The NHL playoffs are a week old, and we saw our first knockout last night with the Colorado great sweeping the Nashville Predators. While anyone paying attention can tell that this is likely to happen, most of the rest of the series has been incredibly competitive so far. Aside from the pens having a 3-1 advantage over the NYR, all six other match series are tied 2-2.
Here’s what we’ve learned about them all so far…
Carolina vs Boston
why does it matter: The Pencil Winner/Rangers meet the winner of this series, so there you are. Also, if Pittsburgh can get its work done tomorrow night (big if, yadda yadda), it could be very helpful since Carolina/Boston has written all over the place so far, and Game 7 is Saturday. This means that the second round probably won’t start until next Monday or Tuesday and will give plenty of useful time for pens and players like Tristan Gary, Brian Dumoulin and Rijkaard Raquel to recover without missing matches in the next five or six days.
what I like: Boston’s defensive effort, even without Charlie McAvoy and Humbus Lindholm in 4B still suppressed Carolina’s offensive in a formidable fashion. It doesn’t even matter who the players are, the Bruins find a way to put in a very impressive defensive performance.
Can I change my prediction: Flip a coin for the answer and level of confidence in this. This series is very even, any side can take it. I called Boston at 7 but with their injuries and Ante Ranta playing so well, it wouldn’t have been a shock at all if it was the Canes who lead at the end.
Washington vs Florida
why does it matter: Florida was seen as the East class, and Washington entered the playoffs in a major fray at the end of the regular season, much like the penguins. There was also an interesting question about Clash of Styles and how an untested and relatively unproven playoff team in the Panthers would respond to the intensity of the playoff style.
what I like: Washington has been able to prevent Florida from feeling comfortable or aggressively on the right track. Last night may have been the turning point, when the Cats scored for extra time in the final minutes of regulation and they found an extra goal soon after. But a lot of people (myself included) thought the hats would just be a speed bump for the mighty leopards. This did not happen, and is not likely to happen. This is a fist fight in the first round which at this point, Florida will be somewhat lucky to get out of it.
Can I change my prediction: I got Florida at 5, and I might as well stick with it, even though they were very close to a 3-1 defeat last night in what could have been a fatal blow to their season. However, at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington didn’t win her last game, which means this series goes as far as Game 7. And almost anything can happen in the case of Game 7.
Tampa vs. Toronto
why does it matter: To me, this is the streak of NHL magic in first round matches. The defending champion Lightning against the biggest team on the market is finally looking to cast off the ghosts of the previous playoffs and run for a title. The action didn’t disappoint either, as it was probably one of the craziest series to watch in terms of not knowing which team will appear.
what I like: star power. Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews make a great series, and then you have Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov answering them. The skill and speed made for some great excitement, although it seemed like one team or the other would win 4-0 or 5-0 to start a game and then sprint to the win.
Can I change my prediction: Nah. I had Tampa at 7 and I’ll be on his side, even though the paper is clearly in a position to win 2-2. I think whoever wins tonight probably wins the series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it folded into six games, though, as one small change in prediction. As almost all games were blasting, the faltering team in Game 6 might not be able to answer the bell. It’s still a shame that one of these teams goes out in the first round, either one of them being a potential ECF team type.
Colorado vs. Nashville
why does it matter: The first step in what appears to be the inevitable coronation of at least thousands of kings of the West.
what I likeCal Makar broke a National Hockey League record held in part by Paul Coffey and Bobby Orr for scoring the defensive player to start the playoffs, which will always catch eyes.
Can I change my prediction: without reason. Colorado was with the sweep, and they came as expected.
Calgary vs Dallas
why does it matter: If the stars hit the flames, the avalanche might not break a sweat until the Stanley Cup Final.
what I like: What wasn’t surprising was that Daryl Sutter allowed Dallas to play the classic Dallas game with a tight, defensive, boring hockey game that gives them a chance to win. Calgary shouldn’t be trying to play 1-0 matches with this team, because sometimes you don’t win those matches. Last night could have also been a turning point with CGY’s 4-2 victory in Dallas to tie the series. This seems like a perfect time for the best team to control the kind of moment.
Can I change my prediction: I had Flames at 5, I wouldn’t change the overall prediction though it wouldn’t finish that fast, I still expect Calgary to take care of the business and finish with a win.
Edmonton vs Los Angeles
why does it matter: It would be good for the league and the vision if their number one player these days of goal-scoring Conor McDavid could make his mark in the playoffs. Settling into keeping a large market like Los Angeles more deeply engaged in hockey in the spring isn’t the worst consolation prize though.
what I likeA: In the West, the Kings are the biggest positive surprise team in the playoffs in my opinion. It looked as if the Oilers were taking over by winning Game 2 6-0 and then Game 3 with an 8-2, but Los Angeles stayed in the series with a 4-0 win in Game 4.
Can I change my prediction: Oh God, yes. I had oilers at 5 and now feel very uncomfortable about it. He should have known better than to trust Edmonton to make it easier to work on anything in the playoffs.
St. Lewis vs. Minnesota
why does it matter: Because everyone loves Marc-Andre Fleury! And that’s a playoff, hockey big boy.
what I like: Jordan Bennington had a relegation year, but was thrown in the 2-1 shot, he did well to help the Blues even through the series in Game 4. Just like Edmonton, it looked as if Wild would take over entirely with huge wins in Games 2 + 3.
Can I change my prediction: Definitely (I had an STL at 6). Combined with Carolina/Boston, this chain has always felt like the biggest coin either side could easily conquer. With St. Louis suffering some defensive injuries along the way, the door is wide open for Minnesota to win this one.