NHL Western Conference & Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview
For some fans, the dream of watching their team win the cup is still alive, but for others, it’s all over. Congratulations to the eight teams moving on, but the job is far from finished. The first had a ton of surprises, and there will be even more in the next.
So who’s got a chance at advancing to the next round? Eight teams will continue the journey, but only four will make it to the next round and keep the dream alive. Let’s take a look at which teams will make it past round two in the Western Conference and Eastern Conference
St. Louis Blues Vs. Nashville Predators
Prediction: Nashville in 6
It was truly remarkable to watch the Nashville Predators destroy the Chicago Blackhawks. They made the best team in the Western Conference look like they had no business being in the playoffs. Pekka Rinne was outstanding, and if he can replicate his round one success in round two, the Blues have no chance.
The Preds are a better team on paper than St. Louis, but if Jake Allen can somehow manage to steal a game or two for his team, then the Blues might have a chance at moving on to the next round.
St. Louis will also need Vladimir Tarasenko to start scoring goals if they want to get past Nashville. The talented Russian winger totaled just one goal in the first round, and while the rest of his teammates didn’t do much better, Tarasenko needs to be the train that leads the offence.
In the end, Nashville will prevail as the better team in this series. They showed in the first round that they can compete with the best in the West, and they will have no problem moving past St. Louis on route to the Western Conference Finals.
Anaheim Ducks Vs. Edmonton Oilers
Prediction: Anaheim in 5
The Edmonton Oilers are still playing hockey in April. Not many people thought they would make it past San Jose (myself included), but here we are. They showed the league that even though they are lacking playoff experience, they can still get the job done. On the flip side, the Anaheim Ducks made Calgary look like a novice team. They were too much for Calgary at every point in their series, and they will be too much for Edmonton to handle.
The Sharks never got their team rolling out of the gate and just looked slow executing plays. Couple that with a strong series from Cam Talbot, and the Oilers were able to make it to the next round. The game that sticks out to most people is game four in San Jose, the 7-1 beating. When an elite hockey team is able to put it all together, the young Oilers had no answer. This could be the case with Anaheim.
San Jose was able to limit the damage of Connor McDavid for most of their series, but he prevailed towards the end to help his team move on. Now McDavid will be facing a more tough, physical team that will limit his space even more. Anaheim isn’t exactly a blue-collar hockey team, but they do have big bodies up front and on the blue line that will make life difficult for this young Edmonton team.
It’s possible that Edmonton finds another gear in this round, but it’s more likely that Anaheim moves past the Oilers just as easily as they moved past Calgary.
Ottawa Senators Vs. New York Rangers
Prediction: Ottawa in 7
The New York Rangers did just enough to get past the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. They played perfect on the road and capitalized on their chances when they got them. Their power play was a no-show, but their success in the second period was enough to get the job done.
For the Senators, they stepped up to the plate and got past the Bruins. Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson and Derick Brassard lead the way for Ottawa, and that should continue to be the storyline in the second round.
This series will be a battle to the end, but Ottawa will prevail as the better of the two team.
The story in round one for New York was Henrik Lundqvist. He kept his team in the game long enough to help them win. He stood on his head at times, but it was just long enough Matt Zuccarello and company to find the back of the net. The Rangers won’t have time to wait for the second period to do some damage, because the Sens are a much better offensive team than Montreal.
Ottawa just needs Craig Anderson to be good like he was in the first round to get past New York. It will be a battle to the very end, but Ottawa has proven their best players can lead this team.
Pittsburgh Penguins Vs. Washington Capitals
Prediction: Washington in 7
This is the series everyone will be talking about. Another “Crosby vs. Ovechkin” headline that will, for once, go to Ovechkin. As good as the Penguins are, this is the year the Capitals make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
There’s no questioning how good Pittsburgh is up front.Evgeni Malkin leads all players in the playoffs with 11 points, while Jake Guentzel leads the playoffs with five goals. The Penguins scored a ton of goals against a very good Columbus team, and the Capitals had their hands fulls with a very good Toronto team. If the Caps give up a bunch of goals in the round two like they did in round one, it will be over in a hurry.
That being said, the Penguins scored a lot of goals because they found themselves behind the eight-ball quite a bit. They played with fire for most of their first round series with the Blue Jackets, but their team is so good, they managed to get past it. You can’t expect to trail 3-0 and 3-1 and come back every time to win the game, not against a team like Washington.
Alex Ovechkin didn’t play up to expectations in the first round, and Braden Holtby was just average. For Washington to get past the mighty Penguins, they need both players to take their game to the next level, which shouldn’t be a problem. This series is going to be a ton of fun to watch, and hopefully for Caps fans, it will have the ending they so desperately want.