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Predicting the Conference Semifinals

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They certainly aren’t wasting any time getting the next round started.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Vancouver Canucks at St. Louis Blues Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Once the first round came to a close on Friday evening, the NHL wasted no time getting the action started for the next round. Colorado and Dallas will drop the puck on the conference semifinals tonight in Edmonton, with the other three series beginning on Sunday and Monday. With how the first round played out and the NHL’s decision to re-seed teams instead of using a traditional bracket format, each of the four divisions are guaranteed to have a team in the conference finals.

The Bracket

Let's’ take a quick peek at the updated bracket before getting to the predictions. As a reminder, the highest seed team plays the lowest seed team remaining in each conference.

via @NHL

Schedule

Aside from one game in the East, afternoon hockey is a thing of the past as the field of teams is trimmed down to eight. Here is when and where you can watch all the second round playoff action.

via @wyshynski

This round is also the final round of action set to take place inside the Toronto bubble. Everything will shift to the Edmonton bubble that will play host to both conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final.

Eastern Conference

There is surely to be some hate brewing the Eastern Conference semifinal round with each of the two series being a divisional rivalry matchup. For the Metropolitan division, it will be the Philadelphia Flyers taking on the cinderella New York Islanders. On the Atlantic division side, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning facing the Boston Bruins in a series that features the top two East sides from the regular season.

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 6 New York Islanders

For the top seeded Flyers, the first round of action was anything but a cake walk against the eighth seeded Montreal Canadiens. Although the favorites did prevail in six games, the Canadiens gave them everything they could possibly handle. Goaltender Carter Hart pitched consecutive shutouts against the Canadiens and they will need more of that against the high flying Islanders.

Barry Trotz exacted some measure of revenge against his former team with an impressive five game victory over the Capitals in the first round. His young Islanders side completely overwhelmed the Capitals by dominating all facets of the game from almost start to finish. No team has looked more impressive during their bubble stay than the Islanders thus far, and now they face their biggest test yet in the top seeded Flyers.

Series Prediction: Islanders in 7

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Philadelphia Flyers
    (177 votes)
  • 73%
    New York Islanders
    (479 votes)
656 votes total Vote Now

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins

Speaking of revenge, consider the demons exorcised for the Tampa Bay Lightning who put last year season behind them and dispatched the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games. That series will be best remembered for the 5OT thriller in Game 1 that nearly set a new modern day NHL record for longest playoff game. It was a series victory the Lightning needed for their own confidence and they got it done by beating Columbus at their own game.

For as bad as Boston looked during round robin play, they looked equally as impressive during their five game victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. They were delivered stunning news prior to Game 3 of that series when starting goaltender Tuukka Rask announced he was option out of the remainder of the playoffs. Good thing the Bruins have Jaroslav Halak to fall back on and he proved his worth, winning the next three games to help the Bruins advance.

Note: Tampa Bay defeated Boston 3-2 in the round robin.

Series Prediction: Lightning in 6

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Tampa Bay Lightning
    (438 votes)
  • 26%
    Boston Bruins
    (159 votes)
597 votes total Vote Now

Western Conference

Like the Eastern Conference, the two series in the West are also division rivals facing off to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. In one matchup, it’s a Pacific division showdown between the top seeded Vegas Golden Knights and the upset minded young guns of the Vancouver Canucks. On the flip side, a meeting between the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars will determine which team represents the Central division in the Western Conference Finals.

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks

There is a potential Western Conference Final everyone wants to see, and the Golden Knights are one half of the formula. Vegas made quick work of the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and looked the part of a Cup favorite in doing so. Unless he falls apart, it looks like Robin Lehner will be the Knights starter over Marc-Andre Fleury. From the top line to the depth players, Vegas has everything rolling right now.

This being the first playoff experience for many of the Canucks young stars, they have played like anything but playoff first timers to this point. So far, they have knocked off a pair of veteran laden squads, including the defending champion St. Louis Blues last round. All those young guns have been producing for the Canucks and that will need to continue in the second round against their most difficult test yet in the top seeded Golden Knights.

Series Prediction: Golden Knights in 5

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Vegas Golden Knights
    (458 votes)
  • 20%
    Vancouver Canucks
    (120 votes)
578 votes total Vote Now

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars

If Vegas in one part of a Western Conference Final Thunderdome matchup, then Colorado is the second ingredient. Before that can happen though, the Avalanche will need to find a way past the Dallas Stars here in the second round. Their five game victory over the Arizona Coyotes was complete domination, even in their one loss. Colorado is relentless at both ends of the ice and gets scoring from up and down the lineup. Dallas will provide more of a test for goaltender Philipp Grubauer, but his play this far indicates he’ll be ready.

Dallas scored seven unanswered goals in Game 6 to eliminate the Calgary Flames, but hopefully they saved some of the scoring to help themselves keep up with the Avalanche. It’s no question the Stars can score in bunches which they will need to if they want to compete with Colorado. The biggest concern for the Stars will be whether or not the blue line and goaltending will be up to task against an expected offensive onslaught from the Avalanche who come in waves.

Note: Colorado defeated Dallas 4-0 in the round robin.

Series Prediction: Avalanche in 6

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Colorado Avalanche
    (459 votes)
  • 19%
    Dallas Stars
    (111 votes)
570 votes total Vote Now

With the playoff field now whittled down to eight team, we can only expect the quality of hockey to improve as the best sides remain alive. It gets underway later this evening when Colorado and Dallas square off in Game 1 of their series with the other series following suit on Sunday then Monday.

As always, feel free to make your own picks and predictions in the comments and discuss with your fellow readers. Don’t forget to check back for the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final as well since we will be making predictions throughout the remainder of the playoffs.