Round 2 Preview: Game 7 Winners vs Sweepers and more!
Since 1987, there has only been a total 7 series that featured a team that had just won game 7 of any round and a team that had just completed a sweep. The following list are the teams, years, round and result.
1990 Playoffs, Round 3 - Edmonton Oilers (Swept the Los Angeles Kings in Round 2) vs Chicago Blackhawks (Game 7 win over the St.Louis Blues in Round 2) – Result: EDM Wins 4-2
1993 Playoffs, Round 2 – St.Louis Blues (Swept the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Round 1) – Result: TOR Wins 4-3
1993 Playoffs, Round 3 – Montreal Canadiens (Swept the Buffalo Sabres in Round 2) vs New York Islanders (Game 7 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2) – Result: MTL Wins 4-1
1994 Playoffs, Round 2 – Dallas Stars (Swept the St.Louis Blues in Round 1) vs Vancouver Canucks (Game 7 win over the Calgary Flames in Round 1) – Result: VAN Wins 4-1
2001 Playoffs, Round 3 – St.Louis Blues (Swept the Dallas Stars in Round 2) vs Colorado Avalanche (Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Kings in Round 2) – Result: COL Wins 4-1
2003 Playoffs, Round 4 – Anaheim Ducks (Swept the Minnesota Wild in Round 3) vs New Jersey Devils (Game 7 win over the Ottawa Senators in Round 3) – Result: NJD Wins 4-3
2009 Playoffs, Round 2 – Boston Bruins (Swept the Montreal Canadiens in Round 1) vs Carolina Hurricanes (Game 7 win over the New Jersey Devils in Round 1) – Result: CAR Wins 4-3
The team coming off a sweep has a 2-win-5-loss series record against teams coming off a game seven victory. I will come back to these stats when going through the series previews.
In Round 1 of this year’s playoffs… the Home team has a record of 24-22. Meaning home-ice advantage has not meant a lot to teams thus far. In St.Louis-Winnipeg series, the visiting team went 5-1; St.Louis closed out the series in Game 6, the only home victory of the series. Will home-ice advantage play a larger role heading into the second round of playoffs?
This was the first year in NHL HISTORY where not only did the top two teams fail to advance to round two, but all four division champions were eliminated in round one.
Round one was amazing, unpredictable, exciting and I did not want it to end. Hopefully round two and beyond can bring more of the same brand of hockey. The only bad thing about round one: my busted bracket. I have one team left in contention after my round one picks: the New York Islanders.
Atlantic Divisional Final – A2 Boston Bruins vs WC2 Columbus Blue Jackets
The Boston Bruins are coming off a hard fought, seven-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A lot of people think they are going to be worn out against a team that has had over a week of rest… however, if you look back at the stats I gave at the beginning of the article, the Bruins have history on their side.
The Bruins outscored the Maple Leafs 23-to-17 in the seven-game series, going 43.8% on the powerplay (2nd in Round 1) and putting up an average of 35.4 shots per game (3rd in Round 1). They also averaged 33.1 hits per game (6th in Round 1) and 14.7 blocked shots per game (6th in Round 1).
Brad Marchand led the way with 4 goals and 5 assists, while Rask was shaky at times in net, but proved to best Anderson with a .928 Sv% along the way.
The Blue Jackets outscored the high-flying Lightning 19-to-8 in an improbable sweep of the league’s best regular season team ever.
Their power-play was a huge contributor to their success, working at 50% (1st in round 1), while they had 15.25 blocks per game and the highest shooting percentage of round one at 17.6%.
The Jackets had plenty of help on the offensive side of the puck, with Matt Duchene leading the way in scoring with 3 goals and 4 assists. Bobrovsky stood on his head when he needed to, posting a .932 Sv%.
Outlook: The Bruins will have to contain the Jackets’ power play in this series. This can be done by keeping them to the outside and forcing their players to take low-danger shots from outside of the house. The Jackets will need to contain the Bruins’ top line, while Bobrovsky needs to continue his hot streak. This will be a fast and exciting series, but I think the physicality the Bruins will bring to the table will put them into the third round. I also believe the Jackets got lucky by playing a team who hadn’t played a meaningful game since the middle of February, or before.
Prediction: Bruins win in 6 games.
Metropolitan Divisional Final – M2 New York Islanders vs WC1 Carolina Hurricanes
The Islanders continued their strong physical and defensive play implemented by Barry Trotz into the first round of the playoffs. They held Crosby to one point, Malkin to three points and Kessel to two points. They completely controlled the series from start to finish and their home games were absolutely electric at Nassau Coliseum. It is a shame that they have to move to Barclays Center for round two and beyond.
Their biggest story, Robin Lehner, faced 34 shots per game and allowed just six goals across the four-game sweep. The Islanders outscored the Penguins 14-6 on the back of a strong first round from Jordan Eberle (4 goals and 2 assists).
They struggled a bit on the power play, producing at only 15.4%... however, their penalty-kill made up in the special team’s category… killing 90.9% of the Penguins power-plays. A power-play made up of Crosby-Malkin-Kessel-Letang-Hornqvist.
