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PHT’s 2021 NHL Second Round playoff predictions

Carter Hart and Patrik Laine headline the list of Pro Hockey Talk's top-10 bounce-back players for the 2021-22 season. Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Anson Carter discuss the candidates.

We’re now through the First Round as the Canadiens advanced to take on the Jets. So with the four Second Round series set, here are our picks for this round.

BRUINS vs. ISLANDERS - series livestream link

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Bruins in 6. The Bruins have just about everything you can want in a contender: a deadly top line, an elite defenseman, and a great goalie. Now they also have some strong depth, and the versatility to play the Islanders’ style if needed. That doesn’t mean the Isles’ style wouldn’t work, mind you, but I’m (figuratively) betting on Boston.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer Bruins in 6. It is really hard to pick against Barry Trotz and Ilya Sorokin the way he played in the First Round, but they are not going to run into a team with no goalie this time. The Bruins have two great scoring lines, an outstanding defense, and a top-tier goalie. The Taylor Hall trade changed everything for them and they keep rolling. Islanders give them a real fight, but Bruins win it.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Bruins in 7. The Bruins are the hottest team in hockey, and suddenly this matchup isn’t as daunting. I still think the Islanders will be a tough task, but the Bruins depth is too much.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Bruins in 6. The Islanders used timely scoring and good goaltending to get by Pittsburgh. Now they face arguably the hottest NHL team since the trade deadline and have to figure out how contain the Bruins’ dangerous top six. Boston has been a different team lately, and will make sure that 11% New York shooting percentage at 5-on-5 drop over the course of this series.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Islanders in 7. The Islanders have been playing playoff hockey all season, just like they have the past few seasons under coach Barry Trotz. The Bruins have a strong team led by their top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand but the Islanders will shut down the rest of the lineup, allowing them to sneak past Boston. Ilya Sorokin will continue to surprise and will just outplay Tuukka Rask. It will be a close series and Game 7 could even go into overtime.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]

HURRICANES vs. LIGHTNING - series livestream link

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. The Hurricanes strike me as the almost-Lightning. They have depth, high-end skill, smart management, and perhaps finally a goalie they can trust. The Lightning just mostly have slightly better versions of those strengths.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. This, for me, is a coin flip. Love both teams. If this were a traditional playoff year with the normal conference alignments I would say these are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. As it stands, I think they are two of the four best teams in the entire league. I really want to pick Carolina. But I can not get by the goaltending advantage that I see with Andrei Vasilevskiy against Alex Nedeljkovic or the fact they have a rested Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Hurricanes in 6. Tampa Bay can beat anyone. I still think the Hurricanes are probably the scariest team in the league. This will be a good challenge because they don’t have a goaltending advantage this time around.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. Both faced a fight in their respective First Round series, but made it through in six games. Tampa still looks like it’s getting going while the Hurricanes enter battle tested after straight overtime games. The Lightning get the slight edge here because while Alex Nedeljkovic has been solid, we’ve yet to see the best from Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Hurricanes in 7. There are a few signs that the Lightning aren’t as good as they were last season. They played the Panthers tough but Florida did not get any real goaltending, allowing the Bolts to get past them. That won’t be the case against the Hurricanes as they have excellent goaltending in Alex Nedeljkovic, as well as a good blueline led by Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin. Tampa Bay is hurting as Victor Hedman is dealing with an injury and I am not convinced that Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos will not hit a wall as they have returned from injury. Andrei Vasilevskiy is capable of stealing a series and could do so for Tampa Bay.


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AVALANCHE vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS - series livestream link

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. I really wanted to stick with my preseason Stanley Cup pick (VGK) through thick and thin, but folks, those waters are simply too choppy. At their best, the Avalanche struck me as the better team, and now they have a significant rest advantage. Vegas has a chance, but I can’t fight both my brain and my gut on this one.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Avalanche in 7. Wanted this matchup in the Western Conference Final a year ago, and now we get here in the Second Round and it should be amazing. In my mind these are the absolute two best teams in the entire league and I could see the winner of this series winning the Stanley Cup. Colorado has been my pick all along and I still think that to be the case. This team just plays at a different level than everybody else this season. As long as the goaltending stays strong there is not a weakness on this roster. The best, most talented team in the league from top to bottom. While the forwards and the offense get almost all of the attention the defense is what really separates them from everybody else in the league.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Avalanche in 7. They’re similar teams on similar runs. I think Colorado’s defense will be the X-factor.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Avalanche in 7. This feels like the year for the Avalanche. They dominated St. Louis in the First Round and got plenty of rest while Vegas fought to get by the Wild. It’s lining up for a quick series start for Colorado, while Vegas plays catchup in what could be the best series of these playoffs.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Avalanche in 5. The Avs have the best team in hockey and although the Golden Knights could be the second best team in the league, the Avs should win all three in Denver and split in Las Vegas. The line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog rocked against the Blues while their strong blueline led by Cale Makar and the outstanding netminding of Philipp Grubauer as well as extra time off, while Vegas played a tough seven game series against Minnesota, should be enough. Vegas has Marc-Andre Fleury who is capable of shutting down anyone, but it may not be enough for the series win.


James O’Brien, NHL writer: Jets in 6. The Canadiens play a better team game than the Jets, but Winnipeg tends to finish at a high enough rate to offset that. As great as Carey Price has been in the playoffs lately, Connor Hellebuyck matched that, and has delivered far more regularly. Those factors swing things ever so slightly toward the Jets.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Jets in 7: I can see this being a coin flip series because both teams have their share of flaws and both teams have goalies that can put their team on their backs and carry it. They both did that in their First Round series. I like the Jets top-line forwards a little better than Montreal’s, and I think Hellebuyck covers whatever issues they have on defense. So give me the Jets in a close series.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Jets in 6. It’s tough to bet against the Canadiens now, unless you subscribe to the theory that the Game 7 loss is totally on the Maple Leafs, like I do. I certainly didn’t expect either of these teams to be here, but Winnipeg has had a decent amount of rest while the Canadiens battled it out in a grueling series.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Jets in 6. Looks like 2015-16 Carey Price is back, and he was terrific vs. the Leafs. But Connor Hellebuyck is no fluke, plus the Jets are still waiting for Pierre-Luc Dubois to flip the “playoff beast mode” switch. That should come this series, along with many eyes opening at the talent that is Nikolaj Ehlers.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Jets in 4. The Canadiens were all out to beat Toronto and are a tired team heading into the North Division final. Carey Price was outstanding against Toronto much like he was last season in an upset over Pittsburgh but you can’t expect it to happen two series in a row. Winnipeg is stronger up front with stars like Scheifele, Connor, Ehlers and Wheeler and I still like Hellebuyck more than Price.