The NHL playoffs are on the horizon and after picking my round robin and qualifying results, it’s time to turn to the crystal ball once more to predict the winners of the first-round matchups in this hypothetical universe.
If you haven’y read my picks from the qualifiers, here’s what you need to know.
Eastern Conference seeding:
- Boston Bruins
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Washington Capitals
- Pittsburgh Pengiuns
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Florida Panthers
- Toronto Maple Leafs
Western Conference seeding:
- St. Louis Blues
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Colorado Avalanche
- Dallas Stars
- Edmonton Oilers
- Arizona Coyotes
- Vancouver Canucks
- Calgary Flames
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs
What a matchup this would be. Goalfests always seem to ensue when these two teams clash and it’s probably a worst-case scenario for the Bruins, who still should be able to handle business here. Boston have won the last two games, with the third going to overtime before the Leafs stole a win. This series will likely go the distance, but I think the Bruins get it done.
Winner: Boston Bruins
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Florida Panthers
I think the Panthers get the short-end of the stick here. The Islanders would likely have caused less of a problem after being so cold before the break, but these teams know each other very well. The Lightning have got the better of Florida this season and Florida’s defense will have a tough time at the office against Kucherov and of course Steven Stamkos. The Lightning may start off slower, but will end up winning this series fairly easily.
Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning
Philadelphia Flyers vs Carolina Hurricanes
The Canes may become the ultimate playoff underdog and with Doug Hamilton potentially returning, there is always the threat of a shock result. I don’t think that happens here though. The Flyers won three of their four fixtures against Carolina last year and their penalty kill played a huge role in that, allowing just one goal on the PP across four games and 9 occasions. The Flyers special teams will help keep the playing field slanted here and this young team will surge through to the next round.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers
Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Ugh, this is the matchup we love to hate. Both make Flyers fans clench their fists, but it’s going to be a thrilling matchup that probably goes the distance. In the end, I can see the Pens getting it done who should be refreshed after an extended break.
Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins
St Louis. Blues vs Calgary Flames
As much as I’d love to see Johnny Hockey spring a surprise, I can’t see it happening against such a dominant Blues team captained by Pieterangelo who may sniff a repeat here. The Blues’ offense is lethal and the Flames have a goal differential of -5. I think the Blues sail past Calgary.
Winner: St. Louis Blues
Vegas Golden Knights vs Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are about as average’ a team as you’ll find in the playoffs which doesn’t bode well for whatever miracle spell has been cast over the Golden Knights and their well-balanced roster. This series should be a non-top rollercoaster, but I think the Golden Knights come out on top.
Winner: Vegas Golden Knights
Colorado Avalanche vs Arizona Coyotes
It’s worth noting that the Coyotes swept the two-games played between these two teams last year and I’m going to make a bold prediction. I love their young roster and while the Avs may have been one of the league’s hottest teams, if there’s ever going to be a team to throw the cat among the pigeons, it’s the Coyotes. Arizona pull off the huge upset here and clinch in seven.
Winner: Arizona Coyotes
Dallas Stars vs Edmonton Oilers
I feel like the Stars having a comeback OT win against the Oilers will leave a bad taste in the mouths of Edmonton and as a result, McDavid will rise up and do McDavid things. Edmonton have the star power here to overthrow Dallas.
Winners: Edmonton Oilers
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre