NHL Playoff Preview


The NHL Playoffs have a handful of marquee matchups in the first round in both the East and West (Courtesy of Flickr)

By Chris Hennessy

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. The NHL playoffs are here and have provided some intriguing matchups in the first round. Let’s do it, starting with the East.

The Lightning (1st in the Atlantic) take on Columbus (2nd in Wild Card).

Of all the possible teams to face Tampa (Carolina and Montreal), the Blue Jackets have the best chance at slaying the beast. That being said, the Bolts are one of the best teams we’ve ever seen, tying the regular season win record with 62. (Begins Wednesday)

Expect to see the Bolts win in 6.

Boston (2nd in the Atlantic) face division rivals Toronto (3rd in the Atlantic.

A rematch of the first-round series from last year proves again why the playoff system stinks, but that’s a column for a different day. I like Boston big in this series. They improved their secondary scoring drastically at the deadline, as well as having a better defensive core and goaltending than Toronto and far more playoff experience. Toronto’s investment in a certain $11-million forward will not pay off this year. (Begins Thursday)

Bruins in 5 is a safe choice.

The reigning champions, Washington (1st in the Metropolitan) play Carolina (1st in the Wild Card).

This has the potential to be a very intriguing series. The monkey is off Washington’s back, and Carolina is a playoff-starved franchise. I expect the ‘Canes to give the defending champs a run for their money, but eventually fall short. (Begins Thursday)

The best bet is Caps in 6.

The New York Islanders (2nd in the Metropolitan) will play Pittsburgh (3rd in the Metropolitan).

Playoff hockey at the Nassau Coliseum. Enough said. Isles will take the series, but it will not be easy. I’m bleeding confidence in Barry’s boys right now, and I love it. Home ice plays a key role in this series between two equally talented teams. (Wednesday)

This series will be a close one, but expect the Isles in 7.

And now to the West.

Calgary (1st in the Pacific) is playing Colorado (2nd in Wild Card).

Both eight-seeds are strong this year, and I would not be surprised if Colorado pulled off the upset. However, given their downfall in mid-season, I don’t think the recent resurgence is good enough to beat a very talented Flames team. (Thursday)

It would not be a stretch to expect Flames in 6

San Jose (2nd in the Pacific) is taking on the defending conference champs Vegas (3rd in the Pacific).

The defending Western Conference champs face a tough challenge in the first round, and I think they will fall to San Jose. The Sharks are towards the end of their Stanley Cup window and are going to have to prove themselves to free-agent-to-be Erik Karlson. (Wednesday)

We may see the Sharks in 7.

Heavyweights Nashville (1st in the Central) will take on Dallas (1st in the Wild Card).

Nashville has struggled down the stretch, but I’m not in love with the Stars. They are talented, but I don’t believe in their offense in general, and think Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are aging quickly. (Wednesday)

The Preds will win in 5.

Winnipeg (2nd in the Central) are taking on St. Louis (3rd in the Central)

Very intriguing series here in the Central bracket. A few months back, I picked Winnipeg to win the Cup. I liked what they did at the deadline a lot, but it is hard to ignore how hot the Blues are right now. I still like the Jets, but this might be the best series of the first round. (Wednesday)

We will see the Jets in 7.