Home / Hockey / NHL Playoff Preview: A first glance at the eight first-round matchups

NHL Playoff Preview: A first glance at the eight first-round matchups


The first spherical of the post-season will get underway Wednesday, however earlier than we dive deep into every sequence, take a fast look at what to anticipate when the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

It took till the final recreation of the season for the playoff matchups to be set, however the Boston Bruins’ loss at the palms of the Florida Panthers locked the two closing post-season sequence into place. And with that, the hockey world can put together for the two-plus month journey to the Stanley Cup with a glance at the first-round matchups that may determine which groups prolong their seasons and which will probably be becoming a member of the non-playoff golf equipment for some late-spring tee instances:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Washington Capitals (1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (WC1)

In different years, the Capitals getting into the post-season as a high seed would include huge expectations. That’s not the case this time round, and that’s fully the results of Washington fooling prognosticators repeatedly with earlier-than-expected playoff exits. It additionally doesn’t assist issues for the Capitals that they’re getting into a sequence in opposition to a Blue Jackets staff that was one in all the hottest in the NHL over the previous month. The excellent news for Washington, nonetheless, is that the season sequence completed Three-1 in favor of the Capitals regardless of the reality the Blue Jackets held a big edge in photographs in every outing. This is a sequence that would come all the way down to a battle of stars — Alex Ovechkin vs. Artemi Panarin — and goaltending.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Three)
We needed extra Battle of Pennsylvania, and we’re getting extra Battle of Pennsylvania. There’s little doubt that is going to be one in all the most heated sequence of the first spherical as there’s no love misplaced between the Penguins and Flyers. As for who wins the battle, although, the season sequence would appear to recommend that is going to be lopsided. Pittsburgh scored 5 targets in every of the head-to-heads throughout the common season en path to a Four-Zero sweep of the season sequence, however two of these contests have been additional time wins and the Penguins’ protection goes to be tasked with shutting down a Claude Giroux who has returned to world-beating kind. The playoffs could be a totally different animal, and in a sequence with this a lot emotion, no outcome could be stunning.

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs. New Jersey Devils (WC2)

Based purely on seeding and common season efficiency, the assumption could be that that is the Lightning’s sequence to lose. Thing is, that’s precisely what Tampa Bay did throughout the common season. Three instances the Lighting and Devils squared off throughout the common season. Three instances New Jersey got here out on high. In reality, Tampa Bay is the solely Eastern Conference staff who misplaced each one in all their outings in opposition to New Jersey this season, so possibly that is the very best draw for the Devils. Even with that stated, although, one worries about an inexperienced New Jersey group taking up a Tampa Bay staff that is aware of what it takes to win in the playoffs, and the sure-to-be elevated give attention to Taylor Hall means the Devils might have to search out one other hero to drive them to victory.

Boston Bruins (2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Three)
Seven factors might have separated the two groups throughout the common season, however the margin was even thinner than that. Both Boston and Toronto traded Four-1 victories at separate factors throughout the marketing campaign, whereas the different two contests have been determined by a single purpose — and each of these outings have been Bruins losses. It needs to be famous, nonetheless, that two of these video games got here in the first half of the season, earlier than Boston turned one in all the NHL’s juggernauts. In the second half, the Bruins went a outstanding 29-10-6 and have been two factors off the league lead from January onward. Toronto wasn’t far off, ending seventh in the second half, however a wholesome Boston lineup is as scary and as deep as any in the league.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL DIVISION
Nashville Predators (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (WC2)

The Avalanche received a vital recreation, a winner-take-all battle with the St. Louis Blues, to earn the proper to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, sneaking in as the second wild-card staff additionally comes with the job of enjoying the Predators in the first spherical. Nashville was practically unstoppable in the second half of the marketing campaign and Ryan Ellis’ return rounded out an already deadly blueline to provide the Predators arguably the most full lineup of any staff in the post-season. The season sequence doesn’t provide Colorado a lot hope right here, sadly. Four losses, three by two or extra targets and one which was determined in additional time. If Nathan MacKinnon is shut down by Nashville’s protection corps, this sequence might be a fast one.

Winnipeg Jets (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (Three)
Winnipeg comes into this sequence as the common season’s second-best, a gaggle that’s deep offensively and defensively and one which has obtained stellar goaltending all through the marketing campaign. But getting by Minnesota, their cross-border rivals, goes to be no simple job. Sure, the Jets received the season sequence, however two of their three victories have been of the one-goal selection and the Wild carried play at even power. Winnipeg’s home-ice benefit would possibly assist determine the sequence, although, as Minnesota completed the season two video games under .500 on the street, giving them the second-worst street document of any Western Conference playoff staff. The Jets, in the meantime, had extra wins at dwelling than some other staff in the NHL.

PACIFIC DIVISION
Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (WC1)

The Golden Knights’ success this season led them to high spot in the Pacific Division and sees them enter their first-ever playoff sequence as the betting favorites. The lengthy look makes it clear why, too. Vegas had the league’s fifth-most potent offense, eighth-most staunch protection and each particular groups items ranked simply exterior the high third in the NHL. Over the closing quarter of the marketing campaign, nonetheless, the Kings scored just one fewer purpose, allowed 11 fewer in opposition to, had an influence play that operated at solely a barely decrease charge of success and boasted the NHL’s second-best penalty kill. Los Angeles additionally went 15-Eight-Three to Las Vegas’ 14-9-Three from mid-February onward. This is likely to be a high seed-versus-wild-card membership battle, however the on-ice play will probably be a lot tighter than the standings recommend.

Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (Three)
If the season sequence is any indication, hockey followers in California are going to have some late nights watching the Ducks and Sharks. Of the 4 outings performed between the two groups, three went to further time and all three wanted to transcend additional time to determine a winner. That’s how razor-thin the margin between these two golf equipment has been all season. It needs to be famous, nonetheless, that Anaheim has but to face this post-deadline San Jose group, which has seen a big increase in offense since the arrival of Evander Kane. The Sharks have been the sixth-highest scoring staff after the commerce freeze, fifth-best defensively and one in all the higher possession groups in the NHL. That stated, getting pucks previous a wholesome John Gibson with any consistency goes to be a troublesome job, and goaltending is a particular edge for Anaheim. Buckle up for this one.

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