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2019 NHL Playoffs: First Round Predictions

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All the right picks are right here

NHL: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to make your picks, be sure to do it here in the Pensburgh NHL pool. Here’s what we’re thinking and we’ll open up the polls too.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus has been a tough team to figure out with all their stops and starts. Tampa Bay has not been a tough team to figure out, winning 62 games this year. CBJ’s only chance is if Sergei Bobrovsky plays like it’s not the playoffs, stands on his head and gives them a fighting chance. Given his playoff history, I don’t think he will do that.

I do see how Columbus could give the Lightning a really tough series if things break right, but when have things ever broken right for Columbus this time of year? It’s not going to start now, against perhaps the best all-around team of the salary cap era. Tampa’s got the league’s best scorer, two of the best defensemen around, and arguably the best goalie in the whole thing too.

That’s enough to be bold. Columbus lost four straight to Washington in the playoffs last year from Games 3-6, and they’ll lose four straight this year too, without the good part.

Prediction: Lightning in 4

Poll

Who ya got:

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Tampa in 4 or 5
    (575 votes)
  • 21%
    Tampa in 6 or 7
    (182 votes)
  • 1%
    Columbus in 4 or 5
    (16 votes)
  • 7%
    Columbus in 6 or 7
    (66 votes)
839 votes total Vote Now

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The consensus seems to be pretty sweet on Boston and pretty pessimistic on how the Leafs have entered the playoffs. This to me is prime NHL playoff magic for a reversal of fortune for what the conventional wisdom seems to be pointing towards.

Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series with coach Mike Babcock and this current core and they are under a lot of pressure to do so. But sometimes pressure can be a good thing. The Bruins have a hell of a first line, but after that then what? I like Toronto’s depth up front a little more, and a little is enough in what could be a tight series.

Prediction: Maple Leafs in 7

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Boston in 4 or 5
    (49 votes)
  • 57%
    Boston in 6 or 7
    (478 votes)
  • 1%
    Toronto in 4 or 5
    (16 votes)
  • 34%
    Toronto in 6 or 7
    (291 votes)
834 votes total Vote Now

Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

The upstart Hurricanes get a tough draw in Washington. The Hurricanes are shot volume, but that should be no issue for a top goalie like Braden Holtby. The Capitals are shot quality and that will be a big issue for mediocre goalie Petr Mrazek (or Curtis McElhinney).

Carolina won’t control the puck enough to be in front of a veteran Washington team. This one is merely an appetizer for next round. The Canes will be better for this learning experience next season.

Prediction: Capitals in 5

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Washington in 4 or 5
    (295 votes)
  • 44%
    Washington in 6 or 7
    (357 votes)
  • 1%
    Carolina in 4 or 5
    (11 votes)
  • 17%
    Carolina in 6 or 7
    (142 votes)
805 votes total Vote Now

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche

At least over here on the east coast, this might be the most unknown series. Calgary has a solid nucleus and had a surprising amount of regular season success, with some questions in net. Colorado is a classic one-line team. It won’t be enough to advance in the playoffs this year, but their trajectory is on the right path.

Prediction: Flames in 6

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Calgary in 4 or 5
    (302 votes)
  • 49%
    Calgary in 6 or 7
    (371 votes)
  • 1%
    Colorado in 4 or 5
    (8 votes)
  • 9%
    Colorado in 6 or 7
    (73 votes)
754 votes total Vote Now

Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks

Man, this could be like a Conference Final quality matchup. I actually like either team’s chances to come out of the West if they can just manage to escape this first round. San Jose was built for greatness but Martin Jones (.896 regular season save%) hasn’t held up his end of the bargain. That’s a big problem at playoff time. If he can figure it out and play solid, the sky is the limit for the Sharks.

If he can’t...

Prediction: Golden Knights in 6

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Vegas in 4 or 5
    (50 votes)
  • 54%
    Vegas in 6 or 7
    (408 votes)
  • 3%
    Sharks in 4 or 5
    (24 votes)
  • 35%
    Sharks in 6 or 7
    (267 votes)
749 votes total Vote Now

Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars

Something doesn’t seem quite right about the Preds either heading into the playoffs, as if the individual parts aren’t adding up to what their sum should be. Dallas boasting Ben Bishop is a formidable under-the-radar pick, but I think they’re missing a couple supporting pieces too.

In the end, the Nashville defense can do enough to neutralize the Stars’ star players and the Preds offense will figure out how to score and move on.

Prediction: Predators in 6

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Nashville in 4 or 5
    (173 votes)
  • 55%
    Nashville in 6 or 7
    (399 votes)
  • 1%
    Dallas in 4 or 5
    (9 votes)
  • 19%
    Dallas in 6 or 7
    (143 votes)
724 votes total Vote Now

Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues

The ascension of the Blues over the past few months from worst-in-the-league to playoff contender has been astounding. Winnipeg has been rocked by some key injuries (Josh Morrisey, Dustin Byfuglien) and has looked a bit disjointed down the stretch. Patrick Laine runs too hot and cold and though he was decent in last year’s playoffs, if he’s invisible here, it might just be enough for the difference and somewhat of an upset...

Prediction: Blues in 7

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Winnipeg in 4 or 5
    (63 votes)
  • 38%
    Winnipeg in 6 or 7
    (275 votes)
  • 7%
    St. Louis in 4 or 5
    (53 votes)
  • 45%
    St. Louis in 6 or 7
    (328 votes)
719 votes total Vote Now

New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

If you lined all the players up and were just going to draft ‘em up right there, Pittsburgh has the first pick (Sidney Crosby). And the second (Evgeni Malkin). And the third (Kris Letang). And the fourth (Jake Guentzel). And the fifth (Phil Kessel). All that talent is going to be a lot for New York to overcome.

A good defensive team can hold a good offensive team down, but only for so long. The Pens should matchup really well with NYI and barring running into a goalie totally standing on his head, the skill advantage should be enough to carry the day, though the games should be very competitive and tight - especially in a noisy Nassau Coliseum environment.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

Poll

And now for the main event

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Pens in 4
    (40 votes)
  • 22%
    Pens in 5
    (208 votes)
  • 54%
    Pens in 6
    (494 votes)
  • 7%
    Pens in 7
    (64 votes)
  • 2%
    NYI in 4 or 5
    (24 votes)
  • 4%
    NYI in 6
    (41 votes)
  • 4%
    NYI in 7
    (41 votes)
912 votes total Vote Now