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

5 Suprises of the NHL season so far

By: Adam Kierszenblat

With the NHL’s season wrapping up, we look back at some of the top unforeseen storylines from the season. From Covid protocols to rookies dominating the league, this season had twists and turns throughout. Here are the top five moments:

5) COVID-19 Issues Across The League

Coming into the season, many expected there to be Covid issues throughout the NHL. We had seen similar problems in the NFL and MLB, but the NHL had some major issues this season. From the Dallas Stars starting the season late, to the Canucks shutting down for three weeks as over 20 players and staff contracted the virus, it has been a challenge for players and team personnel. With the playoffs on the horizon, teams will have to be more diligent with their protocols to ensure that the postseason goes off without a hitch.

4) Here Come The Panthers

Florida has been a major surprise this season. They currently sit near the top of the league which is surprising as many had them pegged as a bottom place team in the stacked East Division. Florida has clinched a playoff spot for only the second time since the 2000-2001 season. Last year, they did not even make it out of the playoff qualifier. With new staff and the emergence of some of their younger players, Florida could be on their way to a run this year. Look out for players like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Carter Verhaeghe as they are sure to put on a show this postseason.

3)Buffalo’s Losing Streak

Buffalo had a lot of promise coming into this season. They signed Taylor Hall this offseason and already had foundational pieces like Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin. Expectations were high, but the team was never able to produce and went on one of the worst losing streaks in NHL history. Players like Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner could not score, Jack Eichel got hurt and a Covid pause all contributed to this historic losing streak. Between February 23rd and March 31st, the Sabers went 0-15-3. They blew multi-goal three-goal leads and were even shutout 6-0 on one night. This will be a streak that no hockey fan will forget for a long time. It was a defining moment of another disappointing season.

2)Is He A Rookie Or Isn’t He

There has been much debate this season about Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov. The 25-year-old is in his first season with the Wild and has put up 22 goals and 41 points in 47 games. Kaprizov is the favorite to win the best rookie this season, but some feel he should be excluded from the race due to his age and experience.

Kaprizov has played the last six seasons in the men’s top division of Russia. Normally, rookies have one or two years of playing against older players before entering the league so this is where the debate comes in. Should players who have multiple years playing in pro leagues be considered rookies when they come to the NHL. There is also the age argument. Most rookies are between the ages of 19-22 while Kaprizov is 25. Whichever side of the fence you on, it is universally understood throughout the hockey world that Kaprizov is a great player. He will help redefine the Wild and has already helped them clinch a playoff spot this season.

1) Rookies Taking Over

Rookies have really stepped up this season. Outside of Kaprizov in Minnesota, you have Jason Robertson in Dallas, Nils Höglander, Josh Norris, and Tim Stützle as well as Ty Smith in New Jersey. All these skaters have produced for their teams this season and are in the conversation for rookie of the year.

You also have quite a few rookie goaltenders that are stealing the spotlight. Vitek Vanecek in Washington, Kevin Lankinen in Chicago, and Igor Shesterkin in New York are all rookie goaltenders that have solidified the starter’s net for their teams. With additional roster spots due to taxi squads, rookies are getting more of an opportunity this season compared to previous years. The future of the NHL is bright and these rookies will be wowing fans for the next several years.

An Exciting Season

Although fan participation in the arenas has been limited this season, the NHL has been a lot of fun to watch. Playing only rivalry games has added fuel to the fire and should turn up the heat for when these divisional foes play in future seasons. The play on the ice in addition to the new TV contract with ESPN and Turner Sports should lead to more viewers and interest surrounding the sport. Now that the season is done, get ready for rough and wild playoffs as teams fight for the ultimate prize in sports, The Stanley Cup.

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