The Stanley Cup Playoffs are back! I’ll be taking a look at all the matchups for each round of the playoffs while giving my predictions one series at a time. Today, we take a look at the five matchups beginning tonight. The analysis will be short, but the predictions will be accurate.
Buckle up, folks, the Battle for the Cup is back!
Pittsburgh versus Columbus
This series is the one I’ve had the most trouble getting a grasp on. And also, the series that I’m most intrigued about. Part of that is probably because I’m a Flyers fan (sad face) and watching these two division rivals go toe-to-toe is exciting. The other part of that is because this has the potential to be a Conference Championship caliber series with two of the best teams in the league.
For me, this series will come down to two players: Sergei Bobrovsky and Kris Letang. Bobrovsky has been phenomenal all year long (and really, his entire tenure in Columbus since being traded form Philly. Again, sad face). He’s been the best goalie in the league this season and the Blue Jackets will need him to continue that level of play to knock off Pittsburgh. If he struggles, the Blue Jackets will be in trouble.
The biggest storyline heading into this series may be the loss of Letang. He sets the tone on the back end and is a force on offense. Sidney Crosby is the most talented player on the roster (and league), but Letang may be the most important. This loss is a massive one, and I don’t know that the Penguins are going to overcome it.
I’m giving the edge to the Blue Jackets here. They don’t have as much playoff experience as the Penguins do, but they’ve been impressive—and underrated—all season long.
Prediction: Blue Jackets in 6.
Rangers versus Canadiens
This is another series that features two terrific goalies in Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price. I wrote earlier in the season that Price looked primed to carry the Canadiens all the way and I stand by that. The Canadiens look like they can finally bring the Cup back to Canada. Although, they have their work cut out for them against the Rangers in the first round.
Montreal is getting home ice and they finished the year strong (6-3-1) while the Rangers struggled a bit down the stretch (3-4-3). Advantage to the team with more momentum. New York’s time may be running out with The King between the pipes, but sadly, I don’t see them getting out of the first round this year.
Prediction: Canadiens in 7.
Bruins versus Senators
I’m genuinely surprised the Bruins made the playoffs this season. From an outside perspective, I felt they’ve lost a lot of talent over the last few years and the organization seemed in a general state of disarray. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll stick with my gut on this one. Give me (a hopefully healthy) Erik Karlsson.
Prediction: Senators in 6.
Blues versus Wild
This is the one series I don’t care much for. The Blues are no strangers to the playoffs of late, but they’ve always struggled to knock off Chicago and they’re missing some key pieces from years past. Luckily for them, they don’t have to face Chicago just yet. That said, they just don’t have the talent this year.
Prediction: Wild in 6.
Sharks versus Oilers
This one should make the late night on the East Coast worth it. The Oilers rebuilding project is finally paying dividends as they get back to the playoffs for the first time since their thrilling run in 2006.
This series is going to be all about the emergence of Edmonton’s young guns. They have the talent and the speed to make some noise and will be a playoff powerhouse for years to come. The Sharks are coming off of a long playoff run last year which cut their offseason short and are going up against a fast, young, hungry Oilers team. Give me the kids with the momentum (8-2 in their last 10) for a surprisingly quick series.
Prediction: Oilers in 5.
How do you think these First Round matchups will play out? Sound off below!