1. Tampa Bay Lightning v.s. W. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Presidents’ Trophy winner Tampa Bay Lightning tied the 1996 Detroit Red Wings with 62 wins for most wins in a season in NHL history.
With Kucherov leading the league in points with 128, and Stamkos racking up 45 goals as well, this Lightning team is one of the most talented offenses we have seen in years.
Sitting in the second wild card spot are the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets will have their hands full with this Lightning team, and I do not see this series going more than five games.
Tampa Bay can dominate at home, and on the road, increasing the possibility of a series sweep, however Columbus is certainly capable of stealing one game in this series.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 4-1
2. Boston Bruins v.s. 3. Toronto Maple Leafs
For the second year in a row, the Boston Bruins will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Playoffs.
Last year we saw a game seven, however this year with the Bruins’ goalie duo of Rask and Halak, and another year of experience under their belts, I expect Boston to have an easier time than last year.
Toronto’s best option is to use their offensive skill and scoring ability to pepper the Boston goalies, and get into the heads of Rask and Halak as much as possible.
However, with Toronto not playing the greatest as of late, and the Bruins now getting healthy, and playing solid, I do see the Bruins advancing to the Second Round.
Prediction: Boston 4-2
1. Washington Capitals v.s. W. Carolina Hurricanes
For the fourth straight season, the Capitals won the Metropolitan Division.
Alexander Ovechkin also led the league in goals for a record eighth time in his career with 51 goals.
Key performances from Washington will be Ovechkin, Hagelin, Holtby, and Wilson as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes this round.
For the first time since 2009 the Hurricanes are in the Playoffs; that in itself is an accomplishment for the season.
Carolina will certainly pose a few issues for the Capitals, however with Washington sweeping the season series 4-0 this year, I fully expect the defending Champs to win this series.
Prediction: Washington 4-1
2. New York Islanders v.s. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins
Who would have thought the season following Tavares leaving the Islanders would be their first playoff appearance since the 2016 season?
Well with the coaching of Barry Trotz, and management of Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders finished second in the Metropolitan Division, with the fewest goals against on the season with 191.
This season for the Penguins has certainly had its ups and downs.
Facing a significant amount of injuries late in the season, Pittsburgh finished third in the Metropolitan Division.
Key performances for the Penguins besides Crosby, are Malkin, Kessel, and Murray.
If Murray can be solid in net, this Pittsburgh team is still dangerous on offense with the fifth best power play in the league.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 4-3
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