Can NHL Second Round Match First Round Excitement?
The NHL postseason is moving right along into the second round. Which teams will survive and advance to the conference finals?
The first round of the 2023 NHL playoffs was an all-timer in terms of excitement. Three series went to a Game 7 and four went to six games. All four No. 2-seeds were able to pull off series wins, but only half of the four top seeds can say the same.
With the defending champion Colorado Avalanche and team with the best regular season of all-time in the Boston Bruins sent home early, who will rise up and become title favorites?
This has already been one of the more exciting NHL postseasons in recent memory, and the fun is truly only beginning with three rounds left to go.
Here are second round series previews.
Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers are coming in off semi-historic first round series wins. Toronto’s series win marked its first since 2004, as the Leafs had struggled to get out of the first round for years. The Panthers are fresh off knocking out the Bruins, who just came off the best statistical regular season in NHL history in terms of wins and points. Both teams overcame adversity and will continue on with that same chip on their respective shoulders.
As for this series, the Leafs are the clear favorites. They have been on the brink of a deep playoff run for a few years. After finally getting past Tampa, this seems to be the year. They have a deeper squad as well as more star power, with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner leading the way. This could very well be Toronto’s year to make a run at the Cup.
Prediction: Toronto Maple Leafs -205 over Florida Panthers +170
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New Yorkers, look away from this series. The Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils were able to knock off both New York hockey teams in the first round to set up what should be the most evenly matched second round series of the postseason. Carolina won in six against the New York Islanders, but needed overtime to win two of the games and easily could have been on the other side of that series looking in. New Jersey was in a similar position, as they were a game 3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers away from going down 3-0 and having virtually no chance to advance to the second round. Fortunately for the Devils, they won that overtime game as well as the next game also on the road en route to a comeback series win in seven.
The Devils have momentum coming off an emotional series win in seven against the better New York team. They are a young but deep squad. They seem to have their entire team playing great hockey at the right time. Centers/captains Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are arguably the best players on the ice in this series and should be able to lead their team to the conference finals. New Jersey proved they can win on the road in the first round and will need to do so again to win this series.
Prediction: New Jersey Devils -125 over Carolina Hurricanes +105
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The Dallas Stars got off to a rocky start in the first round, going down 2-1 early against the Minnesota Wild. They took care of business afterwards, however, rattling off three consecutive victories and closing out the Wild in six. The Seattle Kraken, meanwhile, defied all odds and advanced in game seven on the road against the defending champion Avalanche.
While both teams are coming in with strong momentum on their side, Dallas is the better squad. They will not be as shocked by the play of the Kraken as the Avalanche was in the first round. Roope Hintz emerged as a star for the Stars. He had a hat trick and two three-assist games in the Minnesota series. Goaltender Jake Oettinger also stepped up in a huge way. He allowed just three goals in the final three games of the series. The Stars should emerge from this one.
Prediction: Dallas Stars -190 over Seattle Kraken +158
The Vegas Golden Knights were the lone team to win a series in under six games in the first round after having their way with the Winnipeg Jets by a 4-1 series tally. The Edmonton Oilers went to six games with the Los Angeles Kings but also appeared relatively dominant in that series.
Vegas sent a clear message to the rest of the league with their first round series win. Edmonton appears, however, to have the edge in this series. The Oilers have a deep squad and are rolling at the right time. Connor McDavid is the best player and will do everything he can to win his first Stanley Cup. Leon Draisaitl leads the postseason with seven goals and appears to be locked in while playing his Robin role. Similar to the Maple Leafs, this is a team that has been due for a deep postseason run. This very well could be the year.
Prediction: Edmonton Oilers -155 over Vegas Golden Knights +130
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