You don’t know how excited I am to be putting this together. When all sports shut down, most of us thought that we would be without them for a couple of weeks. Well, clearly that didn’t work out. Congratulations though! You made it about 4 to 5 months without a single sporting event on tv.
On behalf of the NHL (not really I’m not affiliated with them at all), I am proud to say that play will resume on August 1st with exhibition (“preseason”) games beginning July 28th. Each team will play one game before the play-in round begins and the round robin for the top 4 seeds. Here, we’re going to take a look at who I think will win in the play-in round and project the “Round One” matchups.
Round-Robin Predictions :
For the round-robin to determine the seeding for the top four teams in each conference, I went ahead and put them in the order I believe they will be for Round One of the playoffs.
- Washington Capitals
- Boston Bruins
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Colorado Avalanche
- St. Louis Blues
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Dallas Stars
#5 Pittsburgh Penguins – #12 Montreal Canadiens
Winner: #5 Pittsburgh Penguins
Out of all the matchups in the play-in round, I think this one is the easiest to pick. The Penguins have the experience and talent to go far, as they have proven in the past. Jake Guentzel will likely return for the Pens which will give them a boost on an offense that looked sluggish before the pause. For the Canadiens, they might be able to steal a game? I just don’t have that much faith in a team like them to take out a contender in the early stages of the bracket. I’ll take the Pens in three.
#6 Carolina Hurricanes – #11 New York Rangers
Winner: #6 Carolina Hurricanes
The Rangers surged late into the season to get to where they are today. They converted when they needed to and are now matched up against a Hurricane team who was in the mix for finishing 3rd in the Metropolitan. Carolina did make a lot of moves to get better before the deadline and are certainly a better team because of that. They did go on a deep playoff run last year and are capable of doing it again, but they did go winless against New York this year. My gut is telling me to go with the underdog, but I’m taking the Canes in 5.
#7 New York Islanders – #10 Florida Panthers
Winner: #7 New York Islanders
Islander fans are probably happy that the Coronavirus paused the season because they were on a seven-game losing streak before the break. Florida was swept by the Isles in the regular season and it shouldn’t be that much different in this time around. Despite the Panthers having more talent on offense, the Isles defense seems to be more intact and playoff ready. I’ll take New York in four, but it won’t be a clean and easy defeat.
#8 Toronto Maple Leafs – #9 Columbus Blue Jackets
Winner: #8 Toronto Maple Leafs
Remember when the Blue Jackets shocked the world and took out the Lightning in what should’ve been a 4-0 sweep for them? Yeah…that was interesting. Anyways, I don’t see the Blue Jackets winning this year considering they do not have the talent the Maple Leafs have on offense. The Maple Leafs normally don’t seem to get far in the postseason, but I’ll give them the series in four over Columbus.
#5 Edmonton Oilers – #12 Chicago Blackhawks
Winner: #5 Edmonton Oilers
You’re probably thinking that it’s a 5 vs a 12 so it’s not going to be close at all. But both these teams are unique in their own way to take the series. Edmonton is young and ready to go with Connor McDavid leading the way. The Oilers should not have much of an issue with puck control and possession, but they’ll run into some issues with scoring on Cory Crawford. Crawford is known for being elite in the postseason and should get help with his experienced teammates around him. I do think that the pairing of McDavid and Draisaitl will be too much for Chicago to handle, so I’ll take Edmonton in four hard-fought games.
#6 Nashville Predators – #11 Arizona Coyotes
Winner: #11 Arizona Coyotes
Taylor Hall finally gets playoff hockey after spending some time with the New Jersey Devils and being traded. Phil Kessel is a key part to add veteran experience as he was on the Penguins champion teams in 2016 and 2017. On the other hand, Nashville has been somewhat a disappointment ever since their Stanley Cup Final loss to the Pens in 2017. I’ll take the Coyotes to win the series in four games, but I won’t be surprised if it goes to five. I do think the winner of this matchup isn’t going far.
#7 Vancouver Canucks – #10 Minnesota Wild
Winner: #7 Vancouver Canucks
Similar to the Oilers-Blackhawks matchup, I’m going with youth again and taking Vancouver over Minnesota. The Canucks have a really good top six on the offense and lots of young talent to work within their lineup. Minnesota has been known to upset in the playoffs in recent years while always being a disappointment. I like the Canucks more as a whole and think they are the more talented of the two. I predict the Canucks take it in four.
#8 Calgary Flames – #9 Winnipeg Jets
Winner: #9 Winnipeg Jets
This one’s going to five games and I don’t see it going any other way. Connor Hellebuyck was arguably the best goaltender in the NHL this season. David Rittich for the Flames is not as good, but he can get hot. He was one of the stars of the teams when Calgary went on a bad downslope during the year. For me, having a goaltender who can play essentially lights out is key, so I’m taking Winnipeg. The Jets also have a slightly better offense working with Laine, Ehlers, and Scheifle. Give me Jets in five.
Here is how I think round one will look after the play-in round is over:
#1 Washington Capitals – #8 Toronto Maple Leafs
#2 Boston Bruins – #7 New York Islanders
#3 Tampa Bay Lightning – #6 Carolina Hurricanes
#4 Philadelphia Flyers – #5 Pittsburgh Penguins
#1 Colorado Avalanche – #11 Arizona Coyotes
#2 St. Louis Blues – #9 Winnipeg Jets
#3 Vegas Golden Knights – #7 Vancouver Canucks
#4 Dallas Stars – #5 Edmonton Oilers