By Cameron Bigelow
My goal for this year’s playoffs was to watch. I waited until every series had at least one game finished because playoff hockey is a different animal. One that can mold teams into contenders, pretenders, and most importantly into shells of their former selves. This has long been the core of playoff hockey; Its ability to seemingly create stories and to amass more appeal as time moves forward and the teams dwindle into the final 2. So without further ado, here are my first round NHL playoff predictions.
Philadelphia v. Pittsburgh
Man, that first game was a fun on, wasn’t it? Well, fun if you’re on the right side of Pennsylvania…. Crosby with the hat trick, Malkin chipping in, and even a shutout for Matt Murray. The Pens definitely look to be on top of their game. However, I don’t think this series is over quite yet. I really do think that the Flyers will be able to bounce back. With firepower up front like Giroux, Voracek, and Simmons you’re bound to have at least a fighting chance against this Pens squad with some obvious holes. But these guys need to get going soon or else you’re toast. However, the lack of depth, and shaky goaltending will decidedly give the Penguins the edge. My prediction is game 2 going to the Pens again and then Philly swarming back on home ice to tie the series, but ultimately I think the Penguins take this one in 6.
Bruins v. Leafs
Well, Boston how are you feeling?! You should be through the roof that the team from January seems to be back from that skid at the end of the year. This game was brutal for the Leafs. They looked uncomfortable and shaky. The physicality of Boston on the forecheck proved to be vital and the Leafs look on the road is not a good one. Kadri might even be out as well. Game 3 will decide the series and I am excited to see if the Bruins can defeat the home crowd. The Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak line looked to be too much for the leafs to handle and Matthews looked like a ghost. If game 1 had anything however it was grit. And this series is going to be fun, buckle up. I think that Bruins the Leafs, I’m going to go Bruins in 7. Please don’t let this be a jynx.
Knights v. Kings
What a way to start off the playoffs for a franchise. The atmosphere was incredible. I still don’t think that Vegas is a great market for the team, but if they’re winning, they will come. Talk about a pretty good game too. A defensive struggle after the first goal. Look L.A, you guys are playing a vastly superior team. With youth passing your older guys, and Drew Doughty going down as well I don’t see this series going very far. Jonathan Quick is going to need to stand on his head for you guys to do it.The fight in the Knights is just too much. Especially with a very talented forward core pitting up against your weak and injury riddled defense My boldest prediction yet. Vegas in 5.
Avs v. Preds
Look its admirable what the Avs have done. Coming off of one of the worst seasons in NHL history putting up 48 points, then in the next season making the playoffs. That’s remarkable and I am not taking that away, but man you were getting manhandled. Even their first goal was on a fast break after being trapped in a zone for at least a minute. You guys are about to be dominated by what might become the stanley cup champions. Pekka looked unreal. The defense was dominant. And what about that move by an underrated gem of a player known as Filip Forsberg. He looks to be on top of his game and that is scary for the whole league. Not to mention you have Bernier, the perennial playoff choke job in net. This is a sweep all the way, Preds in 4.
Lightning v. Devils
The Lightning are back at it. This Lightning team looked really solid during this game. That little skid towards the end of the year seems to have dissipated. Vasilevsky looked recharged. Stamkos back in a rested lineup. Tampa looked good. However, the Devils were only outshot by 1 (32-31). I think this series will be closer than expected. Taylor Hall has shown he is ready. This young team has seen playoff hockey now, and now they will real back the nerve and focus that energy on the Lightning. I also believe that Kinkaid will bounce back. I know its a bit of a stretch but I’m going Lightning in 7.
Caps v. Jackets
Well, this is the only surprise so far to me. This first game showed a hungry Blue Jackets team, trying to grow off the past two years of inexperience turned to experience. While on the other end of the spectrum the Capitals looked like a team that wanted this choking in the playoffs mentality to end. In the end however, Artemi Panarin looking like an allstar, ends it in the first overtime. Grubauer and Bobrovsky is a sneaky good goalie matchup. And the Caps potent offense matched up against the more than solid Blue Jackets defense. I am taking the the Capitals in 7, purely because I think the Capitals will want it more.
Ducks v. Sharks
Ok hear me out, the first game was rough for the ducks. Getting shutout 3-0 on home ice, Evander Kane scoring his first 2 career playoff goals, Burns looking confident with Martin Jones backing the whole thing with a stellar performance in net. But this series is going to be close. This Ducks team was running the NHL coming into the playoffs they will bounce back. There is no way this experienced team lets this series go. God knows this city doesn’t need more playoff agony. Not much evidence for this prediction its more of a gut feeling, but I’m going to take the Ducks in 7.
Wild v. Jets
This was exciting. Is there a more deserving city for a good playoff run than Winnipeg? And man did the Jets produce a good team to like. Patrik Laine is the finnish god they deserved. And his brutal cast of teammates will not make this series any easier for Minnesota. However, do people forget this was a one goal game? This series is sneaky good. And so are the Wild when they are clicking on all cylinders. Lest we forget about Eric Staal and Zach Parise. This series will be very close, I am predicting Jets in 7
I probably just jinxed each team that I said would win. Welcome to playoff hockey! Isn’t it just the best?