NHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference – Round 1 Preview & Predictions

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    Final Season Standings with Futures Market

    SeedTeamRecordPointsTo Win EastTo Win Cup
    A1Florida Panthers58-18-6122+250+5500
    A2Toronto Maple Leafs54-21-7115+500+1000
    A3Tampa Bay Lightning51-23-8110+500+1100
    M1Carolina Hurricanes54-20-8116+500+1000
    M2New York Rangers52-24-6110+1000+1700
    M3Pittsburgh Penguins46-25-11103+900+2000
    WC1Boston Bruins51-26-5107+850+1800
    WC2Washington Capitals44-26-12100+1600+3000

    Series Previews & Predictions

    A1 Florida Panthers vs. WC2 Washington Capitals
    Series Odds: Panthers -300
    Game 1: Tuesday, 5/3
    Key Injuries:
    LW Alex Ovechkin has missed a few games with an upper body injury but it should just be precautionary to get healthy for Game 1, but still worth monitoring
    D Aaron Ekblad (FLA) has a lower body injury but may be available during the 1st round

    Regular Season Meetings (Florida 2-1)
    November 4 – Florida W 5-4 OT at home
    November 26 – Washington W 4-3 at home
    November 30 – Florida W 5-4 at home

    Series Outlook: The Panthers and Capitals met 3 times in the regular season, all in November with the home team winning each by just 1 goal. Florida won 13-straight games throughout April, secured the Presidents Trophy (best record in the NHL) and led the league with 4.11 goals-per-game (GPG); Washington was 10th with 3.29. Both teams have been playing some of the NHL’s best hockey since March 1st; the Caps were 16-8-3 but the Panthers were an NHL best 23-5-1. Between the pipes for the Panthers is 33-year-old veteran Sergei Bobrovsky with a ridiculous 39-7 record. The story with the Panthers is more about the offense though as Bobrovsky can be beat; he ranks 19th in GAA and Sv% among goalies with at least 25 starts. No better for the Capitals is Vitek Vanecek, 18th in GAA and 29th in Sv%. This will be a fast-paced high scoring series; the Panthers had 6 players that scored 20+ goals led by Aleksander Barkov’s 39. Surprise surprise, Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with 50 goals, 2x more than teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov & Tom Wilson.

    Series Predictions

    M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. WC1 Boston Bruins
    Series Odds: Hurricanes -128
    Game 1: Monday, 5/2
    Key Injuries:
    G Frederik Andersen (CAR) is expected to miss at least a few games in the series, a big potential loss for the Hurricanes considering he’s a Vezina Trophy finalist

    Regular Season Meetings (Carolina 3-0)
    October 28 – Carolina W 3-0 at home
    January 18 – Carolina W 7-1 on the road
    February 10 – Carolina W 6-0 on the road

    Series Outlook: Yikes. The Bruins were dominated by the Hurricanes in the regular season, beating Swayman, Rask, and Ullmark 16-1 in 3 games, 2 on the road. Boston fans will find comfort knowing how much things have improved since that last loss to Carolina though — since March 1st the Bruins are 19-9-1 to Carolina’s 17-9-4. Now that the Tuukaa Rask era is over, Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy must decide between rookie Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark who between the 2 have a grand total of 1 period of playoff hockey experience. The nod will likely go to Swayman who is an impressive 5th in the NHL with a 2.41 GAA. T2 in Vezina Trophy odds is Canes Frederik Andersen, 2nd in GAA and T3 in Sv% but he may be forced to miss a few games of Round 1, a huge advantage for the Bruins. It’s unclear who will be healthy enough to start Round 1 as backup Anti Raanta is also dealing with an injury. Carolina relies on stellar defensive play with Andersen as the backbone. The Hurricanes allow the fewest shots per game in the NHL (28.1) while the Bruins are 2nd in the league in shots per game (36.1). Boston is led by Captain Patrice Bergeron but gets most of their scoring from David Pastrnak (40) and Brad Marchand (32). Carolina has a pair of 30+ goal scorers too with Sebastian Aho (37) and Andrei Svechnikov (30).

