How did we do in Round 2?
Round 2 wasn’t nearly as chaotic as Round 1, which was a plus for us... but we still missed the mark with a few series.
The Boston Bruins eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games; Bryan and Miika were the only ones to correctly predict that. While nine of us favored the Carolina Hurricanes, not one of us had them sweeping the Islanders. In the Western Conference, we gave the San Jose Sharks the edge, but only Phil had them winning in seven games. In the Central Division, we were leaning towards the Dallas Stars; of the five of us to pick the St. Louis Blues, Mike and Adam predicted it taking the full series length.
So, let’s move on to Round 3.
Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes
After eliminating the Blue Jackets, the Bruins will face another wild card team, the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have made it to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2009, which also happened to be their last playoff appearance; along the way they eliminated the Washington Capitals and the Islanders.
With a healthy Petr Mrazek, both teams are going into the postseason with a net that was split in the regular season. So if there’s an injury to either team’s starter — like there already was for Carolina — there are more than capable backups waiting in the wings.
In front of those goaltenders, there’s the Hurricanes who are known for dominating the fancy-stat columns. Their aggressive and speedy forecheck has made them dangerous both in the postseason and regular season. And even in games where they aren’t winning the shot and scoring chance battle, they’ve had the goaltending to back them up.
As for the Bruins, they’re led by elite scoring on their first line, and had some of the best defensive numbers of the regular season. They’ve still been solid in that respect in the postseason, but the Hurricanes have had the edge there. The Bruins on the other hand, have a slight goaltending edge, as well as a special teams edge — especially on the power play.
With all of that in mind, we think this series takes at least six games. But we’re giving the edge to the Hurricanes by a margin of 7-4.
San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues
To get to the Conference Final in the west, it took seven games on both sides. The Sharks needed seven in the first two rounds; first against the Vegas Golden Knights, then with the Avalanche. The Blues have played one game fewer, only needing six to get past the Winnipeg Jets, before going the full length against Dallas.
During the regular season, the Sharks were the best team in the league in terms of shot share at 5-on-5, and were second best in terms of expected goals. Once in the playoffs, they managed to reach Game 7 in Round 2 without their captain Joe Pavelski, who returned for the last game of the series. Their weakness is goaltending.
In the second round though, Martin Jones elevated his game and provided the goaltending support the team needed — even in games where he didn’t have enough offensive support. If he can maintain that level of play, the Sharks could be on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
On the other side of the equation, there’s the Blues, a team that worked its way to the playoffs after being last in the league to start the calendar year.
Despite their dismal start, the Blues finished the year fifth in Corsi against per 60 (the Sharks were first, though), and third in expected goals against. That defense has continued to serve them well in the postseason too. To back up that defense, the Blues have Jordan Binnington between the pipes, who has provided more consistency in net than Jones has for the Sharks before and during the playoffs.
A weaker point for the Blues is how they’ve generated offense at even strength, but they have some offensive weapons up front and, like the Sharks, get some scoring from their blue line as well.
So which team moves closer to winning their first Stanley Cup? The majority of us think it’ll be the Sharks.
Data via NaturalStatTrick