Welcome to the 2021-22 Stanley Cup playoffs. The first round was nothing short of excellent. We saw a ton of series go the distance and some fantastic hockey. Eight teams continue their quest to bring home the greatest trophy in sports. Let’s take a look at the two matchups in the Eastern Conference and see about making some NHL playoffs round 2 predictions for those who might be looking to bet these games.
NHL Playoffs Round 2 Predictions - Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
It’s only fitting that the two Florida teams get to meet each other in the playoffs. Tampa Bay needed seven games to get past Toronto and they didn’t look like a team that has won back-to-back Stanley Cups. The Panthers got past Washington in six games, but they also didn’t look great in their series. One of these teams is going to step up and move on to the next round, but which one?
Tampa Bay had a really tough matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they did what they needed to do to get the job done. Great teams find a way to win even when they aren’t playing well. They’ve been here before and know what they need to do to get the job done.
Brayden Point’s injury is definitely a cause for concern. He injured himself in the final game of the series and is doubtful to play in the first two games. He’s a key part of the offence because it takes some pressure off Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov to do all the scoring. If he misses an extended period of time, Tampa’s depth will need to come up big. Nick Paul did that in game seven, but they will need more from everyone throughout the entire series.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was elite when his team needed him the most. He’s the rock that holds this team together. His 3.04 GAA and .897 SV% are not numbers to write home about, and it’s not going to get any easier in this series. The Panthers had the best offence in the regular season, and if he doesn’t find some consistency in his game, this series could be over in a hurry.
The Panthers got to where they are thanks to their depth. Carter Verhaeghe finished with 11 points in the first round, and if he can keep up his strong play, Florida has a really good chance at making it to the next round.
The one question mark for them is their goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky has decent in the first round, but he had moments where he didn’t look good. His 2.79 GAA and .906 SV% are respectable, but he needs to be better than Vasilevskiy on most nights to give his offence a chance to do what they do best. If he can’t get to that level, Tampa’s offence will eat him alive.
Florida also has to find a way to score on the power play. They finished that series with ZERO power play goals, which is crazy when you look at how loaded their offence is. That needs to change in this series. They are a good enough team to figure it out, but they need to do it fast.
In the end, I trust Andrei Vasilevskiy and Tampa’s offence a lot more than Florida’s. This series won’t be over quickly, but It will feature the Lightning moving on to the next round.
Predictions: Tampa Bay in 6
New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes
It’s not surprising to see both the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers make it to this point. Both teams were expected to make it to the next round, but it wasn’t as easy as some people thought it would be. The Rangers needed overtime in game seven to get past a Penguins team that saw three goalies start for them, while the Hurricanes also needed seven games and Antti Raanta to get past the Bruins. Both series were fun to watch, but now, only one of these teams is going to be moving on.
The Rangers finished a lot strong than how they started and a lot of that had to do with the play of Igor Shesterkin. His 3.66 GAA is a disaster to look at, but his .910 SV% tells another story. He did give up a decent amount of goals, but he also saw a crazy amount of shots. He saw 277 of them in just seven games, and yes a couple of their games did go to overtime, that is still a tremendous workload for any goalie to handle.
New York’s success also came from their best players being their best players. Mika Zibanejad finished the series with nine points, while as a team, they finished 3rd in goals per game (4.0) and power play percentage (31.6%). They gave up 4.14 goals per game, so that issue does need to be correct if they want any chance at getting to the next round.
For Carolina, it was all about a consistent team effort. Jaccob Slavin and Tony DeAngelo lead the team with eight points, which is great to see, but they need more from their top players. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov weren’t bad, but you can’t have two defenceman leading the team in points after the first round. I expect things to change in this series.
The big issue for them is the status of Frederik Andersen. Antti Raanta was excellent in the first round, posting a 2.37 GAA and a .927 SV%, but Andersen is their leader in the blue paint and he gives his team a better chance to win. It’s unlikely that he’s ready to start game one, but if he can’t go in this series at all, can the Hurricanes come out on top once again? I’m not so sure.
Both teams have a ton of depth up front and a good defensive group, but the Rangers have the edge in goal at this exact moment. If they can take advantage of Andersen not being in goal and steal a win on the road, they can get this series done in six games. Igor Shesterkin reminded everyone why he’s a finalist for the Hart and Vezina trophy in game seven, and if he can carry that strong play over to the second round, the Rangers will advance.
Prediction: New York in 6