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Predicting the Conference Quarterfinals

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Just because the Penguins aren’t playing doesn’t mean we can’t make predictions for those that are.

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

Needless to say, I don’t think anyone who reads Pensburgh regularly figured there was going to a first round prediction piece that didn’t include the Penguins, but that will be the case this year. With the Penguins bowing out in humiliating fashion against the Canadiens, Penguins fans are left to choose another team to root for the rest of the way.

If you can settle on team, consider joining our playoff bracket pool and let’s make the most out of a less than ideal situation.

This is technically the ‘first round’ of this year’s playoffs and the remaining teams have all been re-seeded one through eight in their respective conferences. The round robin determined the top four seeds while everyone else worked their way through the qualifiers to get here.

The Bracket

@PR_NHL

Remember, all teams will be reseeded after of the first two rounds. Higher seeds will have the ‘home-ice’ advantage in each series.

Schedule

No fancy graphic this time around, but you can find the full first round slate right here. Play resumes on Tuesday afternoon and it looks like and it looks like we will be getting four or five games a day for the foreseeable future. The latest this round will run is Sunday, August 23rd.

Eastern Conference

A shocking upset by the Canadiens knocked the Penguins out the of the playoffs and sent a jolt throughout the Eastern Conference. While not the consensus Cup favorite, having a perennial Cup contender like the Penguins out early certainly changes the overall outlook of the Eastern Conference. The Flyers rolled their way to a 3-0 round robin record and hold the top overall seed adding to the misery of Penguins fans everywhere.

It took until late Sunday night to know the full Eastern Conference field, but now that everyone is set in place, it’s time to get the action started.

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens

If you were ranking the remaining playoff teams based on how they looked during this opening week of hockey, the Flyers are probably at the very top. In their three round robin contests, the Flyers went undefeated, outscoring opponents 11-3 to capture the top seed in the East. The Flyers were flat out impressive in round robin play and look destined for a deep run.

At the other end of the ice is the Montreal Canadiens, a team almost no one expected to be in this position. They were statistically the worst of the 24 teams to make the postseason, but advanced after cruising past the lifeless Penguins in four games. If they hope to pull off another upset, it will take another all world performance from Carey Price and his teammates to do so.

Series Prediction: Flyers in 5

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Philadelphia Flyers
    (296 votes)
  • 15%
    Montreal Canadiens
    (53 votes)
349 votes total Vote Now

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets

Before losing to the Flyers in the third round robin game, the Lightning looked every but the part of a potential Stanley Cup team. Even with the loss, the Lightning remain formidable and will surely be in the mix down the stretch. Their biggest question mark heading into the first round will be the health of defenseman Victor Hedman who left the contest against the Flyers after twisting his ankle. They should carry plenty of motivation into their first round series looking to wipe their memories of last year’s playoff debacle.

After bouncing the host Maple Leafs in five games, the Columbus Blue Jackets enter the first round facing a Lightning team they should be plenty familiar with. You may remember back to last season when the Blue Jackets stunned the top seeded Lightning in a clean sweep to end their historic season in humiliating fashion. No matter what the world has thrown at the Blue Jackets this season they have shrugged it off and kept chugging along. They will need all the will power they can muster if they hope to shock Tampa Bay and the hockey world once again.

Series Prediction: Lightning in 6

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Tampa Bay Lightning
    (218 votes)
  • 33%
    Columbus Blue Jackets
    (112 votes)
330 votes total Vote Now

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders

It was a real Jekyll and Hyde showing for the Capitals in round robin play. They lost to the Lightning in a shootout, were run over by the Flyers, then defeated the President’s Trophy winning Bruins to claim the No. 3 seed. Most importantly for the Capitals, it looked more like his old self which bodes well for their hopes of a deep run. Now they face-off against former coach Barry Trotz and the ever frustrating Islanders in the first round.

As for the Islanders, they played perfect Barry Trotz hockey in the qualifying round and romped over the Panthers in a rather easy four games. Everything they did to defeat the Penguins last year is working again this year and now they have the opportunity to frustrate another Cup contender here in the first round. Let’s see what Trotz can cook up to slow down his former team.

Series Prediction: Capitals in 7

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Washington Capitals
    (128 votes)
  • 59%
    New York Islanders
    (190 votes)
318 votes total Vote Now

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes

Simply put, this round robin scenario could not have played out any worse for the Bruins. Their play ranged from bad to downright disinterested, and as a result, will take on one of the strongest looking teams in Carolina. A year ago the Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final, but right now these two sides look to be on different trajectories.

