After reading Ricky Amandeo’s crystal ball projections yesterday and after seeing plenty of discussions sparked, it’s time to see what Lady Galadriel’s’ Hockey Mirror will reflect when I look into it.
EASTERN CONFERENCE (BUBBLE CITY 1):
City 1 – Round Robin for Seeding in First Round
- Boston Bruins
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Capitals
- Philadelphia Flyers
I agree with Ricky’s assessment here. The top four teams in the East have slugged it out all season long and while the Flyers were undoubtedly the league’s hottest team before the league paused, Boston weren’t too far behind.
The Lightning did stumble toward the end of the shortened season, but any team losing a player of Steven Stamkos’ ability would be expected to do the same. If he’s back for the playoffs, they may well have a team worthy of going toe-to-toe with Boston.
The Flyers have beaten the Caps in each of their last three encounters and I can’t see that trend bucking anytime soon. I feel like the order will stay the same, but with the Flyers leapfrogging the Caps for the third seed.
City 1 – Best-of-5 Qualifying Round (Best of 5)
#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens
This shouldn’t be given too much thought. There is a fifteen point differential between these two teams and that should be relatively clear when the puck drops. Montreal got worse at the trade deadline, as Ricky mentioned (hey Nate Thompson) making three moves to ship talent away.
Pittsburgh should be able to sleepwalk this series.
#6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers
The Rangers may be an absolute mess off the ice, but they’re pretty dangerous when actually on it. Chris Kreider returns to action, but they’re also the youngest team in the NHL and that lack of experience may hurt them. Considering how important the last month or so of Hockey is to a team’s core, I think the Rangers will come out rusty.
Hamilton and Vatanen should return for the Canes, fortifying a defense that will have to hold Panarin at bay, but I think they’ll scrape through a nail-biting series that comes down to the final moments of game five.
#7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers
The Islanders won all three games against the Panthers this year, but one was in a shootout, and another came at the expense of an empty net. The Panthers have snuck into the postseason and with Quenneville at the helm and Bobrovsky in net, I think they can spring a surprise here and win the series in four.
#8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets
In theory, this should be the most unpredictable game of all. Ricky did an amazing job profiling just how long it’s been since Toronto last won a playoff series, while Columbus felt the loss of Seth Jones in excruciating fashion.
With Tavares and Mitch Marner flying high, I don’t know if the Blue Jackets have enough to stop them, even if they are back to full health. Habs steal this one in another nailbiter.
Western Conference (Bubble City 2):
City 2 – Round Robin for Seeding in First Round
- St. Louis Blues
- Colorado Avalanche
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Dallas Stars
Vegas will absolutely feel a shot to shock the world once again and I think they’ll leapfrog the Avalanche as a result, who also slip beneath a fired-up Stars team led by Tyler Seguin. The Blues should be able to clinch the top seed though, with or without Binnington.
City 2 – Best-of-5 Qualifying Round (Best of 5)
#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have a stacked roster that’s primed for postseason success, but the Oilers have Connor McDavid. As Ricky pointed out, having Art Ross Trophy winner, Leon Draisitl and his 110 regular-season points also helps.
The Blackhawks were streaky all season long and if they get hot, good luck stopping Patrick Kane. But that’s ‘if’. We know McDavid will be hot.
Oilers push through this in four.
#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes
This matchup is about as unpredictable as they come, but the Coyotes are playoff bound for the first time since 2012. With an energetic roster of guys like Ekman-Larsson and Stepan, I think they feed off that against a Predators team that can’t find an identity.
Coyotes spring a surprise and sneak by.
#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild
Rookie sensation Quinn Hughes and an explosive Canucks offense shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting past the Wild here. Vancouver has seven players on their roster who hit, or would’ve hit 20 goals this season. Hello.
I’m expecting a Canucks masterclass here and a sweep of the Wild.
#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets
This could go either way, but Johnny Hockey exists and this could be a five-game series that uses all five matchups. I’ll take the Flames to burn through the Jets, whose momentum has been halted by the break.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre