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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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Editor's note: Ken Rosenthal updated his column on Tuesday afternoon.


It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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