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Rink Roundtable: Playoff Predictions

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The Rink staff weighs in on the other seven (less important) series

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Caps may have to cool their heels for another day, but the first round of the NHL playoffs are set to get underway tonight for half of the field... and with some interesting matchups looming, we figured we’d take a stab at some predictions on just what will shake out in each series.

Greg: I love the season that the Islanders had...but the Pens just have too much scoring talent. I also expect Penguins goaltender Matt Murray to have a strong postseason. Pens in 5

J.P.: Trotz against the Pens, but without Evgeny Kuznetsov et. al.? Just not enough talent on the New York side to make this much of a series. Pens in 5

Kevin: I’ve got the Isles doing a little better than Greg and J.P. -- we’ve seen Barry Trotz outcoach Mike Sullivan with a thinned out roster in the recent past -- but not much better. Pens in 6

Adam: The Islanders have had a great first season under Barry Trotz, but I don’t think they have enough talent to beat Sidney Crosby and the Pens. Pens in 5

Peerless: The Islanders simply do not have enough consistent offensive weapons to take advantage of a relatively weak Penguin blue line and, at times, inconsistent goaltending. And, what skill players they do have had weak finishes (Mathew Barzal, with one goal in his last 24 games, we’re looking at you). Robin Lehner would have to play out of his mind to make this a series, and I’d still think the Penguins would win. Pens in 5

Becca: I’ll mostly agree with everyone else - the firepower just isn’t there on the Isles’ side to take a seven-game series. That said, I could see this one going a bit longer simply because Trotz’s famous trap lets the Islanders goaltending seem more frustrating than they really are. Pens in 6

Alex: I think the Islanders are going to fight their way through this series and eventually come out with a win. Like Kevin said, we’ve seen Trotz out-coach Mike Sullivan with a thinned-out roster, but I think he and the Isles are going to pull it off. Even though the Isles don’t have as much star-powered offense as the Pens, between Matt Murray’s inconsistent season and a banged up blue line, they can find weaknesses to exploit. I also think it’s going to be a long, hard-fought series either way. Isles in 7

Greg: This is a fascinating matchup, and I actually think the Blue Jackets will hold their own in this series thanks to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. But, the Lightning just have too much depth and little apparent weaknesses. Lightning in 6

J.P.: Columbus has an often-great goalie (with an admittedly spotty playoff record), a handful of high-end forwards and a pair of terrific defensemen, and seem to be hitting their stride of late. Fortune favors the bold, so I’m going bold. Jackets in 7

Kevin: Scarcely have we seen a team enter the postseason on the strength of a more impressive regular season than this year’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and that comes with a non-trivial amount pressure… but they’ll rise to the task and send Columbus to a bloodbath of an offseason. Lightning in 4

Adam: The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series, and they won’t win their first this year. They’ll flap their way out of the first round after giving Tampa a bit of a scare. Lightning in 6

Becca: As much as I’d enjoy seeing a team like Tampa get taken out in the first round, I wouldn’t enjoy it happening at the hands of Tortorella’s Jackets. Luckily I don’t think that’s likely to happen, either - even with the additions they made after the deadline, I don’t see CBJ having the depth up front or on the blueline to contend with Tampa, and Bob still needs to prove that he can be a playoff-caliber goalie. Doesn’t seem like the Bolts are the team against whom he’ll be making that statement. Lightning in 5

Peerless: If you look at Tampa’s top-end numbers this season, they look a lot like the Caps going into the 2010 postseason. We know how that went. I think Jon Cooper is a better in-game coach than was Bruce Boudreau, and the Lightning’s goaltending and defense are better than that Caps team. That said, they – like any other team – can be vulnerable to a goalie playing at the top of his game over a series. Sergei Bobrovsky can be that goalie. Tampa Bay will get a scare, but they will survive. Lightning in 6

Alex: It’s really hard to bet against the Bolts here. They have it all figured out: high-powered offense, buttoned-up defense, and unreal goaltending. The Jackets, on the other hand, barely clawed their way into the postseason. Their flurry of deadline acquisitions is going to end up doing more harm than good, and they simply won’t be able to get it together. Lightning in 5

