Brock gives his predictions on the second round matchups of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

After an exhilarating Round 1, we’re moving on to the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’ll be tough to top Round 1 as we saw two huge upsets with the record-setting Bruins and defending champion Avalanche going down, but there wont be a shortage of action. If you followed these picks then you had a profitable Round 1, cashing in on 5 series prices AND their exact outcomes, including a high-paying play on Florida who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in postseason history. Let’s see if we can keep it rolling!

Series Prices: 5-3 (+2.40 units)

Exact Outcomes: 5-3 (+22.50 units)

  • All stats are from 5-on-5 play unless noted otherwise.

Eastern Conference

FLORIDA PANTHERS (42-32-8) 92 pts

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (50-21-11) 111 pts

This must be the most anticipated series of Round 2. As a matter of fact, Leafs fans have been anticipating it for 19 years as it is their first appearance in the 2nd round since 2004. Throw in the fact that the Panthers just pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in NHL history and you have a recipe for must-watch hockey. I’m going to stray away from the analytics here, as this will be a very emotional series for both teams, and I believe that will play a factor in how things play out – but I will get to that in a minute. The Panthers will want to approach this series in a similar way to how they did in Round 1. They will want to play fast, throw a barrage of shots on net, and try to limit the amount of time that the Leafs are able to set up in the offensive zone. They will want to keep the Leafs scrambling. Toronto on the other hand will want to play a possession game, constantly probing and picking their chances, sort of like the Bruins. I know that didn’t end up going well for the Bruins, but the Leafs are more capable of playing a run ‘n gun game. This is important since there will certainly be stretches in this series where the teams will be trading scoring chances off the rush. Back to the emotional aspect of this series – as I said, this is the first time the Leafs have advanced since 2004. 

The atmosphere in Toronto will be raucous. The Leafs face more scrutiny from the media & fans than any other team. Not only has the lack of playoff success in Toronto been heavily published, it has constantly been on the minds of fans and is often thrown into the players’ faces. When the puck drops for a Round 2 game in Toronto for the first time in nearly two decades it will be like a weight has been lifted. The fans will feel it and the players will feel it. The atmosphere will be ecstatic. That will make it tough for Florida to gain momentum early on. As if that doesn’t make things tough enough for Florida, they just pulled off an upset of insane magnitude – and they had to expend a lot of energy to do so. 

The Panthers had to win 3 straight after falling behind 3-1 in the series, and two of those wins came in overtime on road ice. I expect Florida will come out a bit flat early in this series. Once the series shifts back to Florida, however, the Panthers should be able to steal back some momentum. This should be a high-scoring series against two teams who seem pretty evenly matched based on their play over the past few weeks. Toronto should come out hot, but Florida’s offense should provide stabilization. Once that happens, the pressure will be back on the Leafs, because we all know that a 2nd round exit isn’t what the city of Toronto is expecting from this team. That should give the Panthers an edge in the high-leverage games. Combine that with a favorable series price, and that makes me believe the Panthers will take it in 7. Give me Florida +145.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS (52-22-8) 112 pts

CAROLINA HURRICANES (52-21-9) 113 pts

After a slow start to the series, and some questionable roster moves, the Devils were able to storm back from a 2-0 series deficit, taking the next 3 games and eventually shutting the Rangers out in Game 7. In case you’ve had your head in the sand for the past week, the catalyzing event that sparked this team was the insertion of Akira Schmid back between the pipes. This guy has been phenomenal. In his five starts, the rookie netminder posted a SV% of .948, a GAA of 1.50, and a GSAA/60 of 0.70, good for 2nd place amongst goalies with multiple postseason starts. Igor Shesterkin led that category, which I few as a testament to how good this Devils team has been playing. If Shesterkin isn’t in goal, maybe that series doesn’t go the distance. Regardless, it’s on to the next one for New Jersey, and they will once again have to earn their goals as they will take on the best defense in the NHL when they face the Carolina Hurricanes. You can find the ‘Canes at, or near, the top of most defensive categories. They are #1 in Corsi Allowed, Fenwick Allowed, Shots Allowed, Expected Goals Allowed, and Scoring Chances Allowed. But they aren’t a one trick pony – they are in the top 3 of all of those categories on offense as well. The Devils aren’t far behind in most of those categories, however.