Aside from the Flyers, no team was more impressive in the opening week of the Stanley Cup playoffs than the Carolina Hurricanes. They swept right past the Rangers in a series many (including myself) saw as a tough out and they did so without two of their top blue liners. They have the look of team that no one wants to face at the moment. Generally teams want to avoid the President’s Trophy winners, but perhaps not this year.

Series Prediction: Hurricanes in 6

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Boston Bruins
    (68 votes)
  • 78%
    Carolina Hurricanes
    (253 votes)
321 votes total Vote Now

Western Conference

Upsets in the Western Conference saw the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds bounced in the qualifying round, but if round robin play was any indication, this could very well be a two-horse race between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche. Of course, this is the Stanley Cup playoffs so anything can happen, but those two sides were by far the most impressive teams in the Edmonton bubble.

With the field of eight now set, the first round is ready to get underway.

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks

Vegas had a goalie question hanging over their heads as they entered the bubble and it appears round robin play has provided them with an answer. Robin Lehner was impressive in his two starts while Marc-Andre allowed four goals on 17 shots in his lone start and it looks like Lehner will be man going forward. If their overtime victory over the Avalanche in round robin play was any indication, they should be a fun team to watch.

It wasn’t quite a Montreal-esque upset, but the Blackhawks made sure both 12-seeds advanced with a four game victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Their blue line issues were certainly on display in the qualifying round and will be put to the test once again against the high octane Golden Knights. It will be up to Patrick Kane and Co. to keep the Blackhawks in shouting distance.

Series Prediction: Golden Knights in 5

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Vegas Golden Knights
    (258 votes)
  • 10%
    Chicago Blackhawks
    (31 votes)
289 votes total Vote Now

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes

Even with their overtime loss against Vegas in round robin play, the Avalanche looked as good as advertised and earned their seeding heading into the first round. From the forwards, to the defense, to the goaltending, everything looks to be clicking for Colorado and just the right time. The only thing separating them from Vegas was a perfectly placed Alex Tuch shot.

Arizona pulled off one of the more surprising upsets of the qualifying round, dispatching the Nashville Predators in four games. Darcy Kuemper looked very solid between the pipes and the offense provided just enough scoring to back up his strong play. Those two things will need to be on point once again as they enter a first round showdown against the high powered Avalanche. If nothing else, this opportunity will provide the Coyotes young guns with some crucial playoff experience.

Series Prediction: Avalanche in 5

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Colorado Avalanche
    (261 votes)
  • 9%
    Arizona Coyotes
    (28 votes)
289 votes total Vote Now

No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames

For large chunks of their round robin games, the Stars looked over matched and their scoring dried up. After jumping out to a 3-1 lead on the Golden Knights in their opening game, the Stars were shut out over the next 140+ minutes of game time before cashing in with less than 30 seconds left against the Blues to force overtime. They eventually won in a shootout over St. Louis to snag the three seed, but that offense will need to find more consistency against a Flames team who can fill the net.

Outside of a hiccup in Game 2 of their qualifying series, the Flames looked and played like a far superior side against the Winnipeg Jets. Their offense was able to exploit a weak Jets blue line but it’s difficult to fully judge the defense as the Jets were without a few big guns. Calgary will enter the first round as the underdog, but an upset over the Stars is not out of the question by any means.

Series Prediction: Stars in 7

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Dallas Stars
    (99 votes)
  • 64%
    Calgary Flames
    (183 votes)
282 votes total Vote Now

No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks

Like Boston in the East, St. Louis was the top team in the West in the regular season but will be relegated to the four seed in the playoffs after losing to Dallas in a shootout in their final round robin game. Even though they did lose all three contests, the Blues were still competitive in every game unlike the Bruins. They will need to be on the top of their game if they hope to keep their Stanley Cup defense alive against a skilled Canucks side.

For their first taste of playoff action, the baby faced Canucks turned some heads with an impressive four game victory over the veteran laden Minnesota Wild. What makes it even more impressive is doing so after dropping the first game but fighting back to win three straight. All the big names the Canucks needed to show up did just that and they will need that to continue if they hope to hang with the defending champs.

Series Prediction: Blues in 6

Poll

Who is your pick to advance?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    St. Louis Blues
    (207 votes)
  • 27%
    Vancouver Canucks
    (80 votes)
287 votes total Vote Now

Once again, if you want to have some fun and join our Pensburgh bracket pool you can do that right here.

As always, if you have any thoughts or predictions of your own for the first round matchups above feel free to drop them in the comments for everyone to discuss.

Even though the Penguins are no longer in the bubble, let’s sit back and enjoy some stress free summer hockey.