Takeaways and Looking at the Second Round

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The first round is over and it was….something. Here’s some takeaways from it:

-As much as I hate to say it, the Penguins look like they’re world beaters. Sure, they beat the Flyers who were beat-up themselves and not all that great when you look at their goaltending, but to put up 28 goals in six games is impressive regardless of how you look at it. For a team that’s played from top to bottom for two straight seasons, they look like they’re gonna make a bigger push to get to a third.

-Man, those Western Conference series were a bit of a snooze, huh?? Two sweeps, both in the Pacific and the only real big deal series maybe showed the defending Conference Champs showing some vulnerability against a definitively weaker opponent. That said, at least the also-rans are out of the way for the new crop of powerhouses to take control of the division for a bit.

-The question is does this powerhouse really include the Vegas Golden Knights or are they just a mirage. They’ve already overcome the expansion blues and really took the league by storm. The question is whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury can really take the reins of this team and prove his playoff mettle. While defensive teams often take over the playoffs, a little goal support like how they managed this season could really help their cause as this dream season continues.

-Andrei Vasilevskiy will hopefully enjoy this break. For a guy who was talking about how he’s been worn down the entire season by playing so much, this time off will help him get a little recharged and focus. Though, he did look solid in those last two games, only letting up two goals total in them. If Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn can keep the offense up, the Bolts could take advantage of a worn down Bruins team.

Now, with that stuff out of the way– what to look for in the second round.

-The Jets aren’t the Avalanche, so the Predators better not let up early goals like they have been. While Pekka Rinne and the squad have been solid, a team like the Jets and the offensive prowess they have will jump all over the Preds and not give the lead up so easily. You have to believe the best is yet to come for Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler– and what better way to do it than now.

-While I’m a Caps fan and know what could come next, the fact they are going to start Game One without having to face Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin is a good thing. Yet, the Caps are 8-2 in Game Ones against the Penguins and have gone 1-9 in those series by the end. Alex Ovechkin has been scoring and the depth on the Caps is solid– they just have to get the boulder from off their back (and between their ears) if they want to succeed.

-Despite big-upping Vasilevskiy earlier, the Bruins are a team that could very well grind out some wins. It seems no matter what– their depth is chipping in and taking some pressure off Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. However, whether or not Tuukka Rask can withstand the barrage of firepower that Tampa has remains to be seen. You can expect the best out of Steven Stamkos this round, too.

-Someone get the pumpkin ready, because Vegas’s Cinderella season could be at it’s end. It’s nice to believe they can get to the Finals, but when you look at how this Sharks team is performing and how Martin Jones is looking back to form, it’s hard to say they’ll have a cakewalk like they did against LA. With Marcus Sorenson and Melker Karlsson leading the fresh group of Sharks, the Golden Knights could finally see their season end without a fairytale ending.

Are The Jets Really This Good??

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As it stands right now, the Winnipeg Jets sit second in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference overall with a 15-6-3 record. After years of just hanging on in the Central, they seem to be breaking out of their shell and finally reaching their potential that many have said that they could have.

But are they really this good?? My buddy Brian told me on Twitter last night that he wasn’t buying into the hype and the main reason is Paul Maurice. I gave a counter of their goaltending being as unusual as it is– especially since they went out and got Steve Mason as a free agent this summer.¬†While the Maurice thing is a valid point, the owners are looking like geniuses locking up the head coach Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to multi-year extensions.

Whatever the reason for hesitation to this success, the numbers aren’t hurting the success. Mark Scheifele has grown a long way from wearing a generic jersey at the 2011 NHL Draft to one of the faces of the team and being tied for the team lead in scoring and being tied for 10th in league scoring. The guy who he’s tied with, Blake Wheeler, has a great story of redemption– going from a first-round pick, hitting free agency rather than signing with his drafted team, never finding his footing with the team he signed with, to finally hitting a stride with Winnipeg over the past couple seasons.

And we haven’t even talked about Patrik Laine, who is a on a bit of a sophomore slump, or Nikolaj Ehlers or Bryan Little– who all have the ability to be primary or secondary scorers for this team.

In my point of contention, the goaltending is something that has never been too much of a strong point from Winnipeg. With Ondrej Pavelec leaving, it could have been a spot to get a big name to help get the team over that hump….and they got Steve Mason. And Mason was Mason in the first couple games (0-3-1 in four games). Luckily, Connor Hellebuyck has been a savior for this team with a 13-2-2 record on the season. How long that will last is anyone’s guess– but keep riding the wave of winning until it burst and work it from there.

Defensively, if the top guys can be healthy– they’ll be sturdy there. Tyler Myers is back and contributing in a decent way, Dustin Byfuglien is who he is, and Jacob Trouba could be doing more– but has been fine in his season so far.

Overall– it’s all about how long Hellebuyck can keep his good times rolling and adapts when people figure him out, as well as if guys like Scheifele and Wheeler can stay with their better than point-per-game clip. Add that to the secondary scoring and defensive side getting better offensively– this team could be a consistent force this season moving ahead.