I was better predicting the West, accurately predicting 3 of the 4 winners, usually within a game of the series' actual length, save for the Preds, whom I had winning in seven games while they swept the Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games instead.
I had a tad more trouble in the East, accurately predicting the Caps and Sens winning, but the Rangers and Pens made their way through, with Pittsburgh appearing particularly strong.
So, for Round Two, I thought I'd start out with the West:
Nashville Predators vs St. Louis Blues:
Jake Allen performed miracles for the Blues in the first round. It's entirely possible for elite goaltenders to elevate their game in the postseason (Patrick Roy, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas, Curtis Joseph, Nikolai Khabibulin), and it also happens at times that okay goalies enter a sate of grace they can never replicate in future seasons but actually sustain it for an entire two months one time (Cam Ward, Ron Hextall, Dwayne Roloson). Obviously, I feel like if Allen remains that brick wall, he will be part of the latter bunch. I also think it'll be extremely difficult to do that against this Preds team. I mean, yes, there's Alex Pietrangelo Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester on defense, but it gets thin past those three. And sure, the offense features super-sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, and Paul Stastny came back from his injury and scored, but Nashville's P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm just shut down the entire Chicago offense by themselves, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews limited to two points apiece - the same amount as the Predators' goalie, Pekka Rinne, who also happened to have two shutouts in four games.
Preds in 6
Edmonton Oilers vs Anaheim Ducks:
Connor McDavid was the best player in the NHL this season, and although his speed confused the heck out of the San Jose Sharks, he has yet to produce at the same clip that saw him be the lone 100-point player in the league. The Oilers also showed some depth in beating the Sharks, with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins raising their level of play, Oscar Klefbom playing like a #1 defenseman and Cam Talbot looking like he should have been a Vezina Trophy finalist. But the Ducks are bigger, faster, meaner, better and deeper than the Sharks at every position; I wouldn't be surprised if they won the Cup. However, I still see the Oilers prevailing here on talent alone, but too banged up to pose a threat against the Preds in the Conference Final.
Oilers in 7
And, in the East:
New York Rangers vs Ottawa Senators:
Henrik Lundqvist was Royal against the Habs, but the Sens have a much more balanced offense - and elite talent that Montréal just cannot match, starting with Erik Karlsson, perhaps the best defenseman in the league. Their offense includes high-scoring wingers such as Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, as well as power forward Clarke MacArthur to complete centers Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard, meaning the Sens also have the manpower up front to rival the Rags' Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey, and Michael Grabner (the only wild-card being rookie Pavel Buchnevich, who could explode at any time); New York, however, has a suspect defense past Brady Skjei and captain Ryan McDonagh. Also, as I said for round one: never sleep on Craig Anderson in the playoffs.
Sens in 6
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals:
"The Caps have the best goalie in the world in Braden Holtby, the best goal-scorer of his generation in Alex Ovechkin,
the deepest core of forwards in the East and a coach, Barry Trotz,
who knows what he's doing and has instilled a system good enough for
two straight Presidents Trophies, i.e. "tops in the regular season"." All of this still holds true two weeks later. But the Caps are now facing last season's champions, not a bunch of rookies. The Pens were all over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, making likely Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky look like an AHLer in their five-game series. Evgeni Malkin has 11 points (again, in five fucking games), Phil Kessel has 8 and Sidney Crosby has 7, among others. Crosby will lose his cool at least once, possibly costing his team a game in overtime, and Kris Letang's absence will be too much to bear against a team like the Caps. Justin Williams will prevail, scoring the Game 7 winner.
Caps in 7
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