It was an eventful first round, complete with chaos, upsets and thankfully, left us heading to a second round free of Brad Marchand and Patrick Kane.
Well that was fun, right? There is little that compares to the first round of the NHL playoffs. It's two weeks of pure adrenaline on ice. This year's version did not disappoint.
"This year, the hottest round of the playoffs is the First. This round has everything: Guys with names I cannot spell, between the legs goals, geriatric coaches complaining about those damn kids, and the "greatest team in NHL history" being exposed as absolute frauds!"
Before we get to the predictions for round two, let's take a look at how our panel of er, experts fared in their round one prognostications, shall we? The process here is: One point for correctly predicting the winner, and one point for the correct number of games.
Total Score: 8 points
Total Score: 11 points
Total Score: 7 points
Beggsy (predictions made on this episode of the Locked On Canucks pod)
Total Score: 7 points
A fine performance from Jimmi here, and Westy was almost as good in his Western Conference picks as I was with the East. As for my Western Conference predictions, I will not be answering any further questions at this time.
The Second Round gets underway with the corpse of the Rangers costly first round exit still fresh, so let's see who we like to make it to the final four!
CAROLINA HURRICANES vs NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Canes made quick work of the Islanders, freeing Bo Horvat to do his patriotic duty and lead Team Canada to gold at the upcoming World Championships. The Devils roared back from a 2-0 deficit where they got clowned on home ice and did a masterful job of shutting down a Rangers team that was used to scoring at will. Who ya got?
Westy - Two very structured teams that are built for playoff hockey. Which means it might be the most boring, neutral zone trapping series in the 2nd round. They both have powerplays that suck and PKs that are amazing. Schmid vs Raanta is the goalie battle we all never wanted....but Carolina might have a chance since Freddy Andersen isn't playing. I think NJ wins the battle of boring. Devils in 7
jimmi - Since I picked the fully-loaded-up Rags to beat the Devils and lost, must be less cavalier about this next eastern hockey cabal matchup I could care less about. However, I do care that this is a nightmare for Nucks fans. If the Devils had lost, the NJ Hughes brothers would have pressured Quinn to join them... if the Devils win this round...the NJ Hughes brothers will pressure Quinn to join them. We just can't win - but the Devils will in 6.
Kent- I don't know if I agree with Westy's assessment that these are two boring teams. Defensively responsible? Sure. Boring? Nah, and that series against the Rangers showed the Devils can light up other teams just fine. With the Bruins out of the picture, Carolina is one of the Eastern frontrunners, and their edge in experience will be the difference here. Probably. Not 100% confident they can do it if Akira Schmid stays hot. Canes in 7.
Beggsy - Speed for days in this one. Carolina should be the favourite, but this New Jersey team has more starpower at the top of their lineup, led by Jack Hughes. Here's hoping that a long playoff run for the Hughes brothers inspires Quinn to take his game to new heights next season. Devils in 6.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS vs FLORIDA PANTHERS
For just short of two decades, the hockey gods provided schadenfreude for hockey fans with the Leafs and their inability to advance beyond the first round. But much like the Canucks slaying the Dragon in 2011 with their epic Game Seven OT win over Chicago, the Leafs took down one of the teams that had caused them so much pain over the last few years. And when one window closes, a trap door opens. The Florida Panthers pulled off an upset of historic proportions by taking out the Boston Bruins, who finished 43 points ahead of the Cats in the regular season. With the Leafs not having to deal with Tampa or Boston, could this be their year, or is Cinderella going to get Roberto Luongo's name on the Cup? Who ya got?
Westy - It had to happen sooner or later. Toronto was the better team all year and was able to remember that when it mattered. The Leafs forward finally bought into playing defense until the Bolts made mistakes and then capitalized on them. now Toronto has to face a Florida team that didn't seem to care that they faced the best regular season team ever. That lack of awareness or caring might be just the thing that gets Florida into a long series with the Leafs. The season series was close as three out of four games went into overtime. Unfortunately for the Cats, they don't know how to kill a penalty and also keep taking penalties. Toronto will find a way...again. Leafs in 6
jimmi - It was easy to pick the easy upset over the regular season's best team. We know from...ummm... experience winning the coveted Prez trophy means no easy games in the 2nd season. So did the Cats, 2022 Prez Trophy winners who went on to ummm... you know... lose.
As predicted, the CoTU shook up their long, long and really quite long tradition of 1st round exits, while dispatching the 2 time Covid-Cup champs. So, congrats are in order, I guess. Is this the start of a new 2nd round exit habit? Perhaps. Expect the Cats will take their well-earned momentum for an early lead in the series,
but the gravitas of CoTU will inexorably pull the Cats PK to the Nucks side of disappointment and extend it. Updated results: Cats in 4.
Kent- It really does look like the year of the underdog, but who is the underdog in this series? Is it the team who knocked off the greatest team the NHL's ever seen, who just happened to win the Presidents' Trophy a year ago? Or is it the team who hadn't won a first round playoff series in 19 years? It's gonna be a fun series to watch, but I really feel like the Leafs are going to prevail here. Leafs in 7.
