Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
For the first time in 57 years, the (A1) Boston Bruins will face off against the (WC2) Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Red Wings had a firm grasp on the first Wild Card spot but eventually lost it due to a strong final surge by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Bruins clinched the President’s Trophy (Most Points in NHL) in the last few days and the huge winning streak that they tallied in the tail end of the season greatly attributed to that honor.
Prediction: The Bruins are as much of a complete team as you are going to get. A very strong offense, sensational goaltending in Tuukka Rask, and strong defenders in the form of Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk.
The Red Wings will put up a great fight and have a slight chance of stealing the series, but Boston would have to play poorly along with Detroit playing their best hockey all season.
Boston wins in 5 games.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
The (A2) Tampa Bay Lightning and (A3) Montreal Canadiens will wrap up the Atlantic Division bracket with a very competitive matchup in the first round.
The Lightning weren’t ever in very much danger of missing the playoffs this season and have capitalized off of the dangerous offense that involves Steven Stamkos (when his injury healed), Martin St. Louis (when he was on the team) and Ryan Callahan (once he was traded from New York).
The Lightning are uneasy about Ben Bishop’s health right now and he could be the biggest difference-maker to this series if he is healthy.
Carey Price has been crucial to the Canadiens’ success in goal.
Prediction: This series is going to be a great one. The Lightning earned home-ice by 1 point and are considerably better at home than they are away this season.
I do not think Bishop will be ready for this series and the dangerous forwards that the Canadiens possess will be crucial to the series result. Still, this is a phenomenal series in the making.
Canadiens take the series in 7 games.
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The (M2) New York Rangers and (M3) Philadelphia Flyers will face off in a series that is the worst nightmare for Devils fans.
The Rangers did not start off great this season but turned things around in a big way once Henrik Lundqvist started playing like his Vezina-trophy-winning self. Additions of Marty St. Louis and crowd favorites Rick Nash and Brad Richards have been pivotal to the Rangers’ successes this season.
The Flyers started off in a horrendous slide this season. Craig Berube replaced Peter Laviolette just three games into the season and the Flyers never really looked back when they settled into their groove. When the Flyers pursued Vincent Lecavlier in the offseason instead of looking for a goalie, there was plenty of criticism. Steve Mason emerged as a trusted No. 1 goaltender and has proved that he can be relied on going into the playoffs.
Prediction: Record-wise, the Rangers were not amazing at home and the Flyers were worse on the road. However, there is no denying the automatic advantage that Madison Square Garden provides for the Blueshirts. The Rangers were very solid on the road this season and the team that capitalizes on home ice will take the series.
Rangers in 6 games.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The (M1) Pittsburgh Penguins will round out the Metropolitan region against the (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets.
It is hard to imagine the Penguins collapse against the Blue Jackets in the same way that they normally do in the playoffs. The Penguins have won all 5 meetings this season and until a very late surge from the Jackets, the playoffs seemed questionable for Columbus.
Sidney Crosby is coming off a 100-point season and has looked as good as ever this season as the Penguins cruised to the playoffs from Day 1.
Columbus will need a perfect series of Sergei Bobrovsky and asking of a goalie to shutout one of the most lethal offenses in recent memory is just too much to ask. Pittsburgh adds pieces every now and then but their draft choices, farm system, and development have been second-to-none. Guys like Evgeni Malkin and James Neal add to the deadly nature of the Pittsburgh offense.
Just as it was with BOS vs. DET, it will take a perfect performance from CBJ and a horrendous performance from PIT.
I think Columbus will steal a game this series but not much more than that. Then again, who thought the New York Islanders would push Pittsburgh to the limit like they did last season. You never know what you will get from Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh in 5 games.