On Monday, I shared my predictions for the NHL’s Qualifying Round and Seeding Round Robin. Before I move on to the next round, let me bring everyone up to speed:
SEEDING ROUND ROBIN:
EAST: 1. Philadelphia Flyers; 2. Washington Capitals; 3. Boston Bruins; 4. Tampa Bay Lightning
WEST: 1. St. Louis Blues; 2. Colorado Avalanche; 3. Vegas Golden Knights; 4. Dallas Stars
QUALIFYING ROUND WINNERS (SEED #):
EAST: Pittsburgh Penguins (5); New York Rangers (11); New York Islanders (7); Columbus Blue Jackets (9)
WEST: Edmonton Oilers (5); Nashville Predators (6); Vancouver Canucks (7); Calgary Flames (8)
For my first-round predictions, I am assuming that these will best-of-five series and will be utilizing a bracket-style as seen below:
#1 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS VS. #9 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
- Flyers in 5 games
The Flyers owned the Blue Jackets during the regular season, winning the series 4-0. Even a completely healthy lineup will not be enough for the Blue Jackets. That giant batch of talent that Columbus lost last summer is finally going to catch up to them.
This could be an intense series. We know from previous playoffs that the Blue Jackets do not go away easily. It will take a combined effort on the part of the Flyers, but they will be moving on.
#4 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
- Lightning in 5 games
This should be a humdinger of a series featuring two teams with a ton of playoff experience in the last decade, and two of the premier head coaches in the NHL.
In the end, one team must triumph, and it will be the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are too talented of a team. Pittsburgh’s defense will be no match for the stellar power play unit of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson.
#2 WASHINGTON CAPITALS VS. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
- Capitals in 5 games
Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders against the team he led to their first Stanley Cup in 2018. There may be some emotion as these two teams collide.
The season series ended up tied at two games apiece.
Overall, the Capitals are the better team. Their potent offense will be too much even for the Islanders’ formidable defense.
Washington has had some issues with their power play but by this juncture in the playoffs, it will be running smoothly and efficiently.
It will be an arduous task to stop Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie, Carlson, Wilson and Holtby (in potentially his final season as a Capital) from winning another Stanley Cup.
#3 BOSTON BRUINS VS. #11 NEW YORK RANGERS
- Bruins in 4 games
The Boston Bruins won all three meetings between these two teams in 2019-20. They will dominate the New York Rangers in this series.
New York is a talented but very young team that lacks experience. Boston, on the other hand, is an even more talented team with a great deal of experience.
I will be rooting for the underdog.
#1 ST. LOUIS BLUES VS. #8 CALGARY FLAMES
- Blues in 4 games
The St. Louis Blues are a much more physical team than the Calgary Flames. It was a definite advantage that helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2019. The Flames will already be banged up from their battle with the Winnipeg Jets in the Qualifying Round. They will not be able to keep up with St. Louis.
There is so much depth on the Blues roster and that is what it takes to win at this point in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
#4 DALLAS STARS VS. #5 EDMONTON OILERS
- Stars in 5 games
The speed and agility of Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers against the physicality and experience of Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas defense may have some trouble with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl but if Ben Bishop holds down the net, the Stars will prevail. Dallas has more depth on their roster compared to Edmonton and that will be a huge factor here. The leadership of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski will carry the Stars to victory.
#2 COLORADO AVALANCHE VS. #7 VANCOUVER CANUCKS
- Canucks in 5 games
This may come as a surprise, but I sense an upset in the making.
In the two meetings between these teams during the season, the Vancouver Canucks were 1-0-1 against the Colorado Avalanche. Vancouver had a top-five power play during the season while penalty killing was something that Colorado had some struggles with.
The Vancouver Canucks played with a certain grit and determination throughout the season and I believe it will take the Avs by surprise.
#3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS VS. #6 NASHVILLE PREDATORS
- Knights in 5 games
Statistically, the Vegas Golden Knights were the better team in 2019-20. They also took the season series. This first round playoff matchup will be a carbon copy of the season. The Predators will put up a fight, but this is just not their year.
Stay tuned to Philly Sports Network as our team of Flyers contributors continue to bring you up-to-date news and predictions regarding the upcoming NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Mandatory Credit – © Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports