NHL four-fold: Top tips for the opening games of the second round
The Predators, carrying momentum into the second round, head our best picks for the upcoming Game 1’s…
Nashville Predators to beat St Louis Blues –
Nashville were excellent defensively in the last round, conceding just three goals against Chicago.
The Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne has two shutouts and a save percentage of 97.6 in this year’s playoffs, while their top line of Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg have combined for 15 points in total.
The Blues have some weaknesses that the Predators can exploit, with the worst power play percentage and faceoff percentage of all the playoff teams.
They also averaged 36.4 shots against per game in the first round, and just 26.8 shots for. If they keep getting outshot like this, they will eventually run into trouble.
Nashville already proved that they can win road games and they will likely start this series with a W in St Louis.
Anaheim Ducks to beat Edmonton Oilers –
Having swept the flames, the Ducks now face a young, hungry Oilers team.
This matchup will be a tough one for Anaheim but they have all the tools to beat the Oilers.
Their home-ice advantage will be a major factor in Game 1. In the regular season Anaheim were the best home team in the Western Conference with a record of 29-8-4.
The Ducks also have much more playoff experience, with a combined 831 NHL playoff games, compared to Edmonton’s 423.
Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf is a true playoff veteran who has racked up 17 points in his last 14 games, while second-line center Ryan Kesler is capable of shutting down the Oilers’ top gun Connor McDavid.
This should be a long and hard-fought series, but the Ducks are the smart pick for the opening game.
New York Rangers to beat Ottawa Senators –
The Rangers are a very difficult team to stop, with eight players who scored at least 15 goals in the regular season.
Only Minnesota and Pittsburgh equalled that tally, while Ottawa had just four.
In the playoffs, the Rangers have been good defensively allowing just 1.83 goals per game against Montreal with a penalty killing percentage of 85.
New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is also performing very well once again, with a save percentage of 94.7 against the Canadiens.
The Rangers opened their first round series with a road win, and will most likely do that again here.
Washington Capitals to beat Pittsburgh Penguins –
The Capitals will have the home-ice advantage here, which is huge considering they were the league’s best home team in the regular season with a record of 32-7-2.
The Caps also allowed the NHL’s fewest goals and stifled a dangerous offensive team – the Toronto Maple Leafs – in the first round of the playoffs.
The Penguins are an even bigger offensive powerhouse, but defensively they are vulnerable without top defenseman Kris Letang in the line-up.
They also allowed 38.8 shots against per game in the first round versus the Blue Jackets – the highest of any team.
In the goaltending battle the Caps should have the advantage. Washington’s Braden Holtby has a 93.6 career playoff save percentage, while Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury’s percentage is just 90.7.
This will most likely be a seven game series but the Caps look likely to open with a win.