The Hurricanes surged over the defending champion Capitals in a 7-game, double-OT thriller to cap off an unbelievable first round in the NHL playoffs. In the first six games, the two teams split their home games… both looking like completely different teams in their own barns. However, Carolina used their young speed to take over game 7 and completely dominate in the two overtime periods.
The Hurricanes had the worst combined PP% and PK% of any team advancing to round two and only outscored the Capitals by one goal. However, the Canes took the Capitals’ game to them, out-hitting them 275-to-272 throughout the seven games.
Mrazek came up with plenty of huge, game-saving saves throughout the series, while Jaccob Slavin led the way offensively with 9 assists.
Outlook: The Hurricanes will have to bring plenty of storm surge energy to get through the defensive power that are the Islanders. We will see if Islanders fans can be as loud and rowdy as they were at Nassau. This is a battle between one team who relies on defence and one team who relies on offence. It is poised to be a battle of a series; however, Carolina has history on its side. The last team to sweep a series, then beat a team who had just won a game seven, was all the way back in 1993.
Prediction: Islanders win in 7 games.
Pacific Divisional Final – P2 San Jose Sharks vs WC2 Colorado Avalanche
The San Jose Sharks pulled a quick ace out of their hat against the Vegas Golden Knights. They came back from a 3-1 series deficit, and 3-0 deficit in period 3 of a very controversial game seven. The Sharks have shown two very different sides of themselves thus far. One has shown how lethal their offensive abilities are, while the other shows their undeniable weakness in their aging stars.
The Sharks are the only team to advance to round two with a negative goal differential, while scoring the 2nd most goals of any team in the first round. They were outshot, out hit, out blocked and still found a way to escape. However, a severe injury to Pavelski could certainly hurt their chances heading into a battle with the Avalanche.
Erik Karlsson led the way offensively with 9 assists, while Couture and Hertl both netted 6 goals in the series. Martin Jones was a difference maker in this series, whether good or bad. In the three losses, his save percentage was below .800… meanwhile, in the four wins, his save percentage was above .950. He was pulled twice in the series, but also set a franchise playoff-record with over 60 saves in game 6.
The Colorado Avalanche surprised everyone in the hockey world by extinguishing the Flames in five games. Before the series, the Flames were the favourites… then they won game 1, and at that point, the series was all but Calgary’s. Then, Nathan MacKinnon caught fire, scoring 5 goals and adding 2 assists in the next four games, all Colorado wins. Mikko Rantanen was also electric, potting 5 goals and 4 assists in those same 4 games.
The addition of Cale Makar in game three was another huge difference maker. It added extra depth to their already solid d-core. They now have three smooth, puck-moving defence on the right side with Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Makar.
Phillip Grubauer stole the show from game one hero, Mike Smith, posting a 1.65 GAA and .949 sv% in the final 4 games of the series.
Outlook: The Sharks will need to find a way to play better defensively if they hope to contain the MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog line… especially after allowing the Stone line to produce a total of 31 points in round one. The Avalanche have to continue to use their speed and add their defence to the rush. The more they keep the play in the Sharks end, the better off they will be.
Prediction: Avalanche win in 6 games.
Central Divisional Final – C3 St.Louis Blues vs WC1 Dallas Stars
The St.Louis Blues weren’t dominate in round one and I think that a lot of their success has been given in the wrong areas. Yes, Binnington’s stats have been very good since coming into the NHL. However, since Berube has taken over as coach, their defensive game has dramatically increased. Since he took over, they have the least high danger area scoring chances against and have allowed less than 30 shots per games. They have a big defence core that isn’t afraid to get into the lanes and use their physicality.
The Blues have been very successful on the powerplay this post season, scoring on 26.3% of their opportunities. They need to tighten up on the penalty kill though, killing off only 78.6% of chances against.
Alex Pietrangelo (6 assists) and Jaden Schwartz (4 goals, 1 assist) have led the way offensively, while Jordan Binnington was not as strong as he was in the regular season, but made some key saves in big moments.
The Dallas Stars dominated most of the play in their first round series against the Nashville Predators. They outscored the Preds 18-to-12, but really took control on the defensive side of the puck. Their top line produced for 18 points and were good on both sides of the puck with a combined +15 rating.
They had a shut-down penalty kill… killing off 100% of the Predators’ power-play opportunities. Their own power-play wasn’t super amazing but came up big with a few goals in some big moments throughout the series. Their two losses were stolen wins by Preds’ goalie, Pekka Rinne.
Bishop had a Vezina worthy series with a 1.89 GAA and .945 sv%. He came up huge for the Stars, like he did all year for the Stars. He faced more than 36 shots per game, however they weren’t high scoring chances and the way he plays is calm and in control.
Outlook: The two teams that got into the playoffs with their defensive abilities will play each other in round two. Although, both teams have electric players and play a big game. This should turn out to be a battle of the top lines and goalies.
Prediction: Stars win in 6 games.