The Stanley Cup Playoffs did not go by the script in the first round, as evidenced by both our predictions and conventional wisdom. All four division winners lost their opening series, meaning all four wild-card teams are advancing. No one could have imagined that scenario.
This leaves the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders, and the San Jose Sharks as preliminary favorites at this point. Of course, that is worth nothing. The NHL playoffs already are nuts, and now they’re even nuttier.
On with our best guesses! We nailed Boston in seven from the first round, though, and we did pick the Isles and the Sharks, too. We make no guarantees these predictions will be any better.
Boston Bruins against Columbus Blue Jackets: As we pointed out before the first round, the Blue Jackets were not a bad team. They were pretty strong for an eight seed. However, we still expected Tampa Bay to beat them. Now the question become whether Columbus was a one-hit wonder or whether Columbus pulls off the 2012 Los Angeles Kings imitation. The Bruins were pushed to seven games again by the Maple Leafs, while the Blue Jackets have been resting and gaining confidence as Boston failed to put away Toronto. A lot of this series comes down to Game One. The winner takes the series, we think. Columbus in six games.
New York Islanders against Carolina Hurricanes: We also mentioned before the playoffs started that the Hurricanes were the worst team in the Eastern Conference postseason field. We stand by that, as the defending champions from Washington just looked tired—and also lost a key player to injury. That happens sometimes. The Isles, fresh off a sweep of the 2016 and 2017 champs, are the second-best team overall still left in the field (behind Boston). Look for them to make quick work of Carolina. New York in five games.
St. Louis Blues against Dallas Stars: The series win for the Stars over the Predators was surprising, since Dallas literally was the worst team in the Cup playoffs. Can the Stars keep it going? Sure, because the Blues really aren’t that good, either. Generally, the remaining Western Conference teams are weak, as the four squads were among the bottom six of the 16 playoff teams based on regular-season sabermetrics. Generally, this series is a coin flip, and we will give home ice some love here. St. Louis in seven games.
San Jose Sharks against Colorado Avalanche: The Sharks notched 101 points in the regular season, but they had a lot of problems in the second half of the season. It took a miracle for San Jose to reach this round, too. But the Sharks had ten more regulation/overtime wins than Colorado for a reason, and it’s called talent. We say momentum carries into the second round here, although this series should be another grind. San Jose in seven games.
Come back for conference finals predictions when the time comes!