Beggsy - Wow, so much Leaf love here. Even my Nucking NM brethren are falling for Toronto's charm. They should be the favourite here, but Matthew Tkachuk is the best player on either team in this series. I'm picking with my heart in this one. Panthers in 6.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS vs EDMONTON OILERS
The Vegas Golden Knights might be the top seed in the West, but it's hard to call them the favorites. After receiving passive resistance from the Winnipeg Jets, a team playing without a good chunk of their top players, the Knights will actually get a test from the Oilers, who were able to dispatch the LA Kings with the predictable ton of scoring from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard. Wait... what? Bouchard had a beast of a round, equalling the 10 points put up by McDavid, leading all defencemen in scoring so far. They're also getting good goaltending from Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell. The Knights have to hope that Laurent Brossoit, who was hardly tested by the Jets, can hold the fort against the Oilers and their offensive juggernaut. Who ya got?
Westy - The Oilers snuck by LA again this year and some would think that's the wake up call for them to get in gear to make the finals. I, on the other hand, believe that LA showed Vegas all the weak parts that the Golden Knights offence can now pick apart. Stuart Skinner is not a great goalie and the Oilers defense is not going to save him. The Knights offensive talent is better than LA's, and their defensive structure is stronger. The only chance for the Oilers is if McDavid and Draisaitl can each score 2 goals a game and some else steps up and scores one. Vegas in 7
jimmi - Westy has noted the Oil goalie unprowess and the Gollum Nights of the Crooked Table defensive structure, but it's not important. What is important is the McOil PP. Ridiculously effective all season, was even more ridiculous in the 1st round. Scored on 9 of 16 chances!
Meanwhile, the Vegan Nighties 25th ranked PK didn't look that great and their PP was worse. If any series is a battle of special teams, this is it. How special is that? If we ignore 5-on-5 play, it's Oilers in 6.
Kent- Don't let their cakewalk over Winnipeg fool you, folks. This Vegas team is fraudulent and the Oilers ferocious power play are going to be what exposes the Knights. All that glitters is gold, but sometimes, when you get close enough, you can see it's just tinfoil. Oilers in 5.
Beggsy - The Edmonton Oilers are the Stanley Cup favourites among the eight remaining teams. That means they're destined to lose this series to a deeper Vegas Golden Knights squad. Vegas in 7.
DALLAS STARS vs SEATTLE KRAKEN
Dallas looked good against Minnesota, and like they have all year, are getting solid goaltending from Jake Oettinger. Seattle meanwhile, pulled off the second biggest upset of the playoffs taking out the defending Stanley Cup Champions in six games, looking impressive in the process with a mix of speed and skill. You know, kinda like the Dallas Stars. Two really similarly built squads, that should provide the most entertaining series of the season. Can Dallas continue their quest to win their second Cup in franchise history, or will the Kraken continue to write it? Who ya got?
Westy - Talk about a series bores US viewers....the battle of who give a fuck. Seattle beat the reigning Cup champs and Dallas beat a grinding Minny team. Now it comes down to who can realize that this is the best shot either team ever had to get to a conference final. Seattle players are riding high and still have lots of areas to improve on and Dallas has been the average team that plays a team that grinds like Minnesota did.
Seattle winning makes for interesting writing, but not for a Canuck fan. It's a repeated slap to the face. I have to go against them. Dallas in 6.
jimmi - Admit I didn't expect the kraks in the Avs to be so obvious. Between injuries and a Rocky Cup hangover, the Avs just didn't seem that hungry or interested in going all the way to Mt 16 again. The new upstarts, however, were keen to clutch, grab, push, shove and annoy the defending champs. That was really annoying. I didn't even know that Minni and Dallas were having their own grindy grindy round 1 series - that's how dull those games were.
While the newbies to the south face a more tedious challenge to the south, this could be a tedious series to predict/watch/care about. However tedious, tedious is one of our tedious mantras at NM. This will be a tedious, tight, dull series with a tedious result - just so the NHL can rub sea salt in our wounds - Kraken in 7.
Kent- I've been living in the heart of Leafland for over 5 years now, and I think I have mastered one of the skills of the media here: Taking any situation, and spinning it to query how it affects the Leafs. So let's apply that to the Canucks. What's going to be the worst case scenario here? Obviously, it's a Seattle team that rolls through the West and meets a decimated opponent from the bloodbath that is the Eastern Conference. Think you suffer from Canucks angst now? Wait til they're hoisting a Cup in year two down the I-5. And if they get by Dallas, good lord. It's not at the point of making me lose sleep, but for how much longer? Kraken in 7.
Beggsy - I'm picking with my heart again here. I can see the Kraken and their aggressive, team-orientated style of pressuring forecheckers in the defensive zone neutralizing the Stars attack. It also makes me sick to think that our I5 rivals might make it to the Conference Finals. Go Stars Go. Stars in 5.