Who will advance?

NHL playoff matchups, predictions for Round 2

Want to get a puck past Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars? Good luck. Getty Images

Round 2 of the NHL playoffs is here, and if it is anything like Round 1, we have no idea what was going to happen. I went a wonderful 1-7 in Round 1, so you should probably fade me in Round 2. I did pick three underdogs, and they were the only three who failed to win. Oh well. We move on:

Boston vs. Columbus

The Jackets have had some time off since sweeping the best team in hockey in Tampa. Boston just finished a grueling seven game series with Toronto, which simply can't beat the Bruins. Boston has one of the top lines in hockey, but the Jackets have a goalie who can play at an elite level. They also added several players at the trade deadline, and with the time off, they have had more time to work on chemistry. Boston's depth proved too much for Toronto, but the Jackets should be able to match. Columbus matches up better with Boston than they did Toronto, and look for them to pull off another mild upset.

Prediction: Jackets in 6.

Carolina vs. the NY Islanders

Wow. What a Game 7 by the Canes, who slapped the defending champion Capitals in seven games, winning in double OT. They catch a gritty Islanders team, who knocked off Pittsburgh. Neither team is pretty; the Isles, however, are less ugly and have had time off. No one has played better than the Islanders goalies this season, and they relied on Robin Lehner in the first round upset. Don't see them winning the Cup, but they should make the conference finals.

Prediction: Isles in 6.

San Jose vs. Colorado

Let's be honest, the Sharks had no business beating Vegas. But they did. If Joe Pavelski is out, they are very vulnerable, especially since goalie Martin Jones is inconsistent. He won Game 6 for the Sharks but has also been a sieve at times. Colorado has the best top line in hockey and maybe the best player left in the playoffs in Nathan MacKinnon. The Avs don't have the depth the Sharks have, but they are talented. If Martin Jones plays well for San Jose the Sharks should advance. But don't be shocked if the Avs pull off the upset.

Prediction: Sharks in 7.

St. Louis vs. Dallas

The Blues play heavy hockey, and have been the best team in the NHL over the past couple months, mostly thanks to goalie Jordan Binnington, who has gone full Kurt Warner and sold his soul. They really should not have gotten past Winnipeg, but they did. The Stars are completely different from past Dallas incarnations. They play conservative and hold back and play amazing defense. And they have the best goalie left in the playoffs. They will remind you of the Kings teams that won two Cups.

Prediction: Stars in 7.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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