The first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs are now complete, and eight teams remain: the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Out of all eight teams, the San Jose Sharks was the only three seed or lower to make the second round.
As of Sunday night, the Golden Knights and Sharks are tied 1-1 in the series. In game one, the Knights completely blew out the Sharks, but in game two, the Sharks took the game to two overtimes and finally pulled out a 4-3 double overtime victory.
From game one, it looked like Vegas was ready to dominate the series, easily applying offensive pressure to the Sharks and racking up the score. But, Vegas had to fight back to force overtime in game two as the Sharks looked like a completely different hockey team. Although Vegas is still the favorite to advance, don’t count out the Sharks who have brought a physical presence to the series.
In the top of the Western Conference, Winnipeg shocked Nashville by pulling out a 4-1 game one win. After winning their first series in franchise history, Winnipeg is looking to lock in their second franchise series win if Nashville doesn’t put up more of an offensive fight throughout the rest of the series.
Game two went to double overtime, with Nashville barely scrapping out a 5-4 win. Expect the rest of this series to be back and forth, going to the third period or beyond to officially decide a final score.
On the Eastern side, the Pittsburgh Penguins had to pull out three goals late in game one to win the first of the series, 3-2. In both game one and game two, the Capitals raced out to early leads and played a defensive-style game that rendered the Penguins unable to get quality shots on net.
The Penguins’ goaltending situation wasn’t helpful either in game two, as Matt Murray let up three goals that should have been stopped. The refereeing wasn’t on the Penguins side as well, with a questionable non-goalie interference call and a clear puck crossing the line from Patric Hornqvist.
Although the Penguins are the back-to-back champs and have beaten the Capitals in the second round the past two years, expect to see the Capitals keep up the offensive pressure to push the series to seven games.
In a surprising game one, Boston quickly jumped out to an early lead, surprising hockey fans who expected Tampa Bay to completely dominate Boston in a quick four-game series sweep. The game was over from the start as Boston never stopped putting shots on net, ending game one with a favored score of 6-2. Even though Boston hopped out to a major deficit in game one, expect to see the Lightning come back swinging in game two to win a game and pull out four following wins.
Because of the amount of high-ranked teams entering the second round, fans can expect to see many series’ going into game sixes and game sevens. A level of intensity unrecognized in the first round has emerged in the second, and teams will be battling hard to secure victories on home and away ice.
The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs are settling in to be an entertaining and high-intensity year, but fans can still expect to see hard-fought battles. Although I predicted two weeks ago that fans should expect to see Vegas and Pittsburgh in the final round, no one can count out the other six teams fighting hard in the second round to stay alive.