NHL Playoffs: Thiessen picks the 1st round – Maple Leafs vs Canadiens, Caps vs Bruins, Isles vs Pens, more
That time of year is upon us again: the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing. For a hockey fan, there is nothing that gets your blood pumping like seeing your team engaged in a battle where every goal and hit is massive. I will attempt to break down the first round series.
Toronto vs Montreal: If there is one series that a neutral or a new fan needs to see for excitement this is the one I would pick. Montreal and Toronto have been massive rivals since the league started and this is the first time since 1979 that they are meeting in the playoffs. Montreal is in a rebuild and Toronto has a team ready for a cup run. In a rivalry game many times stats and seeding do not matter, so this one could be a very interesting one.
Prediction: Toronto wins this series in six games and wins its first playoff series since the 2003-04 season.
Winnipeg vs Edmonton: The Oilers come into these playoffs with the hottest line in hockey, McDavid has scored 105 points in 56 games which gives him a blistering 1.8 points per game. His line mate Draisaitl has also scored 84 points in 56 games which gives him a 1.5 points per game. The Jets, on the other hand, come limping into the postseason going 3-9 in their last 12; however they did win two straight to end the season. The Jets have last year’s Vezina winner in net so that will be huge for them. The jets have a bunch of veterans who know what it takes, I think this series will be closer than many people think.
Prediction: Edmonton wins this series but in seven games.
Colorado vs St Louis: The Avalanche enter the series as President’s Trophy winner and have one of the most electrifying teams in Hockey. Game 1 was a preview on how fast and aggressive the Avs are, the Blues did not seem to have much of an answer beside Binnington standing on his head. The Blues are still a good team missing their top scorer and are only two years removed from winning the cup.
Prediction: Colorado wins it in six games.
Las Vegas vs Minnesota: Vegas comes into the playoffs as the second-best team in the NHL. They have a good balanced side with very few weaknesses and incredible goaltending. Minnesota was a surprise team this year. Led by rookie sensation Kaprisov the Wild finished the season with 75 points and third in the West. Game 1 was a goaltending duel which was won by Minnesota, but I don’t think the rest of the games will be that low scoring.
Prediction: Vegas wins this in six games.
Pittsburgh vs New York: The Penguins come into the playoffs as winners of the East division. The Pens are hoping for one more Cup run with their aging superstars while the Islanders are hoping for a statement this year and to win a few rounds. This will be a very tight series as we saw in game one.
Prediction: Penguins win it in seven games.
Washington vs Boston: The Bruins have an aging core that they hope can give them one more cup before they decline. They added the most coveted player at the deadline in Taylor Hall. The Capitals have been somewhat inconsistent this year but they still have Ovechkin so they will still be dangerous. This series might be the most physical of them all and game one was a prime example. It will be a fun one.
Prediction: Boston wins it in seven games.
Carolina vs Nashville: Carolina is one of the more exciting teams in the NHL, they are led by several star players instead of just one or two superstars which makes them a deep and dangerous team. Nashville had a very disappointing season and got into the playoffs because of their weak division.
Prediction: Carolina wins this in five games.
Tampa Bay vs Florida: It took 28 years, but we finally have the battle of Florida in a playoff series. Tampa Bay are fresh off winning the Cup last year and helped with superstar players like Stamkos and Kucherov returning right in time for Game 1 which was won in OT by a Brayden Point goal. This Panthers team is a good one but might not be able to overcome this Lightning team.
Prediction: Tampa Bay wins this in six games.