My take on the upcoming round in the playoffs and impact on the Rangers
Round 2 is upon us and if anyone has a clean bracket, I say they completed after the first round ended. For the first time in history, all four #1 seeds fell in the first round. The Islanders, Bruins and Sharks were the only two higher seeds to advance.
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals:
Islanders vs. Hurricanes:
I saw a few brackets that had this, but not many. Washington sure looked to be the favorite to advance up 3-2 in the series and then with a 2-0 lead last night. Braden Holtby didn't have a particularly good series and give Carolina credit, they didn't back down at all.
One interesting subplot is how New York handles being the favorite. Against Pittsburgh, despite having the higher seed, most felt the Penguins were the better team and made the Isles the underdog. Now, even with Carolina rallying to beat the Capitals, the prevailing view is that the Islanders are the favorite to advance.
Robin Lehner was brilliant in round one. If he plays like he did against Pittsburgh, New York advances to the conference finals. Sebastian Aho is the difference maker for Carolina. If he has a big series and Petr Mrazek comes up big, then the 'Canes will advance.
Pick: Islanders in six
Boston vs. Columbus:
While the Bruins seemed to be a slight favorite over the Buds, the Blue Jackets were expected to battle the Lightning but fall in five or six. How wrong we all were. Tampa Bay blew a 3-0 lead in Game 1, and that loss coupled with the one-game suspension to Nikita Kucherov and two-game injury absence of Victor Hedman, helped result in a four-game sweep by Columbus. The Blue Jackets were by far the better team.
Toronto held a 3-2 series lead but once again were unable to close out Boston. Tuukka Rask upped his game while Frederik Andersen failed to do the same. As a result, the Bruins advanced again while the Maple Leafs are on the golf course again.
Both teams have scoring, though the Marchand-Bergeron-Patsrnak line is unmatched. Each squad has solid defenders, though I prefer the Jones-Werenski pairing to anything Boston can put on the ice. Rask vs. Sergei Bobrovksy, who was brilliant in round one, will tell the story. I give the edge to the really hot goalie who carried the team down the stretch.
Pick: Columbus in six
Western Conference Semi-Finals:
Blues vs. Stars:
St. Louis' season turned around when Jordan Binnington replaced Jake Allen between the pipes and Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko were united as a unit. The Blues won the first two games at home, lost the next two on the road and then rebounded to win the next two, aided by a comeback from 2-0 down in Game 5 capped by Jacob Trouba's brain cramp and Jaden Schwartz's baseball like goal with 15 seconds remaining. He then notched a hat trick in Game 6 for good measure.
Dallas put Nashville on their heels with a game one win but lost the next two. Ben Bishop was solid the next three contests, aided by a stellar Alex Radulov and contributions up and down the lineup, especially from Mats Zuccarello and John Klingberg. The Stars advancing wasn't a major shock, since many of us felt that if Bishop played well, they had an excellent chance of winning.
The magical campaign vs. the one that had it's own turnaround after owner Jim Lites called out Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Dallas looks to be deeper up front, though Schwartz's turnaround lengthens the Blues' lineup. Defensively is very close, as the Blues blue line is solid but lacks an offensive weapon like Klingberg. Between the pipes looks even with Binnington and Bishop each have solid first rounds, though Bishop was slightly better. Going with what I think is the better overall squad though this one should be a great series.
Pick: Dallas in seven
Sharks vs. Avalanche:
San Jose staged a stirring rally, coming form 3-1 down in the series and 3-0 down in the third period to beat the Golden Knights. Cody Eakin's major penalty for a "cross-check" opened the door for San Jose and they kicked it in scoring four power plays goals, then winning in overtime. Erik Karlsson had a brilliant offensive series but still is struggling defensively. Martin was horrific the first four games, but stoned Vegas in Games 5-6 and was just good enough in Game 7.
Colorado outplayed Calgary their entire series. Philipp Grubauer posted a .939 save percentage in besting Mike Smith while the Rocky Mountain Line, led by Mikko Rantanen, carried the Avalanche in their series win. Tyson Barrie was good again and we all got to see why Cale Makar is such a highly regarded prospect.
Do I take the team that had the ridiculous comeback or the one that's been off for a while. The same question could have been asked about the Isles-Canes series. In this case, the better goalie is Grubauer and I am betting he and the big-three carry Colorado to the win.
Pick: Colorado in six
How who remains in the playoffs impact the Rangers' draft position: (thanks jimbo for posting)
Carolina winning helps the chances for the Jets pick to be at #18
A Blue Jackets-Hurricanes and Dallas-Avalanche conference finals and Rangers pick 18th
St Louis works too to get that pick to #18 but for obvious reasons, aka another first pick would be in the coffers, we prefer Dallas to win
New York's worst scenario in terms of draft picks is if the conference finals are Islanders-Bruins and Sharks-Blues. If that transpires, the Blueshirts end up with the 21st pick and Dallas' pick remains a 2nd rounder