With 20 games to go, we took a shot at trying to predict what the first round of the NHL playoffs will end up looking like.
Bruins (1) vs Islanders (WC2)
The Bruins will clearly be the top seed in the East, which leaves them going up against the second wild card team and eighth seed in the conference. We think that team will be the Islanders. Coming down the stretch, New York should be able to rely on Ilya Sorokin in the crease unlike any team that’s currently chasing them for that final spot in the postseason.
Maple Leafs (2) vs Lightning (3)
The rematch from last year is already basically set in stone. It would take a total collapse from one of these teams to end up in a wild card spot and we just don’t see it happening despite Tampa’s current streak of sloppy play. What a series this should be, too.
Hurricanes (1) vs Penguins (WC1)
This would be a very interesting series between an underdog with a ton of playoff experience and a favorite with much less experience. With the additions of Granlund and Bonino at the deadline, Pittsburgh did get better, but the chances of them getting out of a wild card spot are slim. On the other side, the Canes are currently only four points ahead of New Jersey, but we do think that they’ll hold on to the top spot in the division.
Devils (2) vs Rangers (3)
This one would be another very intriguing first round series and may end up being the only one where the lower seed is favored to win. Although the Devils would certainly put up a fight, it would be interesting to see how the oddsmakers see this series given New York’s playoff experience and defensive advantage. Given the amount of skill on both rosters, goaltending and defence would make a dramatic difference in this one.
Avalanche (1) vs Jets (WC2)
With both divisions so close right now, the West was certainly a little tougher to predict. However, given that the Avs are getting healthier and rolling well lately, we’ll take them to win the conference and end up going against the Jets. For Winnipeg, things have not gone well lately and although there’s still time to get back on track, every loss makes it harder and harder to get back out of that wild card position.
Stars (2) vs Wild (3)
If Colorado wins the Central and Winnipeg stays in a wild card spot, that’ll leave the Stars and Wild to round out the division’s top 3. Minnesota is now just currently two points behind Dallas for the lead in the division and they are hunting for the top. Picking seeds between these two teams is basically a tossup at this point, but either way, it would be a very entertaining and competitive series.
Golden Knights (1) vs Kraken (WC1)
The battle between the NHL’s two newest franchises! I feel a little bad predicting the Kraken will move back into a wild card spot during a five-game win streak, but I do think Edmonton will finish the season strong to push ahead of Seattle. Every game of this series would be awesome, and I’d expect a great atmosphere in both arenas.
Kings (2) vs Oilers (3)
Finally, another rematch from last year’s first round. The Oilers and Kings went seven games last year and I’d expect it to go at least six this time around. Both squads are probably better than they were last year, but Los Angeles is considerably better. However, with McDavid and Draisaitl on the other side, the Oilers have something that no team in the NHL can really match up with.