nhl playoff preview: round one

By: Adam Kierszenblat

The NHL playoffs are set. 16 teams start their journey in the quest for the Stanley Cup. Today, we review all eight playoff matchups and try to predict who will come out the winner.

1) Carolina Hurricanes versus 4) Nashville Predators

Season Series (8 games): Hurricanes win 6-2

The Carolina Hurricanes are a powerhouse team that should have no major issues with the Nashville Predators. Top to bottom, the Hurricanes are a better team. The only way the Nashville pulls out a series win is if Roman Josi has one of the most incredible playoff series on record and Jusse Saros stands on his head.

That being said, Nashville is still going to put up a fight. This won’t be a sweep but with players like Sebastian Aho, Dougie Hamilton and Teuvo Teräväinen, expect this series to be over quick.

Prediction: 4-1 Carolina

2) Florida Panthers versus 3) Tampa Bay Lightning

Season Series (8 games) : Panthers win 5-3

This will be the first time the two Florida based teams play each other and it is sure to be an exciting one. You have the powerhouse Lightning lead by Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman versus the pesky Panthers lead by Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Carter Verhaeghe and Keith Yandle. In net, it will be the battle of the Russians as Andrei Vasilevskiy takes on Sergei Bobrovsky. This will be a series we will talk about for years to come.

The series is gonna come down to seven games. Both teams are just too talented and evenly matched for one to blow out the other. The reason Tampa is going to come out on top however is due to Florida missing Aaron Ekblad. Florida’s star defenceman is out for the season and will lead to big of a hole to fill on the blueline.

Prediction: 4-3 Tampa Bay

1) Pittsburgh Penguins versus 4) New York Islanders

Season series (8 games) Penguins win 6-2

This series is going to bizzare to watch. You have the high flying Penguins lead by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin versus the tight checking Islanders led by Matt Barzal and Josh Bailey. The Penguins will most likely outshoot New York in every game, but the games will be low scoring as the Islanders bend but don’t break philosophy will be on full display.

The reason the Islanders will pull of the upset is the play of goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders goaltender is having a career game and is being discussed as a potential Vezina Trophy winner handed out to the best goaltender that season. Because of Varlamov’s play, the Islanders will win.

Prediction: 4-2 New York

2) Washington Capitals versus 3) Boston Bruins

Season Series (8 games): Tied 4-4

This should be an exciting matchup as it pins two high flying offenses against each other. You have the Ovechkin led Capitals versus the Marchand led Bruins. No one had an edge in the season series but Boston did score one more goal head to head so this series is a toss up.

The series is going seven games. The teams are too balanced and this is a series where we may see three or four overtimes. That being said, the trio of Backstrom, Carlson and Ovechkin will be able to power the Capitals through to the second round.

Prediction: 4-3 Washington

1) Colorado Avalanche versus 4) St. Louis Blues

Season Series (8 games): Avalanche win 5-3

Colorado is going to run away with this series. They needed to go 5-0 in their final five games to be crowned regular season champions, and that is exactly what they did. The team is stacked throughout the lineup with players like Cale Makar, Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Expect this series over quick.

The real reason St. Louis made the playoffs is due to the week division. There were three solid teams in the west and then five iffy teams. They just survived long enough to make the playoffs. It is possible they pull off the upset, but in reality, the Avalanche should have no problems.

Prediction: 4-1 Colorado

2) Vegas Golden Knights versus 3) Minnesota Wild

Season Series (8 games): Wild win 5-3

This series is similar to the Penguins/Islanders series in the sense that you have an offensive powerhouse going up against a defensive sound team. The problem for the Wild however is that no upset will be happening this year. The series should be closer than the Avalanche/Blues series but expect Vegas to come out on top.

The Golden Knights are built to compete for the cup. They have solid goaltending, a defence that can compete against anyone and one of the strongest top-nine forward groups in the league. The Wild can only hold off for so long and should fall to Vegas despite losing the season series.

Prediction: 4-2 Vegas

1) Toronto Maple Leafs versus 4) Montreal Canadians

Season Series (10 games): Maple Leafs win 7-3

In the battle of the original six teams, the Maple Leafs will try and beat the pesky Canadians in the first round. For Montreal to pull off the massive upset, they will need players like Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher to return as well as the Maple Leafs goaltending to crumble. The good news for Montreal is that the Leafs goaltending has been questionable and should open a door for them to have a chance in the series.

Although Montreal does have a chance, Toronto should take the series. They can score at will which should help mask the defensive issues that persist. Also, Montreal has limped into the playoffs. They lost 10 of their final 15 games and have not looked great. Look for the Maple Leafs to win this series even though the series will be close.

Prediction: 4-2 Toronto

2) Edmonton Oilers versus 3) Winnipeg Jets

Season Series (9 games): Oilers win 7-2

This is going to be a fun series as both teams are very evenly matched. Connor McDavid for the Oilers is the best player in the world, but he has no real supporting cast. The Jets on the other hand have a balanced team but their defence is not the greatest. This is a series that is going to come down to goaltending.

If goaltending is a huge factor, Winnipeg should come out on top. Mike Smith has been great all season but Connor Hellebuyck is one of the best goaltenders in the league despite his average season. For that reason, look for the Jets to pull off the upset in round one.

Prediction: 4-3 Winnipeg

An Exciting Playoffs

Regardless of final scores, this should be an exciting playoffs. Fans are back in most building and the intensity should lead to some great series. It all gets going on Saturday May 15th.

Predictions recap:

4 – 1 Carolina Hurricanes

4 – 3 Tampa Bay Lightning

4 – 2 New York Islanders

4 – 3 Washington Capitals

4 – 1 Colorado Avalanche

4 – 2 Vegas Golden Knights

4 – 2 Toronto Maple Leafs

4 – 3 Winnipeg Jets

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