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3. BOSTON BRUINS -225 (33-16-7 / 73pts)
4. NEW YORK ISLANDERS +180 (32-17-7 / 71pts)
Here we have a clash between the 3rd & 4th seeds in the East. We have Boston, who after losing Game 1 to the Capitals, were able to rip off 4 straight wins, often looking to be a full class above Washington. Their trade deadline acquisitions of Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar have been paying off tremendous dividends, as they look like a different team from what we saw in the middle portion of this season. Hall has given them yet another lethal scoring threat, and Lazar has rejuvenated and energized a Bruins 4th line that sometimes looked flat. They will take on an Islanders team that may be just a little fortunate to have advanced to Round 2. New York defeated the Penguins 4-2 in Round 1, but if the Penguins would have had anyone not named “Tristan Jarry” in net, then chances are we are getting ready for a Bruins vs Penguins series. If you are reading this, chances are you do not know me personally – so you’re just going to have to take my word on this. I RARELY blame goaltenders for a team’s shortcomings and defeats. However, the Penguins Round 1 elimination should be laid squarely at the feet of Jarry. The Penguins led the Isles in Corsi, high-danger chances and xGF. They were visibly the better team in some of their losses. Luckily for the Isles, Jarry mistakenly showed up to these hockey games when he clearly thought he was supposed to be playing dodgeball. So here we are. Now that’s not to say that the Islanders played bad hockey. Their defense and goaltending were able to withstand a barrage of Penguins shot attempts. Part of that is thanks to head coach Barry Trotz, who once again pressed the right buttons. After Ilya Sorokin got the victory in Game 1, Trotz went back to his #1 goalie in Semyon Varlomov. However, after defeats in Games 2 & 3, Trotz would go back to the 25-year-old Sorokin, who won 3 straight. In this upcoming series against the Bruins, they will be facing a red-hot goalie in Tuukka Rask, so it is not likely that they will find offensive success as easily as they did against Pittsburgh. The Bruins are a team firing on all cylinders at the moment and should prove to be too much for the Isles to handle.
PICK: BOSTON BRUINS (-225 on FanDuel)
1. CAROLINA HURRICANES +114 (36-12-8 / 80pts)
3. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING -134 (36-17-3 / 75pts)
The year is 2021 and “Southern Hockey” may be the best brand of hockey on the planet. That may sound like a prelude to a Stanley Kubrick film about a dystopian future NHL, but it’s true. The 4 southern NHL teams gave us two of the most entertaining series in Round 1. The play was immaculate and the atmospheres at all four arenas were spectacular. We will get one more series of that brand of excitement with the top-seeded Hurricanes taking on the Lightning. The Tampa Bay Lightning have become a brand in hockey associated with success and skillful teams. They successfully began their title defense, defeating Florida 4-2, chasing both Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger from the net. Highly touted rookie goaltender Spencer Knight took over for Florida in Game 5, earning a 4-1 victory. He stopped 36 straight shots after allowing a goal on the Lightning’s first shot of the game. Tampa would get to the young netminder in Game 6, scoring on him 3 times and adding an empty netter to secure the series with a 4-0 shutout victory. On the outside it may look like a dominant series for the Lightning, but the numbers tell a different story. Tampa had a Corsi % of just 45.33%, an xGF% of 46.75% and a high-danger chances for % of 48.94%. Carolina had a considerable edge over Nashville in all 3 of those categories, along with most other advanced metric categories. My one hesitation in taking Carolina lies with their rest. While Carolina and Tampa both won their respective series in 6 games, the Hurricanes played an additional 5 periods more than Tampa when you factor in overtime. Although they may be more fatigued, Carolina should come into this series as the healthier team. The Lightning saw both Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev leave games with injuries. While they both would play the following games, one can assume that they may still be a little nicked up. Statistically, Carolina had the better play in Round 1. They also have home-ice advantage. Considering that, along with the fact that Tampa’s name carries a stigma that tilts lines in their favor, makes me think that the ‘Canes are the more valuable team to back in this matchup.
PICK: CAROLINA HURRICANES (+114 on DraftKings)