NHL Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference Second Round

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) reacts after scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period in Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, April 24, 2023, in Tampa, Fla.
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Rachael Millanta @rachaelmillanta May 03, 2023, 4:16 PM
  • Can the Maple Leafs keep their new-found playoff success going?
  • Will the Hurricanes be able to pull away from the struggling Devils?
  • Auston Matthews, Jack Hughes, and Sebastian Aho will be players to watch.

With the first round of the playoffs wrapped up, just four NHL teams remain from the Eastern Conference — the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and New Jersey Devils.

The Boston Bruins led the league through the regular season, but their elimination by the Panthers in a first-round upset caused a shake-up in the Stanley Cup odds

So which Eastern Conference players should you be watching in the second round? Here are three player predictions and two series predictions.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions: Second Round

Auston Matthews Will Record Over 8 Points

Through the regular season, Matthews recorded 40 goals, 45 assists, 85 points, and 327 shots, and the 25-year-old hasn’t slowed down in the playoffs. In the first round against the Lightning, Matthews added another nine points to his tally, so he’s definitely established himself as a player to watch as the postseason continues.

This is Matthews’ seventh trip to the playoffs, having advanced to the postseason in every season of his NHL career. The Maple Leafs haven’t made it past the first round in 19 years, so the pressure is on to keep this momentum going. I expect Matthews to continue being a crucial part of the team’s success in the second round, and eight points is very doable.

Jack Hughes Will Record Over 5 Points

Hughes finished the regular season with 43 goals, 56 assists, 99 points, and 336 shots, ranking him eighth in the NHL in goals, 10th in points, and fifth in shots. His 99 points are also a new franchise record for a single season, breaking that of Patrik Elias (96).

In his first playoff campaign, Hughes has already recorded three goals, two assists, five points, and 32 shots. The 21-year-old center is finishing a break-out year, and after a disappointing first series that saw the Devils only just scrape through to the second round, I expect him to turn up the heat even more.

Sebastian Aho Will Record Over 15 Shots

Aho recorded 36 goals, 31 assists, 67 points, and 218 shots during the regular season and backed it up with four goals, three assists, seven points, and 19 shots in the first round. Now heading into the second round to face the Devils, I won’t be surprised if the 25-year-old center turns up the heat even more.

This season is Aho’s fifth consecutive advancement to the playoffs in his seven-year career. He’s established himself as a reliable high-performer under pressure, and I expect 15 shots against the Devils to just be the beginning.

Florida Panthers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

GAMEDATETIMEARENA
Game 1May 27:00 p.m.Scotiabank Arena
Game 2May 47:00 p.m.Scotiabank Arena
Game 3May 77:30 p.m.FLA Live Arena
Game 4May 107:00 p.m.FLA Live Arena
Game 5May 12TBDScotiabank Arena
Game 6May 14TBDFLA Live Arena
Game 7May 16TBDScotiabank Arena

Prediction: Maple Leafs in six games.

In the 2022-23 regular season, the Maple Leafs met the Panthers four times and won three games — one at home and two on the road. Still, if the Panthers continue to play how they did in the first round, this will likely be a very tight matchup. Knocking out the Boston Bruins was a real upset, so the Maple Leafs will have their work cut out for them. I’m picking Toronto in six games, but I won’t be surprised if this series goes to the full seven.

Since the Maple Leafs placed higher in the regular-season standings and, therefore, have home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at ​​FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.

New Jersey Devils vs. Carolina Hurricanes

GAMEDATETIMEARENA
Game 1May 37:00 p.m.PNC Arena
Game 2May 5TBDPNC Arena
Game 3May 73:30 p.m.Prudential Center
Game 4May 97:00 p.m.Prudential Center
Game 5May 11TBDPNC Arena
Game 6May 13TBDPrudential Center
Game 7May 15TBDPNC Arena

Prediction: Hurricanes in six games.

Carolina and New Jersey met four times during the regular season, with each team winning two games — one at home and one on the road. 

While I certainly don’t think the Devils will go down without a fight, if they let the Hurricanes get ahead in the series the way they did with the Rangers in the first round, they are unlikely to be able to fight their way back. I’m picking the Hurricanes to win this series in six games, but it could be quicker if the Devils can’t keep it together.

Since the Hurricanes placed higher in the regular-season standings and, therefore, have home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at PNC Arena in Raleigh, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at ​​Prudential Center in Newark.

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About the Author

Rachael Millanta

Read More @rachaelmillanta

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.