their first five games and seven of nine overall. The heavy forecheck, stellar goaltending, and grinding style of play that defined the team last season were nowhere to be found. The Canucks are a dream matchup for Vegas, who is set to have the easiest pair of 1st and 2nd round opponents that any team has had in a while. The Golden Knights have never lost to Vancouver in regulation (8-0-2 all-time) and have outscored the Canucks 45-26 in those 10 meetings. Look for Vegas to cruise through another lopsided series.

Bold Prediction: The Canucks won’t have a lead until Game 4 of the series. The Golden Knights didn’t trail in a game until the opening goal of Game 4 against the Blackhawks and I could see it happening again in this series. Since entering the bubble, Vegas has come out with a jump on their opponent early in most games. Coach Peter DeBoer understands the importance of playing with a lead and I expect Vegas to jump on the Canucks early in the series.

2-Colorado Avalanche vs. 3-Dallas Stars

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Avalanche win in 5 games. Regardless of the result, this should be a fun series to watch. The Stars scored seven goals in their series-clinching win over Calgary while the Avalanche scored seven goals in each of their final two games against Arizona. Both teams have high-powered offenses with plenty of depth scoring and defensemen who can generate offense from the blueline. That said, I give the edge to the Avalanche. I don’t think the Stars will be able to contain both the Nathan MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri lines for long enough stretches in the series. Goaltending will also be a major factor in the series. The Stars are still without starting goalie Ben Bishop, who has been labeled “unfit to play” since Game 2 vs. Calgary. While Anton Khudobin performed admirably against the Flames in Bishop’s absence, the Avs are another animal entirely. The Stars might need Bishop to return in order to have a chance in the series.

Bold Prediction: There will be three hat tricks in the series. I’m going all-in on this series being high-scoring. There were two hat tricks (Pavelski, Gurianov) in the Stars-Flames series and plenty of goals to go around in the Avalanche-Coyotes series. These teams have no shortage of players who can take over a game. Look for the hats to rain down in this series.

1-Philadelphia Flyers vs. 6-New York Islanders

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Islanders win in 6 games. This series will pit two of the best players with Washington junior hockey ties against each other. Mat Barzal scored four points in the Islanders’ five-game series win over the Washington Capitals while Carter Hart became the second-youngest goalie in NHL history to record back-to-back playoff shutouts in the Flyers’ six-game series win over the Canadiens. Both the Flyers and the Islanders have plenty of talent on the ice but I think the difference in the series will come down to coaching. In the first round, Islanders coach Barry Trotz faced his former team in what figured to be a very close series. The Isles surprised many pundits and roared out to a 3-0 series lead, looking confident at all times. The same couldn’t be said for Alain Vigneault’s Flyers. Vigneault made headlines after each of the Flyers’ two first round losses. After an “embarrassing” 5-0 loss in Game 2, Vigneault took exception to the Canadiens icing their top powerplay unit at the end of the game. After a 5-3 loss in Game 5, Vigneault complained that opposing forward Brendan Gallagher, who had just suffered a broken jaw, “got up and his mouth didn’t shut up” after the injury. In short, Trotz’s Islanders look like a well-oiled machine while Vigneault’s Flyers have shown some cracks in their armor.

Bold Prediction: The Islanders will win the first two “road” games. Yes, this was my bold prediction from the Islanders-Capitals series. The Islanders even surpassed that prediction, winning the first three games of the series. I think Barry Trotz will have his team prepared right out of the gate again.

2-Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 4-Boston Bruins

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Bruins win in 7 games. After losing all three round robin games, the Bruins finally found their game against the Hurricanes. Boston’s convincing five-game series win over Carolina showed doubters that this year’s Bruins are still the Bruins we knew from last year. The Lightning’s first round victory, on the other hand, proved that they are not last year’s Lightning team, who were swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. This will be a heavyweight matchup between two of the best teams in the NHL. The Lightning will be without their captain Steven Stamkos to start the series while the Bruins will be missing starting goalie Tuukka Rask, who opted out of this year’s playoffs. In some ways, it feels like it’d be a shame if this series doesn’t go to seven games. If it does, I give the edge to the more experienced Bruins team.

Bold Prediction: There will be four overtime games in this series. In a series this evenly matched, why wouldn’t there be a lot of overtime? These teams are no stranger to overtime in the bubble either. The Lightning had two of their first round games go to overtime, including the famous five overtime Game 1, while the Bruins had Game 1 of their first round series go to double overtime. Expect plenty of free hockey in this series.

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