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Hurricanes to beat Rangers 

After each team played through a difficult seven-game series, the battle continues in the second round.

The Hurricanes look like a better overall team on paper, but the Rangers found a way to win against a Penguins team that looked like it may have had their number for a bit. New York became the first team to record three consecutive comeback victories in elimination games, so they really had to scratch and claw to get into this position and now they have to play a team that has yet to lose on home ice this postseason.

That’s the single biggest reason I’ll ride with the Hurricanes in this game. They protect home ice especially well and play the matchups to their advantage. The Bruins gave the Canes all they could handle, though, and New York has a few more elite-level scoring talents that will challenge Carolina defensively in a way I don’t think Boston did consistently enough. Despite that, Carolina’s opportunity to control this series as the home team is no small thing.

Until someone proves they can go into Raleigh and beat Carolina, this is fairly open and shut for me. The Hurricanes were simply better at home, have an extra day of rest, and New York just played three straight games where they were on the brink of elimination before finding a way to win. That has to be a tiring experience, especially with all of those games being comeback victories. If the Rangers fall behind the Canes like they did against the Penguins, Carolina is better defensively and less likely to relinquish those leads than Pittsburgh was.

Jaccob Slavin to score 1+ points 

After the first round, Slavin leads the Hurricanes in scoring with eight points over the seven games against the Bruins. He had at least one point in six of those games, and six of his eight points came on home ice as well. The value here is too good to pass up given how well Slavin has played.

On top of producing, you know he’s going to be among the ice-time leaders for Carolina every single game of this series. While he’s way better known for the defensive elements of his game, he was especially active against the Rangers, not just in getting pucks up ice, but jumping into plays and making things happen in the offensive zone.

I think Slavin has played some of his best hockey of the season over these playoffs. As long as he’s healthy, he’s going to play anywhere from 21-25 minutes, meaning the opportunities for him to produce a point are plentiful.

Flames to beat Oilers 

The eyes of Canada will be on Alberta as these two long-time combatants go toe-to-toe in the playoffs for the first time since 1991. It’s almost impossible to believe it’s been that long since The Battle of Alberta got the playoff stage, but here we are.

Now you’ve got four of the league’s top 10 scorers from the regular season in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for Edmonton, and Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk for Calgary. So, it’s not just a great rivalry game, it’s going to be an especially exciting offensive head-to-head matchup.

The Flames got all they could handle from the Dallas Stars in the first round, needing OT in Game 7 to dispatch their opponents, but they made it count and now they’ve got home ice against their biggest rival. Home ice is a key component again. The Flames won three of four in Calgary in the first round. Also, young Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger was the biggest difference maker in the series. He was a big reason the Flames were on the ropes at all. In this series, however, the Flames will go head-to-head with 41-year-old Mike Smith. While Smith has experience, he has been his team’s weak link at times and Calgary has way more offensive weapons than the Los Angeles Kings did.

I think Smith is probably his team’s most important player overall. He did record a shutout in Game 7, which boosts confidence. He’ll also be working with an extra day’s rest. Those are huge benefits to the veteran netminder. However, I don’t like his chances as well against the onslaught that Calgary can bring to the table.

The X-factor, of course, is McDavid who has been playing some of his most desperate, competitive and effective hockey of his relatively young career. This is a guy who can put his team on his back and has done so many times before. He’s also scored more goals against Calgary than any team in his career, so you know he’s champing at the bit to get into this one.

In the end, I think Calgary has better depth, better balance, and even though they struggled to score against Dallas, they didn’t lack chances. At all strengths in Game 7 against Dallas, the Flames put together a whopping 66 scoring chances while allowing 25 and had a decisive advantage in high-danger chances for in every game but one against Dallas. They’re going to get their opportunities. They just have to make sure they’re also limiting the Oilers and not allowing them to gain enough momentum to push back.

Connor McDavid anytime goal scorer 

I might be picking against the Oilers in this game, but McDavid has been pretty tried and true against the Flames in his career. He has 47 points in 34 games in the Battle of Alberta including 26 goals. Those 26 goals for McDavid are the most he has against any NHL opponent in his career. While that may all be in the regular season and this is the playoffs, look at how McDavid has been playing of late.

Over his last three games against Los Angeles, he had eight points including a goal in each game. He had six in the four games before that. McDavid is still a freak and even though Calgary is going to do everything they can to make the game tougher for him, he’s going to find a way. He’s playing too well right now and has had too much success historically against the Flames to think he won’t have a major impact on this series and this first game.


Connor McDavid or Johnny Gaudreau to score 1+ goals