The first round can often be the most entertaining when it comes to the NHL playoffs. There are great games on TV every night and all teams are in the best shape they will be in all postseason. This year was no exception to that as hockey fans got to see some great action.
Nashville VS. Colorado
No surprise here to see the Predators take out the Avalanche. Colorado really missed Varlomov as Bernier really struggled, and Hammond’s brilliance in game 5 wasn’t enough to push them past the Presidents Trophy winners. Colorado should be very happy with their season despite an earlier exit than they would’ve hoped for. Colorado put up a good fight against Nashville and it made for an entertaining series.
Winnipeg VS. Minnesota
I was pretty surprised Minnesota even got one game against Winnipeg. Minnesota was missing many key players and isn’t even that great with those guys in the lineup (Suter, Parise). Winnipeg dominated most of the series and cruised to their first playoff series win in franchise history.
Vegas VS. Los Angeles
This was shocking to me. I thought LA would win this series in 7 games due to their playoff experience in comparison to the Golden Knights. Despite Jonathan Quick being excellent in net for the Kings, Vegas swept the Kings right out of the playoffs. Vegas looked overwhelmingly better than LA throughout most of the series, despite not scoring a whole lot of goals. I seriously need to stop betting against the Knights…
Anaheim VS. San Jose
This was also very surprising. I thought this was going to be a pretty even series. The Sharks swept the Ducks and did so dominantly. Anaheim really missed John Gibson as Ryan Miller really struggled in net for the Ducks. The Sharks have been wicked hot since the trade deadline and continued their hot streak into the first round.
Tampa Bay VS. New Jersey
This was a very fun series for me to watch. The whole time I knew Tampa was the much better team. It was just so fun to see the Devils fight so hard to hang with the Lightning, and they did the best that they could. Playoff Taylor Hall is a complete beast and things are really looking up for New Jersey. They just weren’t enough to take down the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Boston VS. Toronto
This was a fantastic series as well. Even as a Leaf fan, I enjoyed the hell out of this series. The ending was very sour to me obviously. It was a very high scoring series with Boston’s lethal top line and with Toronto’s Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau clicking on all cylinders. Neither teams goalie was good at all and that is also a big reason that led to the high amounts of goal scoring.
Washington VS. Columbus
I thought this was finally going to be the year Columbus made it past the first round. Their new top line of Atkinson-Panarin-Dubois was fantastic all year and it finally gave them the offensive punch they have lacked. After getting off to a 2-0 series lead on the road, Columbus dropped four straight to lose the series in six. I did enjoy watching this series very much however. All of the overtime games made for great entertainment.
Pittsburgh VS. Philadelphia
Typical Pens and Flyers series where there is an average of 15 goals scored between each team in each game. This series seemed to have blowouts every game and it was kind of lame. I was really looking forward to this series and it really didn’t live up to the hype. The Flyers goaltending was bad as per usual and Matt Murray looked just as bad for the Penguins. Game 6 was pretty fun to watch with how physical it got and the trading of goals up until Pittsburgh pulled away to win 8-5. Other than that I was pretty disappointed with this matchup.
Now that the first round is over, let’s dive into the second round matchups.
Nashville VS. Winnipeg
We all saw this matchup coming. Nashville and Winnipeg have been the top dogs in the central division nearly all season. They have had some crazy regular season matchups which have been extremely high scoring. That is very odd due to the fact that both teams were among the top of the league in keeping pucks out of their net. Rinne and Hellebuyck both had spectacular seasons for their respective teams.
Despite the offensive outbursts we saw between these two teams in the regular season, I do not believe that will be the case in this series. These teams will be playing much tighter than they were in the regular season. Connor Hellebuyck was fantastic against Minnesota (game 4 was an outlier). Pekka Rinne always has the ability to steal you a series.
These teams are very even with each other in my opinion and this should be a fantastic seven game series. In the end, I am giving Nashville the edge due to their fantastic D core and I think Pekka Rinne is going to kick his game into another gear here in this series.
Vegas VS. San Jose
Wow, both of these teams are coming off of huge series sweeps. San Jose has been wicked hot for two months now and Vegas just will not stop winning.
I was very bored with San Jose as a team, but after watching them completely pick apart the Ducks, I am intrigued. Evander Kane has come in and helped the offense in a bigger impact than anyone would’ve expected. Martin Jones was a .970 goalie in the four games against Anaheim. 13 of San Jose’s players have at least two points in the four games they played against the Ducks. Now how much of that was because of Ryan Miller? I am not sure.
Vegas still managed to sweep the Kings despite Jonathan Quick standing on his head. Despite not scoring many goals, they looked great offensively. Their speed cannot be talked about highly enough. I cannot get over how fantastic the 19-71-81 line is for them. Flower being a .977 goalie really helped them too however.
Despite the Sharks being red hot, I am done betting against Vegas and am taking them to win the series in six games. They have given us as fans no reason to continue doubting them.
Tampa VS. Boston
This is going to be an awesome series. The two best teams in the Eastern Conference are matching up here in the second round.
I feel like Tampa Bay is a much better version of the Leafs. They are great offensively and have fantastic forward depth. They have a star on D in Victor Hedman and now Ryan McDonagh. But other than that, their defense isn’t too spectacular all-around. Tampa has a huge advantage in net with Vasilevskiy.
Boston is always a tough out in the playoffs. They dominated most of the play against the Leafs despite Toronto having better forward depth. Boston has always been a great possession team and that is apart of what makes them so tough to play against.
It is really tough to say this, but I am taking Boston over Tampa in 7 games. I have bet against the Bruins all year and they continue to prove me wrong. With how great they played against Toronto, I really see them causing problems for Tampa.
Washington VS. Pittsburgh
Oh boy, here we go again. Washington just cannot escape playing the Penguins in the first round.
The Capitals looked very good all series long against Columbus and didn’t get blown out in either of their two losses. Even after going down 2-0, they didn’t seem phased by it and won their next four after putting Holtby in net. Holtby is a playoff animal, so it is no surprise to me that he came in and sealed the deal.
Pittsburgh was very uninspiring to me. Yeah sure, their offense was great. That was all against below average goaltending from the Flyers. Pittsburgh’s defense is nothing to write home about and Matt Murray looked terrible against the Flyers. That’s not to say he can’t bounce back, but he has not looked very inspiring for the Penguins.
As weird as this may sound, I think Washington will finally overcome Pittsburgh here. Washington has the better defense and goaltender. Then again, the Penguins have one of the best offenses in the league and they are the back to back champs after all. I am taking the Caps in seven. I am well aware that it’s a very hot take.
Be sure to check out the new “Pfaffcast” tonight for an even deeper insight to all of these series’!