This series will feature a lot of tough, “grind it out” type of hockey. These teams will set up in their defensive structure and a staring contest will ensue. So, the question is this – who will blink first? I’m going to say Carolina. As good as their offensive metrics are, the Hurricanes don’t have the same type of firepower that the Devils do. They were supposed to, but injuries to Max Pacioretty & Andrei Svechnikov have dampened things on offense. I expect the Devils speedy & skilled forwards to break through at some point in this series while Akira Schmid locks down the crease. I’m saying Devils in 6. Give me New Jersey -122.

Western Conference

SEATTLE KRAKEN (46-28-8) 100 pts

DALLAS STARS (47-21-14) 108 pts

Any other year, the Kraken would the toast of the league right now. Unfortunately, their upset over the defending champs is being overshadowed by Florida’s upset against the Bruins. The Kraken are now 1-0 in playoff series in franchise history, and they will look to make it 2-0. I mentioned last week that this is the highest scoring 5-on-5 team in the league. They used their scoring abilities to strike quickly against Colorado, scoring first in all 7 games. That will not be the case against Dallas. The Stars are a team that is notorious for scoring quickly. Toward the end of the season they were 3rd in the NHL in 1st period scoring differential. A team’s game plan can change drastically when they find themselves chasing the game early. That could pose issues for Seattle. In the Colorado series, the Kraken often found themselves in a position to lockdown with a lead, and play low-event hockey, which is what they want to do. If the Stars can dictate play early, Seattle will find themselves playing catch up against a team that allowed the 3rd fewest scoring chances in the league, so I’m expecting a bit of a role reversal for Seattle in this series. I’m saying Stars in 6. Give me Dallas -188.

EDMONTON OILERS (50-23-9) 109 pts

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS (51-22-9) 111 pts

If you’ve been following my articles during my time at Rahl Reviews you have probably noticed that I have a lack of faith in the Oilers come playoff time. That’s still the case as we head into Round 2. We all know Connor McDavid alone is worth the price of admission. Draisaitl is a phenomenal talent as well. There’s no denying that those two are a force to be reckoned with. But beyond those two is where I get skeptical. This team isn’t very well constructed. They are the definition of top heavy. Which is a shame, because it limits a player who may very well be the consensus GOAT when he retires. The Oilers tried to fix these depth issues by acquiring guys like Evander Kane and Matthias Ekholm – and that’s a good start. The Oilers have seen an uptick in depth scoring and aren’t as prone to defensive breakdowns. It’s also worth noting that they had the xGF% edge at 5-on-5 this season when McDavid & Draisaitl were not on the ice. But I question whether it’s enough for the postseason where depth and defense become ever so more important. The Oilers powerplay converted at a 60% clip in that series against the Kings. That is just… otherworldly. Yet despite their amazing powerplay numbers, the Oilers found themselves in a dog fight throughout the series. This is scary for Edmonton because the powerplay won’t continue to operate at such a fervent pace. It just won’t. Vegas’ PK isn’t much better than the Kings, but I suspect their numbers are a little deflated due to the rash of injuries the team has sustained. Even if Vegas were to only hold Edmonton’s powerplay near 30%, that could be a problem for the Oilers. McDavid & Draisaitl will get their points, sure, but who is going to step up when Vegas is rolling four lines who are heavy on the forecheck and who will be shooting on a goaltender who posted a 3.43 GAA and an .890 SV% in his first playoff series last week? Ideally, for the Oilers, that would be Kane, Hyman, and Nugent-Hopkins. I don’t have much faith in that happening, however, as the three of them combined for only 2 goals at 5-on-5, only one of which came without a helper from 97 or 29. McDavid & Draisaitl will keep things interesting, but Vegas should be able to use their depth to overwhelm their opponent. I’m saying Golden Knights in 6. Give me Vegas +130.

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