The first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs is in the rearview mirror, and although only one series went the distance (thank you, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs), the first two weeks brought us ample entertainment. As we saddle up for Round 2, the Power Rankings feature a new clubhouse leader — a leader, we might add, that opened the season at 200-1 odds, according to the Westgate Sportsbook. For this week’s rankings — voted on, as always, by ESPN’s panel of experts — we offered the lowdown on where every team stands entering the second round.
Kids Clayton Fejedelem Jersey How we rank: We use a panel of voters, and these rankings reflect which teams voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams are favored over lower-ranked teams. A run of wins doesn’t guarantee a jump, and a couple of losses doesn’t guarantee Womens Patrick Ewing Jersey a fall.
Authentic Erik Karlsson Jersey Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational in Round 1 (with a .977 save percentage and a 0.65 goals-against average). The 33-year-old looked rested after a season in which he started just 46 games. Now the rest of his team is rested too. After sweeping the first round, the Golden Knights have gone nine days in between games.
Any potential goaltending controversy is firmly behind the Caps, as Braden Holtby emphatically reclaimed his throne (he has stopped 137 of 147 shots since coming on in relief during Game 2). Now, all the focus is on shaking Washington’s playoff demons — specifically the rival Penguins.
Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan break down the second-round playoff matchups that have been set, and give their top candidates for the Conn Smythe. Plus, Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon and longtime Penguins beat writer Rob Rossi.
After surviving a wild series against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins advance. Since the 2004-05 lockout, only two teams have won their first-round series in seven games and then went on to win the Stanley Cup. One of them was the 2011 Bruins. We’re not totally down on Tuukka Rask just yet, but he’ll need to play a lot better than he did in Game 7, when he looked a bit leaky.
Packers (from Seahawks) 鈥斅燡aire Alexander, CB, Louisville:聽It was obvious the Pack wanted corner help when they made an offer for Chicago’s Kyle Fuller earlier this offseason, which the Bears matched. Alexander should form a nice young duo with Kevin King, last year’s Round 2 pick, though he struggled as a rookie. Injuries limited Alexander in 2017, but he picked off five passes two years ago. His return skills are a bonus.
Cowboys 鈥斅燣eighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State:聽Huge for an LB at 6-4, 256 pounds, he has tremendous range honed while playing聽eight-man football in high school in tiny Riggins, Idaho. The selection of Vander Esch is a multi-pronged hedge for Dallas, which lost聽Anthony Hitchens in free agency, has yet to see Jaylon Smith regain his form after his horrific knee injury at Notre Dame and constantly must compensate for the injuries that dog Sean Lee, who has聽never played a 16-game schedule.