    Series Predictions

    A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. A3 Tampa Bay Lightning
    Series Odds: Maple Leafs -122
    Game 1: Monday, 5/2
    Key Injuries:
    LW Michael Bunting (TOR) has been out with an undisclosed injury since April 23rd, but should return for Game 1 (he has 23 goals / 63 points in 70 games — both career highs)
    RW Ondrej Kase (TOR) has missed 20 games now with a concussion with no timeline to return, he’s a depth forward

    Regular Season Meetings (Tied 2-2)
    November 4 – Toronto W 2-1 OT at home
    December 9 – Tampa Bay W 5-3 on the road
    April 4 – Toronto W 6-2 on the road
    April 21 – Tampa Bay W 8-1 at home

    Series Outlook: Buckle up — this is a ridiculous Round 1 playoff series between 2 of the highest scoring offenses in the NHL. And how about their regular season series split? Each team has won in the others’ barn by 2+ goals and each team has dominated the other once by 4+ goals. On goal aggregate for their series, Tampa Bay won 16-12. Led by Steven Stamkos (42 goals), the Lightning had 5 other goal scorers eclipse 20 (Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Ross Colton, & Victor Hedman). Toronto’s Auston Matthews leads the NHL in goals with 60 (still 32 behind Wayne Gretzky’s ridiculous ’81-’82 record), but still incredibly impressive as it’s the first time in 10-years a player has scored 60+ goals in the regular season. Naturally the last to do it in the ’11-’12 season was Stamkos. Helping Matthews light the lamp is line-mate Mitch Marner (35) along with William Nylander (34) and John Tavares (27). Yes these games will be high-scoring but in the playoffs, the difference on who advances is usually made at the defensive end led by the goaltenders — advantage Tampa Bay. Andrei Vasilevskiy is another Vezina candidate with the 2nd most goalie wins behind Top-10s in GAA & Sv%. For the Leafs is Jack Campbell who might become the first goalie to win the Lady Byng which is nice and all, but that won’t help him this series. In his last start against the Lightning he stoped 32-34 shots in a road victory—something he’ll need to consistently do to match Vasilevskiy in a full 7-game series.

    Series Predictions

    M2 New York Rangers vs. M3 Pittsburgh Penguins
    Series Odds: Penguins -122
    Game 1: Tuesday, 5/3
    Key Injuries:
    G Tristan Jarry (PIT) is week-to-week with a foot injury and will miss this series (6th in the NHL in GAA)

    Regular Season Meetings (New York 3-1)
    February 6 – Pittsburgh W 1-0 at home
    March 25 – New York W 5-1 at home
    March 29 – New York W 3-2 on the road
    April 7 – New York W 3-0 at home

    Series Outlook: The Rangers won 3-straight games against the Penguins in 2-weeks, and limited their strong offense led by Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel to just 4 goals in the 4 game regular season series that New York won 3-1. The one constant, and storyline of this series, is heavy Vezina favorite (-1500) Igor Shesterkin. In those 4 games he kept 97 of 101 shots (96%) out of the net. Shesterkin led the NHL in GAA (2.07) and Sv% (.935) — numbers that if he carries into the playoffs make the Rangers a serious Stanley Cup threat. Come June we could be adding him to a list of all-time goalie playoff performances featuring Tim Thomas with Boston in 2011, Jonathan Quick with the Kings in 2012, and of course Martin Brodeur in 2003. Trying to prevent that from happening are vets Crosby, Jeff Carter, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Brian Boyle; all household hockey names that can turn it on in the playoffs but the reality is the Penguins have truly limped in the playoffs, losing 11 of 18 games, playing just .500 hockey since March 1st. The Pens will also likely be without star goaltender Tristan Jarry for at least the first series if they’re able to advance. The Rangers, 19-9-1 since March 1st are both scrappy and can score. They block shots (9th most), kill penalties (8th best %), and execute on power plays (4th best %). LW Artemi Panarin is one of the best facilitators in the game with 74 assists (T3), feeding team team goal scoring leader Chris Kreider (52) along with Mika Zibanejad (29). This well rounded Rangers team will present a great challenge for the Penguins in Round 1.

    Series Predictions

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