After a first round in 2017, they opted for one Record for games in extra time (18) were decided in the first round of 2018 five games after the regulation (with four in the series Capitals-Blue Jackets). Only a team with a lower team came in the second round in 2018 and produced a match-match match.

The second round begins on Thursday when the Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 19:00. ET (NBC Sports Network)

That's what the USA TODAY Sports NHL team looks like:


Kevin Allen: Predators in Six. As impressed as the jet's sheer talent, the Predators are a more complete team. They have an offensive depth, an experienced defense, probably winner of the Vezina Trophy (Pekka Rinne) and experienced by reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Jimmy Hascup: Predators in 7. The high-flyer jets will test the Predators, who nod here at home for a game of 7.

Mike Brehm: Predators in 7. This will be the best series of the entire playoffs. Give Nashville the defensive advantage, a lightweight goalie and enough offense to keep up with the jets' high-flying scorers.

Jace Evans: Jets in 6. Pekka Rinne temporarily fought against the Avalanche and posted a save percentage of .909. The Predators can not afford a similar performance of gutter against the Jets, especially when Connor Hellebuyck shone with a .924 SV on lap one.


Allen: Golden Knights in 7. No reason to stop believing in the remarkable season of the Golden Knights. San Jose goalie Martin Jones may Marc-Andre Fleury's save count, but the relentless pursuit of the puck of the Golden Knights will be the difference.

Hascup: Golden Knights in 6. The playoffs will not overwhelm them. San Jose will not be able to keep up with Las Vegas's relentlessness and all-round depth.

Brehm: Golden Knights in 7. Vegas is practically unbeatable at home. That and the fact that they never give up the puck will help them in a long line.

Evans: Golden Knights in 7. Since both teams have a well-balanced score, the bet is that the Golden Knights get ahead at home thanks to ice cream – the magic they've shown all year round do not hurt them, either.


Allen: Lightning in 6th In the first part of the season, the Lightning looked like they could win the Stanley Cup. Nothing has changed. This is a full-service team, a team hungry for a chance to win everything.

Hascup: Bruins in 7. Round 1 was not easy, but along with a commitment to a 200-foot play, the Bruins will help against a team with more firepower.

Brehm: Bruins in 6. The Blitz looked like World Racquet in the first round and the Bruins showed weaknesses against the Maple Leafs. But I picked Boston for the cup and stick with it. With two days off, the Bruins can regroup.

Evans: Lightning in 6. In a 5-game victory against the Devils, the Lightning flick the combination of high-end skill (Nikita Kucherov's 10 points) and depth (10 different players scored a goal), which helped make them the best team in the Eastern Conference. Goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy also seemed to find his game again.


Allen: Penguins in 7. Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin are on their way to Pittsburgh. The capitals are bursting with confidence. But it's hard to fight back against a Penguins team that has won nine consecutive playoff series over three seasons.

Hascup: Capitals in 7th The penguins were lucky that the goal of the Flyer was worse in the first round. Matt Murray has been below average all season, and Braden Holtby has shown he is still a goalkeeper. That will be the difference.

Brehm: Penguins in 7. All signs indicate capitals. The penguins have key injuries, Washington's John Carlson adds value to his free agent, and Braden Holtby plays better than Murray. But instinct says Sidney Crosby tortures the caps again.

Evans: Penguins in Sixth The Penguins showed off against the Flyers that they are as offensive as ever, even as Evgeni Malkin handled an injury in the series that will keep him out the least for Game 1. This is bad news for a Capitals team that is not as defensive as the teams that lost to the Penguins in the past two years.


View thumbnails

Show captions