Check out Ryan Dadoun's Western Conference Round 2 Preview here.
Editor’s Note: Fantasy Baseball season is here! Compete in a live fantasy baseball snake draft right now! Drafts take as little as 2 minutes to complete and last just one night. For a limited time, DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers a FREE entry into a real money draft and a Money-Back Guarantee up to $100! Here's the link.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING VS. BOSTON BRUINS
Tampa Bay became the first team in the Eastern Conference to advance to the second round following a five-game series against New Jersey. The Lightning finished as the top seed in the East and used home ice to their advantage with three victories at Amalie Arena.
Boston had a much tougher time dispatching their first-round opponent, which isn’t surprising considering Toronto finished with the seventh-best record in the league. The Bruins held a 3-1 lead in the series, but the Maple Leafs battled back to force Game 7. Boston advanced following a big 7-4 victory on home ice thanks to four unanswered goals in the third period.
The top line of the Lightning was great in the series with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and J.T. Miller combining for 20 points. The second unit of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson supplied 10 points for some solid secondary scoring.
Tampa Bay’s defense corps held New Jersey to two goals in Games 4 and 5 and Devils star player Taylor Hall earned just one assist during that span. Ryan McDonagh led the team’s blueliner group with four assists in five outings. Rookie defender Mikhail Sergachev notched one goal and one helper in the series.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was excellent between the pipes with a 2.01 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. He bounced back from a difficult second half of the regular season and regained the form that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist.
Boston’s first line was dangerous for the entire series even when they were held off the scoresheet. David Pastrnak was dynamic in the opening round with a team-leading 13 points, while Brad Marchand provided nine points and Patrice Bergeron contributed eight. Rookie forward Jake DeBrusk supplied the Bruins with some much-needed secondary scoring. He tied Pastrnak for the most goals on the club with five and produced seven points. David Krejci picked up eight points in the series from the second line alongside DeBrusk.
Torey Krug has been Boston’s most proficient offensive threat from the back end all year and that didn’t change in the first round of the postseason. He notched two goals and seven assists against Toronto. Krug’s defense partner, Kevan Miller, was the next best point producer on the Bruins with four points.
Tuukka Rask looked shaky in the crease at times versus the Leafs and he certainly was not the reason why Boston won Game 7. He permitted four goals on 24 shots in the contest and wrapped up Round 1 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
Tampa Bay lost three of four games to Boston during the regular season, but defeated the Bruins in the one match that mattered earlier this month when they were battling for first in the Atlantic Division. Both teams feature potent scoring attacks, with great top lines that are stacked with talent. However, the edge goes to Tampa Bay in this series because they are well-rested, have home-ice advantage, a solid defense corps and better goaltending. The Lightning take this series in six games.
Please note these are projected line combinations that could change on a game-by-game or even shift-by-shift basis.
Kucherov led the Lightning with five goals and 10 points in five games in Round 1. He earned at least one point in each appearance of the series. Stamkos only had one goal against New Jersey, but he also picked up at least one point in every match of the opening round.
Victor Hedman did not record a point in five contests versus the Devils. He had 12 shots on goal and averaged a team-high 26:24 of ice time per game. Yanni Gourde had a goal and an assist in Game 1, but he didn’t record a point in three straight games to end the series.
Adam Erne (lower body) has been out of action since Mar. 26. He didn’t practice earlier this week despite skating without restrictions during Round 1 of the postseason. Still, it may be unlikely that he will slot back into the lineup when he is fully recovered.
Tampa Bay’s power play scored five times on 19 opportunities in Round 1. Alex Killorn led the team with three goals on the man advantage. He also tied Kucherov for the club lead with four power-play points.
The Lightning’s much-maligned penalty kill from the regular season (28th overall) held the Devils to three goals on 19 chances in the postseason. New Jersey scored two power-play markers on 5-on-3 advantages.
DeBrusk will go into Round 2 riding a four-game point streak. He has four goals and one assist during that span. Krug has two goals and two helpers in his last four outings.
Rick Nash posted one goal and one assist in seven games against Toronto. He ended a four-game point slump in Game 7 with a helper. Riley Nash only had one assist in five games in Round 1 following his return to the lineup from injury.
Boston’s only injuries going into Round 2 are Brandon Carlo and Anders Bjork and they won’t be available for the rest of the year. Carlo is out with a fractured ankle and Bjork is sidelined following shoulder surgery.
The Bruins tied Pittsburgh for the most goals in Round 1 with 28, but they also surrendered 20 goals against which is the highest total among the remaining teams in the playoffs.
