Round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs concluded on Wednesday and it was fantastic. It has been one of the wildest and chaotic first rounds in the playoffs that I have seen in a long time. You had huge upsets and crazy games throughout. The Eastern Conference games were just as crazy as the West. We saw two very surprising sweeps of the Lightning and Penguins and we saw multiple game 7’s happen. It has been a great ride and there’s still a lot of hockey to play. Here’s a preview of the next round.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Blue Jackets vs Bruins
The Columbus Blue Jackets will face off against the Boston Bruins in the second round which should be really intriguing. The Blue Jackets got a lot of rest after doing the improbable and sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins just got done with a grueling series against the Toronto Maple Leafs that went to a game seven.
The Bruins won the season series against the Blue Jackets with a record of 2-1-0 but as we’ve seen, that doesn’t matter one bit. The Blue Jackets top players need to continue to shine. Blue Jackets Forwards Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin led the way among all forwards on the team with five or more points in the first round. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been lights out and has stopped the attack from the Lightning averaging only two goals allowed per game. The Blue Jackets defensemen have also been really good for them. The top defensive pairings with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski have been great. They combined for nine points including a clutch game-winner from Seth Jones. If the Blue Jackets can continue the contributions from their top players and depth players then they will be a really tough out. If Bobrovsky can be lights out again then they will win the series.
The Bruins had a big series from their top forwards. They have four players with five or more points. Brad Marchand had 9 points, David Pastrnak had 6 points, and both David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron had five points. All four forwards have been dominate and helped bring them past the Maple Leafs. If the Bruins can get dominate performances by their top two lines and score a few on Bobrovksy then they can certainly pull it out.
Hurricanes vs Islanders
The Carolina Hurricanes had a tough series against the defending champs but pulled out a game seven victory to advance to face the New York Islanders. The Islanders had a very impressive sweep against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Like the Blue Jackets, The Islanders have a lot of rest heading into round two against a team who went to a game seven.
The Islanders won the season series 3-1 and will look to continue their winning ways. They have played great defense all season and the same is true in the first round. The Islanders shut down the Penguins top players and couldn’t sustain pressure. They had outstanding play from forwards Jordan Eberle and Matthew Barzal who both had 6 points. They will need a more than that from their top forwards if they are looking to move on. Goalie Robin Lehner has been really outstanding for the Islanders. He is only allowing just under 1.5 goals a game and had a save percentage of .956. He has been what the Islanders needed between the pipes. If the offense can’t score, then they will need to lean on Lehner all series long. If they can play defense like they have all year and get even close to what Lehner has done then they will win.
The Hurricanes top players needed to step up in the last series and they did. Defenseman Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton have led the way among defenseman with 5+ points. Forwards Jordan Staal and Warren Foegele both had 6 points and were important to their success. Veteran Justin Williams is still doing it as he had four points and played over 19 minutes a game. Players are stepping up for the Hurricanes when they need them to and it shows. Goalie Petr Mrazek wasn’t great but he’s done enough. The offense certainly helped the goaltending out and that is a great sign for the offense. If the Hurricanes can continue the scoring from various players and can stop the Islanders top players then the storm surge with be moving on.
The Eastern Conference will be a very exciting fight the rest of the way. The Blue Jackets are still looking for their first cup and the rest of the field haven’t won a cup in 7+ years. It’s wide open and teams can take advantage of the “big dogs” being eliminated. The Stanley Cup Playoffs will just get more and more interesting. Round two is sure to impress.
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