Now that the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is over, the second round matchups are set, and this year was definitely the year of the Wild Card seeds. Three number one seeds were eliminated against their strongly underrated opponents, all two seeds made it to the second round, but I still think the biggest surprise of the playoffs so far was Columbus sweeping Tampa Bay.
The ever-growing rivalry between Toronto and Boston grew even stronger when the two teams played each other again in the first round this year, with Boston winning in seven. This means that Columbus will travel to Boston for games one and two of the second round, and games three and four will be here in Columbus. I personally would have felt better if we were playing Toronto because their defense is not as strong and they have a similar playing style as Tampa, but Boston it is. In the regular season, Columbus went 1-2 against Boston, including an overtime loss on the road. I could very easily see this series going to at least six games, which will be very physical with lots of shots. Boston's first line seems to be the biggest area of concern for the Jackets based on regular season play, especially with weapons like Marchand, Pastrnak, and Bergeron firing on all cylinders. But with the solid defensive effort of Seth Jones and David Savard in the first round for the Jackets, it should be quite the defensive battle.
And in disappointing news, Vegas was eliminated in seven games by the San Jose Sharks, with a very controversial call in game seven that could have changed the outcome of the game. Nashville was also eliminated, by Central Division rival Dallas, in six games. St. Louis eliminated Winnipeg in six games, which effectively made every single one of my predictions for the first round wrong.
In hoping my predictions for the second round won't be entirely wrong, I'll give it another shot (haha, get it?). As much as I don't like the fact that Nashville was eliminated by Dallas, I could really see Dallas going to the third round with how well they're playing right now. St. Louis won't just roll over and not try, but I don't think they can match Dallas's intensity, so Dallas in seven. Hopefully, Columbus can pull out another surprise series win, but Boston is a difficult opponent on both sides of the ice, and optimistically I'm going to say Columbus in six. For Colorado and San Jose, I'm gonna have to go with the Sharks in five, because they have so much momentum after defeating Vegas in game seven. And for the final series, Washington/Carolina (that game seven is tonight) against the Islanders, I'm hoping for a Carolina victory, and then a loss to the Islanders in six games.
*UPDATE*: Columbus and Boston are now tied in the series at 1-1 after Charlie Coyle scored in overtime of game 1 to give Boston a 1-0 lead. Matt Duchene later made the Bruins pay with a game-winning game in the second overtime of game 2. Columbus and Boston will play again on Tuesday in Columbus for game 3 of the series. Carolina defeated Washington in game 7 of the series and is now tied with the Islanders at 1-1 in the series. Dallas and St. Louis are also tied at 1-1, and San Jose leads Colorado at 1-0 in the series.