NHL 2nd Round Playoff Preview:
After a first round that saw its fair share of quick series, the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs shapes to have an intensified caliber of competition for the hardest trophy to win in sports.

New York Rangers (M1) vs Carolina Hurricanes (M2)

This is a series that many pundits expected months ago. The Rangers swept the Washington Capitals in their first round series while Carolina dispatched the New York Islanders in five games.
The Rangers boast an all-around team that is built to win for the short term with forward Artemi Panarin an intricate role in the Rangers offense, while being supported by netminder Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers dominated their first round series against Washington with the Caps leading for only 3:38 of the entire series. Their top forwards, Panarin and Mika Zibanejad were key in the sweep of the Capitals. Zibanejad scored at least two points in all four games for New York.

The Hurricanes’ strength is their depth which includes Seth Jarvis and Sebastian Aho. Frederick Andersen amidst questions before the playoffs about goaltending was spectacular for Carolina in round one against the Islanders. What helped Carolina win the series was their uncanny ability to ride a storm surge of momentum. Game 2 saw the Hurricanes rally from a 3-0 deficit including the game tying and game winning goals coming 9 seconds apart in the dying minutes. Game 5 also saw an overflow of floodgates when Carolina scored the go ahead and insurance goals in the third period of the deciding game.

The Rangers and Hurricanes have met three times in the regular season with the Rangers winning two games by one goal margins while Carolina’s lone victory saw the Hurricanes win 6-1.

This is a matchup that could easily be a conference final. The two teams met two years ago in the 2nd round, a series that saw the home team win the first six games of the series before the visiting Rangers won game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

Pick: Rangers in 7

The key to this series will be Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers are red hot offensively and will score their fair share, it’ll come down to whether Shesterkin can close the door at a Vezina Trophy caliber level against a Carolina with no clear cut offensive superstar yet plenished with depth.

Florida Panthers (A1) vs Boston Bruins (A2)

Last year the final team to make the playoffs, the Florida Panthers stunned the record setting 65-win Boston Bruins rallying from a 3-1 series deficit and scored the game tying goal in game 7 to eventually have Carter Verhaeghe, dump the Bruins from the playoffs in overtime. The Panthers would move on to appear in their second ever Stanley Cup Final. While the record setting Bruins joy ride came to a disastrous demise. But after an entire regular season and first round…This is the rematch, we have long awaited.

Florida after their playoff run last season, played through the regular season with one goal in mind, and it had nothing to do about the regular season. Contrary to last season, the Panther’s playoff legitimacy was well cemented all season. With the Panthers and Boston trading the top spot in the Atlantic Division until the very last day of the regular season, it was apparent the Panthers were gearing up for a Stanley Cup run. Their first-round opponent was very familiar with long Stanley Cup runs in a Tampa Bay Lightning team that had gone to three straight Stanley Cups and winning two of them. The Panthers had always been the afterthought of hockey in the Sunshine state, with the Lightning dispatching Florida in both 2021 and 2022 en route to the Stanley Cup final. Carter Verhaeghe was instrumental with five goal in the series including the game 2 OT winner. Tampa did not see their first lead in the series until they trailed 3-0 in the series. The Panthers slammed the door shut in game 5 in a 6-1 win. If there is any star to watch with the Panthers, it’s Matthew Tkachuk. Reminiscent of the in-your-face style of Corey Perry, Tkachuk will not only contribute offensively, but also get under the skin of opponents. The Panthers are supported by their veteran netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who has a well-documented resume including winning the Vezina Trophy for best goalie twice.

For the Boston Bruins, their journey to the second round carried its fair quantity of turbulence. The roller coaster could not be more displayed than the ride that was round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. An original six rivalry whose postseason battles have had outcomes one sided to Beantown. After winning two straight on the road, the Bruins held a 3-1 lead in the series, before Toronto with their backs against the wall rallied to tie the series with a pair of one goal wins. In the decisive game 7, overtime was necessary to decide a series winner. Two minutes in, Boston superstar David Pastrnak, off a corner board assisted pass from Hampus Lindholm, buried the overtime series winner. And for the fourth time in four playoff meetings, the Bruins broke Toronto hearts in seven games. A Bruins season that featured a goaltender carousel on a nightly basis saw a clear favorite stand out, Jeremy Swayman was at his finest against the Maple Leafs in the first round with a gaudy .950 save percentage. Amidst a team in Toronto whose salary cap is spent for offense, Swayman allowed eight goals all series. Boston is supported by their stellar goaltending play and Swayman has been the reason behind it. Offensively, game 7 hero David Pastrnak has been the reason behind Boston’s success, but the leadership falls to their captain Brad Marchand. Marchand was a rookie when the Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 2011, and the lone active member of the championship team has been a constant thorn in the side for any of Boston’s opponents. After the disappointment of last season Boston is poised to write a different story.

Foes meet again. Plenty of matchups can be highlighted in this series. The battle between two offensively gifted aggravators in Matthew Tkachuk of the Panthers and Brad Marchand of the Bruins. The largest question mark will be if Jeremy Swayman will start the entire series for Boston. There’s the old adage that if you have two starting goalies, “you have none”. If Boston falls into an early hole, does head coach Jim Montgomery turn into Linus Ullmark? Boston has revenge on their mind, but can they solve the Florida juggernaut.

Pick: Bruins in 7

Boston in the regular season swept Florida in all four games played, although the regular season is by no means an indicator of how a series can go, it is apparent Boston has a vendetta they hope to bring to completion with a series win against the team that broke their hearts last year. Florida has no holes, but in a newly minted rivalry between divisional foes break out, all bets are off. The Bruins goaltending can be their greatest strength yet congruently be their Achilles heel.

