It’s that exciting time of the year…NHL Playoff Time. Battle time on the ice and chirping time for the fans. The contending teams start off on an even slate in best of seven series. In these short series, the games intensify. The atmosphere electrifies. Some players become heroes and some zeros. Goalies can steal a series, even on an inferior team. Some regular season stars disappear while grinders emerge for a taste of fame.
It has been an interesting regular season. The Eastern Conference is a Beast compared to the West. Four of the top 5 teams in the league are in the East. The 1st and 2nd round in the East may produce a couple of series with stronger teams than the Western Final. But Playoffs are different. Some teams are better built for a playoff series. Upsets do happen in a League with much parity.
1/ Boston Bruins Vs Florida Panthers
The Bruins had a record breaking season with 65 wins. They have a goaltender in Ullmark who is a shoe in for the Vezina. Tempted to give the Bruins this series in 4 or 5 games. They also seem to have a team that is built for the playoffs. But, in reviewing the regular season match-up, they each won two games. Aggregate goals for Boston was 17 and for Florida 15. Florida has a minor league goalie who has been playing very well down the stretch. Florida had a disappointing season vs expectations. Good line-up. Could prove to be a thorn for Boston.
Bruins in 6
2/ Toronto Maple Leafs Vs Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s another year. Repeat meeting. Last year’s match-up went to the wire. Must watch hockey. Could have gone either way. The Leafs won the regular season match-up 2 games to 1. Tampa’s regular season pace has slowed, but they are built for the playoffs. Tampa’s fate may rest in goalie Vasilevskiy. He has had just an ordinary season. He will need to regain his all star form for Tampa to increase it’s chances of moving forward. Toronto has gained another year of maturity for it’s younger core. Goaltending will be solid. Depth and defense have improved. Power play will be pivotal. Watch for Marner and Matthews to bring playoff grit and success. The 1st Round Monkey may come off their backs.
Leafs in 6
3/ New York Rangers New Jersey Devils
This will be an exciting battle. Two evenly matched teams. Fans will be quite engaged in this meeting of close rivals. Both teams have had an excellent seasons. Much speed, talent and grit on both sides. If Shesterkin plays to his ability, in the end, goaltending may be the difference for the Rangers. Rangers also have a year of playoff experience. And don’t sleep on Pat Kane.
4/ Carolina Hurricanes Vs New York Islanders
Carolina is a heavy favourite. They had a strong regular season. But, the Islanders bring grit. May grind out a couple of wins.
Hurricanes in 6
1/ Vegas Golden Knights Vs Winnipeg Jets
Vegas is a strong favourite. But, they are down two goalies. The Jets had a disappointing season, but managed to secure a playoff position. Vegas won all three meetings between the two this year. Winnipeg requires a return to all-star form from goalie Connor Hellebuyck to have a chance. May be much change in Winnipeg in the off season.
Knights in 5
2/ Edmonton Oilers Vs Los Angeles Kings
The Oilers finished strong and had a good season. Their goaltending is adequate but their offense led by McJesus and Draisaitl can be other worldly. Although they split the season series, Edmonton won the last two games. Los Angeles has a good young team with a couple of good veterans, but are not quite ready.
Oilers in 5
3/ Dallas Stars Vs Minnesota Wild
This could prove to be a physical series. Dallas won the season series 2 games to 1 and outscored the Wild 9-4 on aggregate scoring. But, the big difference may lie in the special teams. The Wild are heavily penalized while the Stars have a good powerplay.
Stars in 6
4/ Colorado Avalanche Vs Seattle Kraken
One should not take Seattle for granted. They won the season series 2 games to 1, all one goal games. Seattle has made the playoffs for the first time in it’s two year existence. Colorado are the reining Stanley Cup Champions with elite talent on the front and back end. Colorado has stronger goaltending and a potent power play. Seattle will push them hard.
Avalanche in 6