Well that was fun. The first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs is now officially in the books. Numerically speaking, the only upset was the No. 3-seeded San Jose Sharks upsetting the No. 2 seed Anaheim Ducks. It was an electrifying round featuring some memorable milestones and great highlights.
Highlights of the First Round
Here are some topline highlights of the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs:
- The first playoff series win by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
- The first playoff series win for the Winnipeg Jets, 31 years in the making.
- The Washington Caps-Columbus Blue Jackets series was a real nail-biter. After dropping their first two at home in overtime, and looking they were destined for another head-scratching early exit, the Caps grinded out victories in the next four straight games, two of them in overtime. It’s been an impressive rally for Ovi and company.
- Two shutouts for the Penguins’ Matt Murray and Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury.
- Back-to-back shutouts for the Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck.
- Fleury has a sparkling 0.65 goals-against average (GAA) and .977 save percentage. The Sharks’ Martin Jones has a 1.00 GAA and .970 save percentage. Not too shabby.
- The Pens Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzal lead all players with 13 points each.
- The Pens Jake Guentzel leads all players with a plus-ten rating.
- A five-point game by a player, Sean Couturier, with a torn MCL.
- The first set of opposing players to each collect five points in one game (Jake Guentzel and Sean Couturier).
- A total of 11 players averaged more than 26 minutes, 24 seconds of playing time per game. The Blue Jackets Seth Jones averaged a whopping 30:37 time on ice in six games.
- Nikita Kucherov led all players with three game-winning goals. Thomas Hertl of the Sharks and Sean Couturier of the Flyers each had two.
- An incredible Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins
- Vicious hits and four suspensions (Kings’ Drew Doughty – one game, Maple Leaf’s Nazem Kadri – three games, Jets’ Josh Morrissey – one game, Predator’s Ryan Hartman – one game).
The Final Eight Teams
On to the second round! Just like the beginning of the playoffs, when teams all start fresh, with a world of opportunity ahead of them, so starts the next round. As players will tell you, there’s really no such thing as momentum from game to game or series to series. Each game is distinctive, with its own self-contained atmosphere, quirks and peculiarities.
There are few surprises among the teams who punched their ticket to the next round. All four first-seeded teams advanced. The following eight teams are advancing to the next round, with their seed in parenthesis:
- Nashville Predators (1)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (1)
- Vegas Golden Knights (1)
- Washington Capitals (1)
- Winnipeg Jets (2)
- Boston Bruins (2)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (2)
- San Jose Sharks (3)
— NHL (@NHL) April 26, 2018
Ranking Stats of the Final Eight
This following chart compares and ranks a few regular season stats of the remaining eight teams in the playoffs. The number in parenthesis after each column notes how the stat ranked league-wide.
Some interesting thoughts:
- Contrary to popular opinion, the regular season indeed really mattered. From a points perspective, the top six point-getting teams are still in it. All eight teams are among the top ten teams for overall points.
- Teams that won a lot in the regular season are also winning in the postseason. Seven of the remaining eight teams finished with at least 45 wins.
- Goals scored is a pretty decent indicator of playoff success. Seven of the remaining eight teams finished in the top nine in the league in that category.
- Goals allowed is not as strong as an indicator of postseason success. Only four of the remaining eight teams finished in the top eight overall.
- Even strength scoring is a decent metric for success. Of the eight remaining teams still alive, five (or 62.5 percent of them) were in the top eight in the league for 5-on-5 goal scoring.
- Other than the Penguins and Sharks, every team in the final eight ranks in the top eight in the league in at least three categories. The Sharks are truly an outlier, not appearing in the top eight of any category shown.
These are the odds of each team winning their respective second round series, according to moneypuck.com.
Nashville Predators (1) – 43.7%
Winnipeg Jets (2) – 56.3%
Vegas Golden Knights (1) – 51.5%
San Jose Sharks (3) – 48.5%
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) – 57.9%
Boston Bruins (2) – 42.1%
Washington Capitals (1) – 41.6%
Pittsburgh Penguins (2) – 58.4%
Odds at the Beginning of the Regular Season
Where did these final eight teams look like way back in October? For a fun look back, this list shows the odds of the remaining eight teams at the beginning of the 2017-18 regular season.
- Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-1
- Tampa Bay Lightning, 11-1
- Washington Capitals, 14-1
- Nashville Predators, 14-1
- San Jose Sharks, 22-1
- Boston Bruins, 28-1
- Winnipeg Jets, 50-1
- Vegas Golden Knights, 66-1
At the time, the heaviest favorites to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup were the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (7-1), Edmonton Oilers (8-1), Tampa Bay Lightning (11-1), and Chicago Blackhawks (12-1). The long shots, at 150-1, were the Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes. Believe it or not, the Golden Knights while far from a favorite, had the sixth-worst odds of the 31 teams to win it all. Apparently, some people saw the promise of a young team with an All-Star goalie and placed their bets.
2018 Stanley Cup – Betting Odds
This graphic shows the original betting odds at the start of this year’s playoffs as well as the current odds for each of the remaining eight teams vying for the Stanley Cup.
Chances of Winning the 2018 Stanley Cup (at the start of the playoffs), according to SportsClubStats.com.
It’s interesting to note that the Predators and Bruins chances of winning it all have actually decreased, despite winning a series and being one step closer to the Stanley Cup Final.
The biggest jump, from a pure percentage increase belongs to the Sharks. Their chances have more than tripled since the start of the playoffs, from 2.8 percent to 8.7 percent.
The largest jump numerically belongs to the Penguins, who vaulted from 7.7 percentage points to have an 11.8 percent chance at winning the Cup.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”