With the regular season over, NHL fans are now looking forward to the playoffs. The first round begins April 11th.
Here are the match-ups in the Eastern Conference and my prediction on who will win:
Tampa Bay Lighting (A1) v. New Jersey Devils (WC2)
Tampa will beat the Devils, however it will take six games. New Jersey has beaten the Lighting in every regular season game by one goal every game, however it’s playoff time so everyone steps up their game. In addition to that, Tampa plays the first two in Amalie Arena, their home rink, so it will help them jump out to a two game lead.
Boston Bruins (A2) v. Toronto Maple Leafs (A3)
This has to be the one the main series to watch in the first round. Boston is one of those gritty teams, but manages to put pucks in the net on a regular basis. On the other hand, the mostly young Maple Leafs are itching to make a name for themselves as establishing they belong in the playoffs every season, plus it does not hurt that you have one of the best players in the league, Auston Matthews. Maple Leafs take the series in five games.
Washington Capitals (M1) v. Columbus Blue Jackets (WC1)
I feel like there is not much to be said about this series, as Washington is always sound in the first round. Alexander Ovechkin has had a tremendous year, with one goal shy of 50 goals. Once he gets dialed in, there is no stopping this man. However, the Blue Jackets are not to be a push over, as there goalie will be keeping them in most of the game. But, I’m not sure how long that can happen before the Capitals just dominate, I am taking Washington in four.
Last, but not least the Pittsburgh Penguins (M2) v. Philadelphia Flyers (M3)
This will be the most watched series in the Eastern Conference, as the inter-state rivals square off. Now the Penguins have beaten the Flyers in every regular season game, I am not writing off the talents of Claude Giroux and the Flyer’s young guys. Penguins have that natural skill and flow of the game that allows them to dominate, but what scares me is Matt Murray and the season he has had. With injuries and family issues, it makes me wonder if he can help the team to a 3-peat. There is no thought in this one, Penguins in five.
Stay tuned to hear my thoughts and predictions for the Western Conference later this week.