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The first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs was filled with surprises, if not filled with lengthy series. Four of the series were over in five games or less. None of them went seven.
Will that change in the second round? According to our panel of hockey pundits, expect these series to go long.
Puck Daddy presents its 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs prognostications for Round 2, featuring editors Greg Wyshynski, Sean Leahy, Jen Neale and Josh Cooper; columnist Ryan Lambert; staff writer Justin Cuthbert; and fantasy writer Steve Laidlaw of Dobber Hockey.
Here’s how we see these series shaking out:
The standings after the opening round:
Justin Cuthbert (5-3)
Greg Wyshynski (5-3)
Steve Laidlaw (4-4)
Ryan Lambert (4-4)
Jen Neale (4-4)
Josh Cooper (3-5)
Sean Leahy (3-5)
Wyshynski was the lone writer to pick the Predators; Lambert to pick the Rangers; Cuthbert to pick the Blues; and Laidlaw to pick the Senators.
Alright, onto Round 2. We asked our panelists the following:
Which series are you most looking forward to and why?
Greg Wyshynski: Capitals vs. Penguins is on another level as far as anticipation. It’s like ranking all the new releases the week the Kendrick album drops. So due respect to the rest of series: You’re all second best.
But if I had to pick another must-watch series, it’s the Ducks and the Oilers. Not just to see Connor McDavid against Ryan Kesler’s line, but to see if my prediction of the Ducks winning in a Game 7 after firing a coach because he couldn’t win a Game 7 will come to pass.
Sean Leahy: Sid vs. Ovi is the obvious main attraction in Round 2, but how much fun is it going to be to watch Connor McDavid and friends for another series? The West is pretty open, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see either of these teams playing in front of goaltending performing at a high level make it to the Final.
Jen Neale: Pittsburgh and Washington. It feels like it’s going to come down to goaltending. We know how good Braden Holtby is. Since it doesn’t sound like Matt Murray isn’t coming back in the near future, the Pens continue to depend on Marc-Andre Fleury. Which Fleury is going to show up throughout the series?
Josh Cooper: Probably like most of the hockey world, I’m really looking forward to the Capitals and Penguins. That series has the most star power in the second-round and some great storylines. The Capitals say their team has championship mettle. Beating the Penguins is the best way to prove it.
Ryan Lambert: The Caps/Pens series is the one I think everyone on the planet is looking forward to, and for good reason. These are arguably the two best teams in the playoffs, and both play exciting brands of hockey. You can’t say that for literally any of the other series. It’s a shame Pittsburgh is so banged up, because both these teams at the height of their powers would be incredible.
Justin Cuthbert: It had to happen. The NHL’s format system wasn’t going to allow it to not happen, but it had to happen. The Capitals-Penguins is easily the most fascinating series in Round 2. Will the Leafs have taught Washington anything about combating team speed (hey, this Nate Schmidt is pretty good!). Can the Penguins hold up on defence again without Kris Letang? And who’s fresher, the Caps, who were given all they could handle in Round 1, or the Penguins, who played into June last summer? The format stinks, but the matchup don’t.
Steve Laidlaw: Penguins vs. Capitals. Because familiarity breeds contempt.
Your Conn Smythe pick thus far and why?
Greg Wyshynski: Jake Allen, and it’s not really close. Bruce Boudreau had every right to be befuddled and a red-faced as he was after that series, because the Wild outplayed the Blues and came up with one win in five games. That’s because Allen continued his strong post-Hitch run and was unbeatable for the most part in the series, with the caveat that the Blues did some strong work limiting high-danger chances (about five per game at 5v5).
Sean Leahy: Pekka Rinne. A .991 even strength save percentage and a pair of shutouts. The way Jake Allen is playing, we might have seven 1-0 games in that series.
Jen Neale: Jake Allen. He’s channeling J.S. Giguere from 2003.
Josh Cooper: Pekka Rinne is my Conn Smythe pick so far this postseason. In four games against the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1 he held a 0.70 goal-against average and .976 save percentage. Those numbers are ridiculous on their own, but add the fact that he was playing the Blackhawks and they look even better.
Ryan Lambert: You have to give it to Jake Allen right now, even if, y’know, he’s not gonna keep it up. The Predators have an offensive talent level in each of their first two lines that the Wild simply didn’t, and I hate to tell tales out of school here, but I don’t think Jake Allen is a .950 goalie in real life.
Justin Cuthbert: Good Pekka Rinne has to have the edge. Limiting the top-seeded Blackhawks to three goals total in the upset has to be worth at least that. Though Jake Allen was exceptional against a Wild team that certainly put forth a more determined effort than what Rinne dealt with.
Steve Laidlaw: Erik Karlsson has a broken foot and continues to carry the Senators as he has for years.
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