Dallas Stars (C1) vs Colorado Avalanche (C3)

The number one team in the west comes from Dallas, where the Dallas Stars have knocked on their of having deep playoff runs only to be left unfulfilled at tail’s end. This year’s Stars team has shapes of being different. Dallas is led by their top line which has been count on for years for the Stars. But compared to last season, the offense has significantly regressed from the typical numbers, particularly with Jason Robertson dropping from 46 goals down to 29. Yet, Wyatt Johnston has been a great surprise for the Stars, with 65 points scored, Johnston has been impactful offensively for the Stars. This would be needed against defending champion Vegas in the opening round. Dallas boasted the best road record going into the series. That was put to the test when the Golden Knights took a 2-0 lead in the series. The turning point of the series came in game three when Wyatt Johnston scored the game winning overtime goal to help the Stars survive from falling behind three games to none. Dallas would go on to win the series with Jake Oettinger playing his typical spectacular self with 22 saves in the game 7 triumph.

The Colorado Avalanche have stared at the face of expectations ever since the arrival of superstar Nathan Mackinnon. After heartbreaking playoff exits year after year, the expectation was if they could finally win the Stanley Cup, that dream became a reality in 2022. The following season saw hopes of a repeat…until the Seattle Kraken rewrote the story. A team that has been no stranger to unmatched expectations seemed destined for another end to their season, losing seven of their last eleven games to close out the year. One of those losses included a 7-0 demolishment courtesy of the playoff bound Winnipeg Jets. It would be only fitting the Jets would be their awaiting first round opponent. After a wild game 1 defeat of 7-6, the Avalanche defense tightened, only allowing eight more goals the rest of the series, while scoring at least five in every game. The Avalanche silenced the doubters in round 1 with the series win of Winnipeg. A huge responsibility goes to Valeri Nichushkin who turned into a scoring machine with seven goals in the first round. Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen each contributed seven assists as well. With the Avalanche firing offensively on all cylinders, this is a team that will be no easy out.

The two teams met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in round 2 back in 2020. In a much different time and circumstance, Dallas in seven games eliminated Colorado with a game 7 overtime winning goal. This regular season saw the Avalanche take two out of three meetings with the Stars this season. With how both teams have been competitive the question that comes up will be rest. Colorado advanced in the first round with a win on Tuesday to close out the Jets in 5. For Dallas, a tough battle with Vegas took until Sunday before the Stars advanced. Rest will be important and may tell the tale of the series.

Pick: Dallas in 7

Many did not expect Dallas to stay alive after falling down 0-2 after back-to-back losses at home. The American Airlines Center will have to be more friend to begin the series for Dallas if they expect to win round 2. The rivalry itself calls for a long drawn-out series. Jake Oettinger the starting goalie for Dallas will be the largest question mark. The Stars success is almost solely thanks to Jake Oettinger, when he is on his game, he is on. For the Avs, they have scored at least five goals every game, can that scoring prowess happen against another one of the best goalies in the league?

Vancouver Canucks (P1) vs Edmonton Oilers (P2)

No NHL team has undergone a more impressive turnaround than Vancouver. Vancouver under head coach Rick Tocchet in the span of one year has built a force to be reckoned with, the offensive talent of Vancouver has been their strength, but in their series against the Nashville Predators, the games did not come as easy. The series took a turn for the worse when starting goalie Thatcher Demko was lost after game 1 with an injury that would sideline him for an undisclosed time. Demko had missed the last month of the regular season, which opened the door for backups Casey Desmith and Artur Silovs. After Desmith won game 3 for Vancouver, game 4 proved to be the turning point of round one for the Canucks. After Casey Desmith suffered an undisclosed injury, Artur Silovs took over in net for Vancouver. Trailing by two goals in the closing minutes, Brock Boeser scored two last goals, including game tying goal with eight seconds left. Vancouver would not take long in overtime to win it, when trade deadline acquisition Ellias Lindholm, buried the overtime winner. Few days later in Nashville, Artur Silovs saved all 28 Predators shots, and Pius Suter scored the series winning goal with 1:39 left. Vancouver snatched a gut check series win over Nashville, but the team they face in round two has undergone their own unique path to the second round.

The Edmonton Oilers seemed on a crash course of an emphatic fall from grace. Sitting near the bottom of the standings in November, the Oilers fired Head Coach Jay Woodcroft and hired Kris Knoblauch who turned the Oilers around put the city they call “Titletown” back to the playoffs. Their opponent was an all too familiar Los Angeles Kings team. Having met in the playoffs the past two seasons, the Oilers displayed their offensive prowess to the surprise of no one, Connor McDavid recorded eleven assists and Zach Hyman recorded seven goals in the series to lift the Oilers into the second round of the playoffs with a third straight third round dispatch of the LA Kings. The Oilers also saw elite goaltending from Stuart Skinner. A team that relies heavily on their offense saw Skinner display a .910 save percentage to help the Oilers advance to round two.

The regular season began with Vancouver winning the first game of the year, 8-1 against the befuddled Oilers. It would take a coaching change to turn the season around for Edmonton, all while Vancouver ascended to a division title. The Canucks faced Edmonton four times this year and won them all. The hopes of Oilers nation will ride on the stars of the Oilers primarily, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman. Vancouver’s offense appears to be a common denominator when accessing their nightly basis, but the question that haunts them will be goal tending.

Pick: Oilers in 6

For Vancouver to win this series, they will have to win in track meet games. Edmonton’s firepower is too much to handle for whoever may be in net for Vancouver. Although the Canucks have won all four previous meetings, regular season play is no match for a team that has made the playoffs the last five years in a row.

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