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NHL Round 2 Matchups Preview
The first round of the NHL playoffs is still underway, with the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights competing in Game Seven of their series Monday night and the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs are headed to Game Six on Saturday. However, several of the second-round matchups are already locked in.
Here, we’ll preview the second-round matchups as they sit on Friday afternoon.
Central Division: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
In a second-round matchup many penciled in before the season began, the Hurricanes and Lightning have two of the most complete rosters in the league. Both ranked in the Top 10, if not Top 5, of most statistical categories, and they matched up well against each other.
Tampa Bay has Andrei Vasilevskiy, a frontrunner for the 2021 Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, between the pipes, while Carolina is expected to run with rookie goaltender (and native Ohioan) Alex Nedeljkovic. This series is, on paper, the most likely to go to Game 7 of any of the second-round matchups. Tampa Bay has the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup at +475, while the Hurricanes are fourth at +700.
East Division: Boston Bruins vs. New York Islanders
The Bruins and Islanders series will be a battle between two of the league’s top defensive units. Both ranked in the top four of fewest goals allowed per game in the regular season (New York second at 2.23, Boston fourth at 2.39) and had elite penalty kill units (Boston ranked second at 86.0%, the Islanders sixth at 83.7%).
With a combined 10 Stanley Cup wins between them, surprisingly, the Bruins and Islanders have only met twice in the playoffs before this season. New York won both of those series in 1979-80 and 1982-83 and also won the Stanley Cup in each of those years.
North Division: Winnipeg Jets vs. Toronto/Montreal Winner
The Winnipeg Jets pulled the most shocking result of the first round, sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in four games, three of which went to overtime. With a few days off to rest and recover before the Toronto/Montreal series ends, they could be in great shape.
However, with that much time off, will the Jets see more rest or rust when they return to the ice? Whether they draw the Maple Leafs or Canadiens in the second round, those two teams will be in the groove of playing every other day and could take advantage if Winnipeg is flat when they’re back in action.
West Division: Colorado Avalanche vs. Wild/Golden Knights Winner
Colorado and Vegas were two of the league’s top clubs throughout the season, finishing tied for points in the standings (Colorado took the higher seed because of the Regulation Wins tiebreaker). However, don’t discount Minnesota’s chances to advance; the Wild have already won in Vegas twice in this series and have the second-best winning percentage of any team against the Golden Knights.
The Avalanche had a 5-2-1 regular-season record against Minnesota and a 4-3-1 record against Vegas. While they will be favorites in the series either way (and are overall Cup favorites at +250), both clubs would make for an entertaining series.
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