clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NHL Second Round Playoff Picks

Is it about to hit midnight for the two Cinderella teams that start playing tonight?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The first round of the NHL playoffs are completed and hopefully your bracket isn’t completely busted after a surprising round that saw Boston and Colorado take the fall in their respective matchups. I went 4-4 in my picks, not great and kicking myself only over not having the courage to talk myself into taking New Jersey like I wanted to.

It’s down to eight teams, four series. Le’s talk some puck about who is left, starting again with the games that start tonight — which both feature Cinderella teams looking to keep their parties going.

Florida Panthers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

An unexpected Atlantic Division finals. A quick detour: had I thought about it by then, this could have been included yesterday’s winning is hard article but let’s talk a little more about Florida’s upset of the historically great Boston Bruins. It was shocking, but there were signs - as we noted in the preview the Panthers did have the offensive muscle to put a scare into the Bruins. I went back and re-read The Athletic’s preview on the series and the signs were there that that wasn’t as lopsided as the 43 points that separated these teams in the standings.

That doesn’t mean the Panthers are roadkill in waiting — 27 percent is a very real chance. Flip a coin twice and Florida’s chances are the odds of getting heads twice in a row. That’s something. Still, the Bruins should take care of business here.

And later:

But if you think the Bruins are a lock to win the Cup this year just know that their odds for that (25 percent) are actually lower than their odds of losing this series (27 percent). Hockey is a chaotic game where anything can happen. Truly there are no guarantees, not in this sport. The playoffs are a brand new ball game and the Panthers won’t bow out of this one easily.

It seems like an even more monumental upset because 92% of internet fans on this poll predicted Boston would win at the outset of the series (can’t blame them, I was one of them).

And this holds for Toronto too, but the last quoted line in the paragraph means a lot. There are no guarantees in playoff hockey. The slightest swing in the bounce of a puck, getting a call (or not getting one), having a puck hit the knob of the goalie’s stick or go in the net. There are minute differences that could easily break for or against a team at any given time. For years the Maple Leafs have been getting the shaft, either in luck, performance or everything conspiring against them. They also had an impressive series win over the most consistent playoff team in the last decade against the Lightning.

As a result, we’re in uncharted waters that likely almost no one saw coming for a FLA/TOR matchup and both Boston and Tampa are watching from home. That’s the maddening excitement of the NHL playoffs.

Anyways, this was light on the matchup and analysis of the styles, but that should be interesting too. The goalie situations on both sides have been variable and unpredictable - it would not be any shock if the goalies that start the series end up both watching from the bench by the end. Toronto used some physicality and balance to bully and beat up Tampa, Florida pestered Boston in equal measures.

Key to the series: Florida, surprisingly, was excellent at only allowing 13 5v5 goals to the Bruins in seven contests (Boston scored an eye-popping 11 power play goals at over a 40% rate!). Can Toronto’s offense score at 5v5 better than Boston? If so, it could be looking good for the Leafs to be moving even deeper into the playoffs.

Prediction: Toronto in 6

Seattle Kraken vs. Dallas Stars

Perhaps a surprise (was for me) but this could be the most lopsided series in the second round with the Dallas Stars as a big favorite over the upstart Seattle Kraken.

At the risk of zigging when everyone else is zagging, I like Seattle’s chances a lot. The Kraken put on a great exhibition against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs couldn’t deal with the incessant forecheck and constant hounding that Seattle put on them. The Kraken work extremely hard and will present problems for Dallas.

The goalie matchup will be key, both Seattle and Dallas have received outstanding goaltending in the first round. For Jake Oettinger and the Stars, that’s not a surprise considering he’s one of the most talented and capable goalies in the game. Philipp Grubauer, however, has been a big disappointment in Seattle for his first two seasons. Up until about two weeks anyways.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have an unexpectedly red hot goalie for the Kraken!

The Stars are deeper than Colorado at the moment, and may be better prepared to handle Seattle’s pressure.

Key to the series: Special teams, as always, will be a major possible differentiating factor. Dallas only went even with 9 GF to 9 GA at 5v5 against Minnesota, but where the Stars really pulled away was with a dynamic power play that scored nine goals in the series at a 37.5% rate. Dallas also had one of the better PK’s around in the first round, killing at a 81% rate and only allowing four goals. If the Dallas power play remains great, their chances of moving on are good. But I have a nagging feeling that Grubauer and the disruptors in Seattle aren’t done yet.

Prediction: Seattle in 7