The Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights have converted home-ice advantage into 2-0 leads in their best-of-seven NHL first-round series.
Historically, teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a series go on to win 88.7% of the time. Which of the trailing teams have the best shot of turning around those series?
We rank them as they prepare for Game 3:
1. Los Angeles Kings (trailing the Vegas Golden Knights 2-0): The expansion Golden Knights are continuing one of the most impressive team performances in NHL history.
This team, which didn’t exist during the 2017 playoffs, has engineered two impressive nip-and-tuck wins against a Kings team that boasts multiple players with championship rings. Everyone is running short of superlatives to use about the Knights.
But don’t bury the Kings yet. Defenseman Drew Doughty missed Game 2 because of a suspension. He’s back. Plus, these Kings have ample poise and experience to cope with a series deficit. Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter are capable of taking over a game, and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has a .964 save percentage in this series.
It comes down to the Kings finding a way to eliminate the spell that Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has on them. He’s in their head. They need to drive traffic in front of him.
2. New Jersey Devils (trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0): The Devils’ hope centers on the fact they beat the Lightning three times in the regular season.
The problem is the Lightning are in playoff mode, and they are the more experienced team. They have a greater understanding of what it takes to be successful in the postseason. The Devils, a surprise playoff qualifier, are trying to learn that now.
The Devils put pressure on Tampa Bay in Game 2, forcing Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to be at his best to preserve the win.
The Devils are generating enough shots, 75 in the two games. Taylor Hall has 11. They need to force Vasilevskiy to move more across the crease and to impede his vision with screens.
3. Minnesota Wild (trailing the Winnipeg Jets 2-0): Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has kept this series closer than it should be. The Jets have outshot the Wild 84-37. The Wild had a 2-1 lead in third period of Game 1, but lost that game 3-2. They lost 4-1 in Game 2.
If the Ryan Suter-less Wild want to tighten this series, they need to move the puck more quickly out of their zone. The Jets are forcing the puck deep and preventing the Wild from moving the puck up ice. The Wild haven’t measured up yet to the Jets’ pressure. The Wild must find an answer for Patrik Laine, who has two goals and 10 shots on goal in the series.
The Wild need Jason Zucker, Eric Staal and Nino Niederreiter to produce. Those three combined for 93 goals in the regular season and have combined for zero points in the first two games.
4. Colorado Avalanche (trailing the Nashville Predators 2-0): Considering the Avalanche were last in the NHL in 2016-17, just qualifying for the playoffs must feel like winning a championship.
They’ve already had an exceptional season, and now they are trying their hardest to push back against the Predators, falling 5-4 on Saturday in Game 2.
But the bottom line is the Predators are deeper, stronger, better defensively and more accomplished in net. The Predators haven’t found their postseason rhythm yet, but they are in control of this series. Don’t forget the Predators were in the Stanley Cup Final last year while the Avalanche were golfing and boating.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (trailing the Boston Bruins 2-0): The impressive Bruins have humbled the Maple Leafs in the first two games. The Leafs defensive corps doesn’t know what to do with David Pastrnak, who has nine points in two games.
The Maple Leafs’ forward group is better than it is showing. Nazem Kadri’s three-game suspension makes it even harder for the Maple Leafs to come back in this series. They could use his skill and fiery style against a confident Bruins team.
Auston Matthews would have become a monstrous force to make Toronto competitive in the series.