Do you feel that? The excitement? That’s right, it’s time for some more playoff hockey!
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs continue with round two as 8 teams vie for the most coveted trophy in all of sports: The Stanley Cup, which even at 123 years old looks as amazing as ever.
In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in what’s sure to be one heck of a series. Also in the East, the New York Islanders battle the Tampa Bay Lightning in a somewhat surprising match-up.
In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues take on the top-seeded Dallas Stars following a seven-game-winning series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Also in the West, the Predators, also coming of a seven-game-winning series, will face off against a well-rested San Jose Sharks team.
Our writers shared their picks for the Stanley Cup Semifinals:
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (1) Washington Capitals
ALYSSA: CAPITALS over Penguins in 7 games
This is easily the series to watch this round. Getting to see both Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby do battle in what easily could’ve been the Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins have been the hot team of late, but don’t count out the Caps whose path to the Stanley Cup just got a whole lot easier with some first round knockouts.
LIZZIE: PENGUINS over Capitals in 6 games
Not saying it’s going to be easy, but Pittsburgh is the hottest team in the league. They looked good against the Capitals late in the season; they’re on a roll, and we know what happens to teams that seemingly find their form late in the season. They win championships.
BEATA: CAPITALS over Penguins in 7 games
This series is going to be by far the most entertaining of the second round, and I am so excited to watch it play out. The crazy thing is that I feel like anything could happen: Washington could steamroll Pittsburgh and win it in four, or they could totally roll over and die, or the series could go seven. Ultimately, though, I think the Capitals will exploit a very weak Pittsburgh defense, the Holtbeast will shut the door, and the Caps will finally advance to the conference finals. Crosby and friends will give Washington a scare, but with both LA and Chicago eliminated, the Stanley Cup is Washington’s to lose. Bonus predictions: Ovechkin will score the series-clinching goal, Crosby will get at least one hat trick, and Phil Kessel will go home to stare longingly at his sister’s giant trophy case.
(W) New York Islanders vs. (1) Tampa Bay Lightning
ALYSSA: ISLANDERS over Lightning in 7 games
This is a difficult pick for me because both teams weren’t the hot pick coming into this match-up, but both have been saved by their goaltenders. This pick more than anything is a gut pick, and I just feel like the Islanders are
LIZZIE: LIGHTNING over Islanders in 7 games
Both survived the first round despite missing key players, and it feels like this one might come down to the goalies. I’ll take Ben Bishop over the surprisingly sharp Thomas Greiss any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Sorry.
BEATA: LIGHTNING over Islanders in 6 games
Okay, I’ll admit it: I have absolutely no idea what’s going down in this series. I don’t know enough about either team to feel confident in my answer, but I guess I’m picking the Lightning. I’m not totally sold on Tampa Bay (though I thought they would flame out in the first round last year and they made it to the finals, so you never know) but they still have an incredible amount of offensive talent, a defenseman who’s gotten some Norris trophy consideration, and excellent goaltending (I miss you, Bishop). The Islanders will make it interesting, but ultimately the Lightning will take home the division title.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (1) Dallas Stars
ALYSSA: BLUES over Stars in 6 games
This is going to the match-up to watch in the Western Conference as two of the hottest teams face off. To me the Blues feel like a team of destiny this season, be it retribution for the Rams moving to Los Angels, I don’t know, but the Blues just knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champions and are riding high.
LIZZIE: BLUES over Stars in 6 games
Defense wins championships. What? It’s true in all sports. Give me a good offensive team vs. a good defensive team and I’ll pick defense every time. I’ve learned my lesson. If it comes down to goaltending, the Blues win. And it probably will. Also, they just beat the defending champions. That’s gotta count for something, even if it’s just motivation.
BEATA: STARS over Blues in 7 games
This is a really interesting matchup, because both these teams are kind of hard to figure out. Dallas’ forward lineup is enough to give any goaltender nightmares, but the same could be said of their defense, for a very different reason. St Louis, on the other hand, has a much more balanced lineup, but without much star power at any position. I think the Blues will feast on the hapless Dallas defense, but the Stars’ offensive firepower will be enough to get them through to the next round, prompting St. Louis to freak out, promise huge offseason changes, and end up doing nothing at all, as is tradition. I predict ridiculously high scoring games, lots of comebacks and blown leads, and a highly controversial hit on a Stars player. Spezza will get the series clincher, scoring a big goal for the first time in his career, and I will cry. I just really want this to happen, okay?
(W) Nashville Predators vs. (3) San Jose Sharks
ALYSSA: SHARKS over Predators in 6 games
While the Predators certainly showed their playoff prowess in a seven-game-winning series over the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks, the Sharks are a team that no one’s really talking about right now. They easily dealt with recent Stanley Cup champions the Kings in five games. The Preds will give the Sharks a scare, but San Jose should easily emerge victorious.
LIZZIE: SHARKS over Predators in 6 games
The Sharks impressed me with their victory over the Kings. They had 10 different players score in that five game series and though I think Nashville is a good team, I don’t know that they’ve got it in them to stop the Sharks. Also, team name Sharks. They win just at that.
BEATA: SHARKS over Predators in 6 games
Can we just take a second to appreciate the fact that one of the Predators, Sharks, Stars or Blues will go to the finals? Mind=Blown. The Predators are a great underdog story, and while it would be nice to see them advance, I don’t think it will happen. The Sharks are a very underrated team with a balanced roster, a very good goaltender and a whole lot of motivation to finally get things done. While the Preds have the underdog narrative, the Sharks are fighting for redemption, and I think they’ll make it to the third round. Bonus predictions: Neal concusses someone, Weber blasts a hole through a player’s chest and sportswriters everywhere wonder why they didn’t put Burns and Josi higher on their Norris ballot.