This article contains opinion. All stats current as of April 29.
Only the elite remain.
Those that rallied in round one now prove their worth in round two of playoff hockey. Three out of the four series are tied, while one series shows a surprising winner so far.
Three of the remaining hockey clubs have never won a cup (the St. Louis Blues, the San Jose Sharks and the Columbus Blue Jackets), while there are teams who haven’t won it since the new millenium began (the Dallas Stars and the New York Islanders). This could be an early indication of a close and tightly fought push for the cup with the underdogs of the season.
After upsetting the Washington Capitals, the Carolina Hurricanes pulled out back-to-back wins in Barclays Center to take a 2-0 series lead on the Islanders.
Game one consisted of a high shot, low goal kind of affair. Each team recorded 30-plus shots, but out of the entirety of 63, only one made it to the back of the net. That was the game-winning goal from Jordan Staal.
New York’s Robin Lehner and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek are showing off the confidence of second round goalies, and why not? The Islanders just swept the former back-to-back Stanley Cup champs, and the Hurricanes beat the defending Stanley Cup champs in a game seven.
Game two gave New York an early comfort to start the game. The Islanders managed to take an early lead off a power play goal. The goal came from a self-deflection from a Carolina defender’s stick, off Matthew Barzal’s shot/pass across the center.
But Mrazek seemed to suffer an odd injury and had to be taken off the ice. Curtis McElhinney came in to take his place a little under halfway through the second period. The Hurricanes got a lucky break at the end of the second period with a goal being called off due to a kicking motion.
The Hurricanes took the early lead in the third, and then off a lucky tip in, the Canes were up 2-1. Despite hitting the crossbar many times, the Islanders couldn’t sink one into the net. New York is down in the series heading back to face Carolina and the eruption of PNC Arena.
Last week, the Sharks were on the brink of elimination within the last 10 minutes against Vegas, but fate was on their side both then and in their first game against Colorado. Gabriel Bourque managed to score first off a rebound shot from the goalies’ pads, but San Jose tied it before the end of the first period.
The only other goal the Avalanche scored was in the second period, while the Sharks scored three in the same span. Then to finalize the score, San Jose scored an empty netter.
Game two, however, was more in Colorado’s favor.
Even though Evander Kane was the first on the score sheet, it made for an impressive comeback in the second period. After some impressive puck movement, Tyson Barrie threw the puck on net in an attempt to even the score. He succeeded, tying the game in the second period.
After the Avs’ Mikko Rantanen scurried the puck behind the net and got a pass off to Gabriel Landeskog, his shot bounced back to the faceoff circles where Tyson Barrie got his second goal on the night. Then, Matt Nieto scored a third unanswered goal for the Avs after it was nearly kept out by San Jose’s Brendan Dillion.
The Sharks didn’t give up until the bitter end.
Brent Burns brought his team within one under five minutes left. Even after an empty netter from Nathan MacKinnon, the Sharks found a way to score their third of the game with 10 seconds left but fell short a goal.
Elsewhere in the West, the Blues scored a goal in each period, helping them secure a 3-2 victory against the Dallas Stars in game one.
The Stars tallied their first goal in the second period from Jason Spezza. The Blues went on a power play with a little over two minutes left in the second. Vladimir Tarasenko scored just a few seconds in to bring St. Louis up a goal, and he scored again after a hard drive to the net, lifting the puck past Ben Bishop’s poke check.
Dallas then got another power play goal, but it wasn’t enough to take home a win in game one.
Dallas scored first in game two.Roope Hintz played a factor on the second goal, getting an assist and goal in the first period of play. But the four-on-four play clearly helped the Blues as much as the Stars.
Dallas fought harder for game two, winning 4-2 and tying the series at one.
In the other Eastern Conference series, both of the opening two playoff games between Boston and Columbus went into extra time.
Charlie Coyle scored one goal in the third and another in overtime (OT) to tally the game winner for Boston. Despite being on the power play, the Jackets gave up a shorthanded goal.
The Blue Jackets scored two unanswered goals in the third and then had the tying goal from Coyle to push game one into extra minutes. But the late effort put in by Columbus couldn’t secure them a win.
In the second game, the Bruins took an early lead starting off the game on a power play and taking the lead 1-0.
Then the Blue Jackets went on the power play early in the second, also scoring on it. Coyle again got a lucky bounce off a player’s skate and managed to put Boston up 2-1.
A 4v4 chance for the Blue Jackets and a bad pass inside Boston’s zone helped Artemi Panarin tie the game at two.
It was a scoreless third period and first OT. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron got a penalty called on him for tripping Seth Jones. Panarin rifled on net, and Matt Duchene got the rebound to score the 2OT game winner for Columbus.
The series is tied 1-1.
It’s hard to pick a favorite, only because there are so many wild card teams. Every wild card team made it to the second round.
Clearly this is an underdog kind of playoff series. The team left with the most recent Stanley Cup win is the Boston Bruins (2011), then Carolina (2006) and Colorado (2001). The newer teams that made it this far proved new competition to see.
Sometimes it’s even better than the normal talent of the mini-dynasties of the past decade.