With all of the craziness of WrestleMania weekend I almost forgot to write these. Thankfully I’ll get them in just in time.
Thankfully I can say I’ve watched a ton of hockey this year because I bought the Center Ice package for the first time. Obviously I couldn’t watch every single game but I’ve seen a ton of Leafs, Jets, Golden Knights, Lightning, Bruins, Sharks, and Hawks games. This year’s going to be weird since the Hawks aren’t in it so I have to start with the Western Conference.
(1) Nashville Predators vs. (WC2) Colorado Avalanche
The Nashville Predators have won the Presidents Trophy. Let that sink in – we live in a world where the Preds have won the Presidents Trophy. Anyone think that would happen, ever? But they are that good now. The scary thing is – they’re that good but there’s no clear cut winner this year, there are multiple teams that have a solid chance of winning.
The Colorado Avalanche got out of the basement, traded Matt Duchene, and MacKinnon and goaltending brought them to the playoffs after being a record-settingly bad team last year.
As impressive as it is that Colorado got themselves in the playoffs after the year they had last year, there’s no way they’re going to make it past the Preds.
(2) Winnipeg Jets vs. (3) Minnesota Wild
The Winnipeg Jets are another legit contender. They have many offensive weapons – Laine, Scheifele, Wheeler, Byfuglien – and Hellebuyck is great.
The Minnesota Wild are here and, well, they just kind of are here because the other teams in the division were just worse than them. I’ve heard literally nothing about them this year outside of Staal has 40 goals? And Dubnyk needs to stop playing in back to back games so as not to ruin my fantasy team.
Jets win, no question about it.
(1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC1) Los Angeles Kings
So, um, did anyone have Vegas even in the playoffs this year? Because I’m pretty sure we all had them as a crap team. But here they are, number one seed, and an actual contender. They used five goalies in the beginning of the season because they kept getting hurt. But damn – between Karlsson, Marchessault, the fake deal James Neal, and Fleury, and others, they are a threat.
The Los Angeles Kings are still the Los Angeles Kings. They struggled in the beginning of the season if I remember correctly but they got it together.
I don’t think I can just pick Vegas and move on so quickly. I do believe Vegas will win, but this won’t be as easy as the first two matchups. If anyone can take out the higher seed in the first round, it’s in this series. Quick is still great and the Kings have more experience. Still think Vegas takes it.
(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (3) San Jose Sharks
The Anaheim Ducks are sadly still here even though they’ve been hit or miss all year.
The San Jose Sharks have been quietly really good, and now they have Evander Kane to go along with Pavelski, Couture, Burns, Hertl, and Thornton.
Sharks will win.
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Washington Capitals have won their division and have done so fairly quietly – the past few years they’ve been the favorite going in. This year, while they certainly are strong contenders, the attention doesn’t seem to be on them as it is on other teams. Maybe the pressure being off will bring them better luck.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a similar boat to Washington – not much attention on them either.
I can’t pick against Washington, even though I could definitely see Columbus – specifically Bobrovsky – frustrating the Caps and stealing the series, especially since Holtby has struggled recently. But, Caps.
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) Philadelphia Flyers
The Pittsburgh Penguins struggled in the beginning of the season before realizing they were the Penguins and here they are.
The Philadelphia Flyers are a team I accidentally saw a ton of games of this year and I still don’t really know that much about their season.
Aren’t we all happy this series is happening? I know I am. Obviously the Pens are the favorites but if any team could knock them out in the first round, it’s the Flyers. Philadelphia gives them fits. Still, Pittsburgh to win.
(1) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) New Jersey Devils
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the best team in the league for most of the season, and the only reason they didn’t win the Presidents Trophy is because they slowed down a bit closer to the end of the season – so much so that Boston is only a point behind them.
The New Jersey Devils have made the playoffs for the first time in six years on the back of Taylor Hall.
If Tampa lost I’d be super surprised about it. They’re my pick to win the Cup.
(2) Boston Bruins vs. (3) Toronto Maple Leafs
The Boston Bruins definitely surpassed everyone’s expectations this year and are one of the best teams in the league.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had another great season – better than last year’s – and had Matthews been healthy all year, they may have gotten an even higher seed. They still lack on defense a bit but their offense is lights out and Andersen has been great.
This will be a tough series – either team could win. Both have great goaltending and can score tons of goals. The difference is that Boston’s goal scorers are all on one line whereas the Leafs’ are spread out, giving the Leafs the advantage. Plus Boston is deal with more significant injuries. It will probably go seven, but as long as the Leafs don’t get a 4-1 lead in game seven, they will have their revenge.
Alright, well that’s the first round. More predictions when it’s over.