The second round of the NHL Playoffs has concluded and the action did not disappoint. Twenty-two teams made it to the bubble and now four teams remain alive as the playoffs start. Let’s see how those teams stack up and next year’s expectations for the eliminated teams.
The loss of Tuukka Rask showed in the second round matchup with the Lightning. Jaroslav Halak gave up a couple of questionable goals and was overall shaky in net. The Bruins were not able to produce enough offense to overcome the goaltending struggles. The Bruins will have a huge hole in net if Rask does not return next season. However, the rest of their roster will still be in tack and should be poised for another postseason run.
The Flyers were ahead of schedule this year with a young core that over performed for the majority of the year. The Flyers had a hard time scoring goals in their second round series against the Islanders. Expect the Flyers to be back in the same position next season.
The Avalanche were unfortunately hit hardly by injuries in the playoffs. The Avs were the favorite to win the Stanley Cup when play resumed but were derailed by injuries. The Avs went down 3-1 but were able to force a game seven before eventually losing. The Avalanche should pursue Alex Pietrangelo in the offseason to bolster the defense. They should also give a look at Taylor Hall to add to their already potent offense.
The Canucks were a surprise team during the NHL restart as they escaped the qualifying round and then knocking off the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Saint Louis Blues. However, Vegas was too deep and too efficient for the Canucks. The core of this team had little to no postseason experience. They are now a contender, if they tinker correctly in the next few months.
4. New York Islanders
The Islanders offense continued to look better in their second round matchup with the Flyers. Their defense and goaltending kept up their stellar play. However, they face a huge matchup this round against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They will need to score more consistently and try to neutralize the Lightning offensively.
3. Dallas Stars
The Stars barely escaped their second round series with the Avalanche after being up 3-1 in the series. Their defense looked shaky at points in the second round, but I expect a turnaround in the series against Vegas. Tyler Seguin had a huge series against the Avalanche, and the Stars will need him to continue his play if they want to take down Vegas.
2. Las Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas kept up their play against a surging Canucks team, that had knocked off the reigning champs in the previous round. Vegas still looks like the favorites in the Western Conference. If Vegas sticks to their game plan they will be on their way to their second trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in their franchise’s short three-year history.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning made quick work of the Bruins in five games in the second round. The Lightning have all of their lines playing excellent and producing on both ends of the ice. The Lightning are favored in their matchup with the Islanders, but will still need to keep up their outstanding play to beat the Islanders.