PHT’s 2021 NHL Second Round playoff predictions

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We’re now through the First Round as the Canadiens advanced to take on the Jets. So with the four Second Round series set, here are our picks for this round.

BRUINS vs. ISLANDERSseries livestream link

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Bruins in 6. The Bruins have just about everything you can want in a contender: a deadly top line, an elite defenseman, and a great goalie. Now they also have some strong depth, and the versatility to play the Islanders’ style if needed. That doesn’t mean the Isles’ style wouldn’t work, mind you, but I’m (figuratively) betting on Boston.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer Bruins in 6. It is really hard to pick against Barry Trotz and Ilya Sorokin the way he played in the First Round, but they are not going to run into a team with no goalie this time. The Bruins have two great scoring lines, an outstanding defense, and a top-tier goalie. The Taylor Hall trade changed everything for them and they keep rolling. Islanders give them a real fight, but Bruins win it.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Bruins in 7. The Bruins are the hottest team in hockey, and suddenly this matchup isn’t as daunting. I still think the Islanders will be a tough task, but the Bruins depth is too much.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Bruins in 6. The Islanders used timely scoring and good goaltending to get by Pittsburgh. Now they face arguably the hottest NHL team since the trade deadline and have to figure out how contain the Bruins’ dangerous top six. Boston has been a different team lately, and will make sure that 11% New York shooting percentage at 5-on-5 drop over the course of this series.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Islanders in 7. The Islanders have been playing playoff hockey all season, just like they have the past few seasons under coach Barry Trotz. The Bruins have a strong team led by their top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand but the Islanders will shut down the rest of the lineup, allowing them to sneak past Boston. Ilya Sorokin will continue to surprise and will just outplay Tuukka Rask. It will be a close series and Game 7 could even go into overtime.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]

HURRICANES vs. LIGHTNINGseries livestream link

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. The Hurricanes strike me as the almost-Lightning. They have depth, high-end skill, smart management, and perhaps finally a goalie they can trust. The Lightning just mostly have slightly better versions of those strengths.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. This, for me, is a coin flip. Love both teams. If this were a traditional playoff year with the normal conference alignments I would say these are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. As it stands, I think they are two of the four best teams in the entire league. I really want to pick Carolina. But I can not get by the goaltending advantage that I see with Andrei Vasilevskiy against Alex Nedeljkovic or the fact they have a rested Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Hurricanes in 6. Tampa Bay can beat anyone. I still think the Hurricanes are probably the scariest team in the league. This will be a good challenge because they don’t have a goaltending advantage this time around.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. Both faced a fight in their respective First Round series, but made it through in six games. Tampa still looks like it’s getting going while the Hurricanes enter battle tested after straight overtime games. The Lightning get the slight edge here because while Alex Nedeljkovic has been solid, we’ve yet to see the best from Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Hurricanes in 7. There are a few signs that the Lightning aren’t as good as they were last season. They played the Panthers tough but Florida did not get any real goaltending, allowing the Bolts to get past them. That won’t be the case against the Hurricanes as they have excellent goaltending in Alex Nedeljkovic, as well as a good blueline led by Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin. Tampa Bay is hurting as Victor Hedman is dealing with an injury and I am not convinced that Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos will not hit a wall as they have returned from injury. Andrei Vasilevskiy is capable of stealing a series and could do so for Tampa Bay.

Avalanche
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[NBC SPORTS STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

AVALANCHE vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTSseries livestream link

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Avalanche in 6. I really wanted to stick with my preseason Stanley Cup pick (VGK) through thick and thin, but folks, those waters are simply too choppy. At their best, the Avalanche struck me as the better team, and now they have a significant rest advantage. Vegas has a chance, but I can’t fight both my brain and my gut on this one.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Avalanche in 7. Wanted this matchup in the Western Conference Final a year ago, and now we get here in the Second Round and it should be amazing. In my mind these are the absolute two best teams in the entire league and I could see the winner of this series winning the Stanley Cup. Colorado has been my pick all along and I still think that to be the case. This team just plays at a different level than everybody else this season. As long as the goaltending stays strong there is not a weakness on this roster. The best, most talented team in the league from top to bottom. While the forwards and the offense get almost all of the attention the defense is what really separates them from everybody else in the league.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Avalanche in 7. They’re similar teams on similar runs. I think Colorado’s defense will be the X-factor.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Avalanche in 7. This feels like the year for the Avalanche. They dominated St. Louis in the First Round and got plenty of rest while Vegas fought to get by the Wild. It’s lining up for a quick series start for Colorado, while Vegas plays catchup in what could be the best series of these playoffs.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Avalanche in 5. The Avs have the best team in hockey and although the Golden Knights could be the second best team in the league, the Avs should win all three in Denver and split in Las Vegas. The line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog rocked against the Blues while their strong blueline led by Cale Makar and the outstanding netminding of Philipp Grubauer as well as extra time off, while Vegas played a tough seven game series against Minnesota, should be enough. Vegas has Marc-Andre Fleury who is capable of shutting down anyone, but it may not be enough for the series win.

CANADIENS vs. JETS

James O’Brien, NHL writerJets in 6. The Canadiens play a better team game than the Jets, but Winnipeg tends to finish at a high enough rate to offset that. As great as Carey Price has been in the playoffs lately, Connor Hellebuyck matched that, and has delivered far more regularly. Those factors swing things ever so slightly toward the Jets.

Adam Gretz, NHL writerJets in 7: I can see this being a coin flip series because both teams have their share of flaws and both teams have goalies that can put their team on their backs and carry it. They both did that in their First Round series. I like the Jets top-line forwards a little better than Montreal’s, and I think Hellebuyck covers whatever issues they have on defense. So give me the Jets in a close series.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writerJets in 6. It’s tough to bet against the Canadiens now, unless you subscribe to the theory that the Game 7 loss is totally on the Maple Leafs, like I do. I certainly didn’t expect either of these teams to be here, but Winnipeg has had a decent amount of rest while the Canadiens battled it out in a grueling series.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Jets in 6. Looks like 2015-16 Carey Price is back, and he was terrific vs. the Leafs. But Connor Hellebuyck is no fluke, plus the Jets are still waiting for Pierre-Luc Dubois to flip the “playoff beast mode” switch. That should come this series, along with many eyes opening at the talent that is Nikolaj Ehlers.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Jets in 4. The Canadiens were all out to beat Toronto and are a tired team heading into the North Division final. Carey Price was outstanding against Toronto much like he was last season in an upset over Pittsburgh but you can’t expect it to happen two series in a row. Winnipeg is stronger up front with stars like Scheifele, Connor, Ehlers and Wheeler and I still like Hellebuyck more than Price.

Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

“It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

“It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

“Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

“That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

“You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

UP NEXT

Capitals: At Vancouver on Tuesday night.

Devils: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.