Boston has the second-best power play in the playoffs going into the second round with a 31.8 percent efficiency rating. The Bruins scored seven times on 22 opportunities. Krug paced the team with five power-play points, which were all assists. David Backes and DeBrusk co-led the club with two power-play markers apiece.
The Bruins did not have nearly as much success on the penalty kill, which permitted four goals when they were shorthanded 15 times. That 73.3 penalty kill percentage is the worst among teams still in the postseason.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Pittsburgh and Washington have been a familiar matchup in the postseason, but it’s been one-sided with the Penguins winning nine of the 10 series, including each of the last two years in the second round.
Pittsburgh defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in six games to move into the second round of the playoffs. That will keep their quest for a third Stanley Cup alive. The Penguins won three games on the road in the series, while outscoring the Flyers 18-6.
Washington eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games despite losing the first two games of the series at home in overtime. The first round changed for the Capitals after Braden Holtby replaced Philipp Grubauer between the pipes. Grubauer started the first two games of the series before Holtby reclaimed the crease. Holtby was superb in the series with a 1.92 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
He will be tested by Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, who recorded 13 points apiece in the first round, with both players notching six goals and seven assists. Patric Hornqvist was limited to four appearances in the series, but he provided six points. Evgeni Malkin had five points in five outings.
Matt Murray was a bit up and down against Philadelphia, but he earned two shutouts, a 2.20 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in the series. He is also 10-1 in his NHL postseason career following a loss.
John Carlson led the Capitals in scoring in Round 1 with nine points, including eight assists. Alex Ovechkin topped the Capitals with five goals and finished just behind Carlson with eight points. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom also registered eight points apiece versus the Blue Jackets.
Washington’s shortcomings in the postseason have been well-documented and they will be in tough against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, but they have proved their doubters wrong for most of the year and shouldn’t be counted out based on their past playoff baggage. The Capitals battled back from a sluggish start (11-10-1) to finish first in the Metropolitan Division during the regular season and they rebounded from a 2-0 series hole in the opening round of the playoffs. They will be underdogs versus the Penguins, and they should be, but this could finally be the time when they slay the dragon. If Holtby can continue to impress and the power play continues to click then they can bring down Pittsburgh. The status of Evgeni Malkin (lower body) could also play a major role in the series, which could work in Washington’s favor. I’m going with the Capitals in six games.
Ovechkin has accounted for two points in four of the last five playoff contests. He has five goals and three assists during that span. Carlson was held off the scoresheet once in six outings against Columbus. He notched one goal and eight helpers in the series. Kuznetsov finished Round 1 with the a three-game point streak. He picked up two goals and four assists during that stretch.
Tom Wilson earned two goals and one assist in six games, while skating on the top line. He was held off the scoresheet in four games of the series.
Andre Burakovsky suffered an upper-body injury in Game 2 against Columbus and missed the rest of the series. He required a minor procedure to repair the damage and he is listed as week-to-week. It’s unclear if he will be ready to play in Washington’s second-round series.
Travis Boyd recovered from an illness in the opening round, but he was not able to crack Washington’s lineup. He has done spot work for T.J. Oshie, who appears to be playing through something, at practices. Oshie is expected to play in Game 1 versus Pittsburgh, though.
Washington’s power play went 9-for-27 in the first round for a playoff-best 33.3 percentage. Carlson led the way for the Capitals with eight power-play points. Backstrom had six assists on the man advantage, while Oshie and Ovechkin tied for the club lead with three power-play goals apiece.
The Capitals surrendered four goals on 24 Columbus power plays in Round 1. They also scored once while shorthanded, which was earned by Stephenson.
Guentzel was held off the scoresheet once in the opening round and he wrapped up the series with a four-goal, five-point performance in Game 6. Crosby was also only held pointless in one game by the Flyers. He posted four multi-point efforts.
Justin Schultz had a point in three straight games to start the playoffs, but he hasn’t picked up a point in three consecutive contests going into Round 2.
Evgeni Malkin (lower body) was not able to play in Game 6 versus Philadelphia and won’t play in Game 1 against Washington. His status is day-to-day and he is expected to join the team on the road, which is encouraging.
Carl Hagelin (upper body) was on the receiving end of a big hit from Claude Giroux in Game 6 and left the game. He is also listed as day-to-day and won’t be available for Game 1 versus the Capitals. Hagelin won’t make the trip to Washington.
Malkin moves to the second line when he is ready to return and Hagelin would likely be back on the second unit as well when he can play again.
Pittsburgh went 5-for-25 on the power play versus the Flyers. Malkin and Crosby earned three power-play points each to co-lead the team.
The Penguins’ penalty kill surrendered just two goals when they were shorthanded 21 times.