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The Mass Media

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Predictions

Stanley Cup (pic)

The holiest of times for hockey fans is upon us. The NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs opened on Wednesday, April 12, and there are a ton of exciting match-ups, with seven-game series potential.

The city of Boston has a lot to be excited for, with the Bruins back in the playoff picture for the first time since 2014, when they won the President’s Trophy but were eliminated by their arch rival, the Montreal Canadiens.

Here’s who I think will win each series and head to the second round:

Montreal Canadiens vs New York Rangers

Montreal held onto the Atlantic Division all season. Their lead was threatened at one point by Boston and Ottawa, but their depth and strength in net kept them in the lead. Montreal has played extremely well under Claude Julien since he took over in February. New York, on the other hand, has been a model of consistency with Alain Vigneault at the helm. Their defense corps is always strong, and the team is also very good in net with Henrik Lundqvist. With both teams strong on defense and well coached, the difference will end up being depth, and scoring depth in particular. Montreal has the advantage there, so look for them to take this series in seven games.

Boston Bruins vs Ottawa Senators

This is a match-up that was very well contested during the regular season. The Senators took the series 4-0-0, but every game was decided by one goal or less, with the last two being decided in the final minutes and a shootout. Boston has improved their play against the speedy Senators by increasing their own speed. Where Boston’s advantage lies is in their Special Teams, which often can decide a playoff series. Ottawa ranks 22nd in Penalty Kill percentage, to Boston’s seventh overall Power Play percentage. Ottawa also ranks 23rd on the PP, while Boston lead the league in PK percent. Both teams have a lot of weapons on offense, and are strong on defense, so this series will be decided by who can convert on special teams more. I’ll take the Bruins in six games.

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

This is probably going to be one of the more lopsided series that you will see in this year’s playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team full of deadly young scorers, with Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Nazem Kadri. They look to have one of the league’s most deadly offense for years to come. However, in this particular season the Capitals are the best team in all of the National Hockey League. At some point, that title will belong to Toronto, but not in the year 2017. The Capitals will sweep Toronto out of the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets

At the midway point of the season, Columbus was the hottest team in the NHL. However, their play slowly started to calm down after a while. Meanwhile, the Penguins took control of the number two spot in the Metropolitan Division over the Blue Jackets. Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and will most likely have Evgeni Malkin. Losing Kris Letang hurts their chances for a long playoff run, but they should still get past Columbus purely by over matching them on offense. Pittsburgh in five.

Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames

The Ducks won the Pacific Division once again, which forces them to play the Calgary Flames. Anaheim has talent all over the ice. Up front they have Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Ryan Kesler, and Jakob Silfverberg. And on the back end, they have Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, and Hampus Lindholm. However, the real story for the Ducks this season has been John Gibson, who is finally coming into his own in net. That being said, the Flames are a lot to handle for being a wild card team. They have enough talent to upset a Ducks squad that has been prone to choking in the playoffs. I have the Flames winning this series in seven on the road.

Edmonton Oilers vs San Jose Sharks

It has been a storybook year for the Edmonton Oilers. It all started with the signing of Milan Lucic to add some grit to the team, then Cam Talbot reminded Oilers fans what it was like to have a great goalie. And finally, Connor McDavid became the superstar everyone knew he would one day be, as he leads the NHL in points. They should be able to pick off an aging Sharks team. The goaltending advantage will be a huge difference maker. I’ll take the Oilers in six.

Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators could be one of the most unappreciated teams in the NHL. They have star power, great coaching, and great goaltending. They just have the unfortunate situation of being in the Central Division and frequently having to go up against the Chicago Blackhawks. Now they face Chicago in the playoffs, where they will most likely thrive. The Preds are a fantastic team, but they can’t beat a battle-tested Blackhawks team at home. Blackhawks in five games.

Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues
Yet another tight series hockey fans should expect. Both teams can score, and more importantly, both teams can defend. The St. Louis Blues blue line is lead by Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, while Minnesota counters with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. In net, it’s Vezina Trophy favorite Devan Dubnyk versus reliable starter Jake Allen. Pay close attention to that goaltending matchup, as it matters a lot in seven game series’, which this will probably go. I hope you all took Minnesota in seven on your brackets, because that’s how this one will go.