Greg: This is a series that has been preordained for months, and it should be a wild and fun affair (though hopefully with no licking this time). I think the Bruins just have a bit too much talent and defensive depth, but this could be the most entertaining first round series. Bruins in 7

J.P.: Epic first-round match-up (congrats on the second-most points in the League, Boston - your reward is the team with the seventh-most). While I’m inclined to pick the B’s, Cassidy vs. Babcock sticks in my craw as a good reason to go the other way. Leafs in 6

Kevin: Two really strong teams here, but I think the Leafs center depth is going to help them clear their Bruins hurdle. Leafs in 7

Adam:The Bruins are a very good team but if the Leafs are able to shutdown Boston’s top trio I don’t know who else will step up offensively. I’m taking Toronto’s depth, Leafs in 7

Peerless: Boston is, from my chair, uniquely put together to make a team like Toronto regret waking up in the morning. They have skill, they are deep, they pay attention to detail. Toronto is a lot of fun to watch, but they are not yet a team built for a long playoff slog. The Bruins, who took three of four against the Leafs, will frustrate them into an early exit. Bruins in 5

Becca: They may kill each other before either team can win the series, but if they both survive… Bruins in 7

Alex: This series is going to be so fun. I think the Leafs have more overall depth than the Bruins, but the Bruins seem to get under the Leafs’ skin like no other team can. That’s what’s going to tip Boston into the second round. Bruins in 7

Greg: I’m going to take my first upset here, as I think the Preds are a bit of a paper tiger and Stars goaltender Ben Bishop is due to steal a series. Stars in 6

J.P.: Nashville really should be better than they’ve been all year, but here they are atop a challenging Central division. If they can get some secondary scoring, they can go far. Even without much, they should be able to get past Dallas, though Ben Bishop has to be a big concern here. Preds in 7

Kevin: I like a lot of what Dallas brings to the ice, but Nashville has top end talent through their forwards, blue line, all the way into their net, with Viktor Arvidsson emerging as a bonafide star. The Preds will be too much for the Stars to handle. Preds in 6

Peerless: Nashville is better at every position, except goaltender, where Ben Bishop can hold his own against Pekka Rinne. That makes for a long series, but not a winning one for Big D. Preds in 6

Becca: I think the Stars are coming into the playoffs flying a bit under the radar and could be exactly the kind of team that could surprise the Preds (who just have not been as impressive to me as in previous years). Dallas’s defense and goaltending have been solid all season, but now they’re starting to score - and a healthy Zuccarello could make a big difference for Dallas. Stars in 6

Alex: I think Ben Bishop has the ability to steal a series, but not from Nashville. The Preds have such a solid lineup, besting the Stars in both offense and defense, and Pekka Rinne is as formidable as ever in net. Bishop will make it a bit more difficult than Nashville wants, but it won’t be enough. Preds in 6

Greg: Paging the Jets: will they wake up from their somewhat-comatose regular season in time for the postseason? I say yes. Jets in 6

J.P.: Man, the Jets were looking like such a good, smart pick heading into this season. Are they back to that yet? I’m saying yes. Jets in 5

Kevin: The Blues second-half turnaround was really something to behold this year, but Jordan Binnington is going to have his feet held to the fire in a series with top-end offensive talent as the Jets have. I think the Blues make it interesting. Real interesting, as was their season, but in the end the deeper roster prevails. Jets in 7

Peerless: The only thing keeping me from unequivocally picking St. Louis is “rookie goaltender.” Then again, Winnipeg was 16-16-3 over their last 35 games. That’s not a fluke, it’s a trend. St. Louis in 6

Becca: Agree with Peerless here - these are two teams trending in different directions and whether or not Binnington is the real deal in net for St. Louis long term, he’s got the hot rookie hand that may take longer than one series for teams to figure out. Blues in 7

Alex: These two teams have taken interesting paths this season. The Jets looked like such a sure thing at the beginning of the season but have cooled off a concerning amount, and the Blues completely turned their season around and went from the basement of the league to fighting for the Central Division title. St. Louis is clearly trending in the right direction here. Blues in 6

Greg: This is perhaps the biggest mismatch in the 1st round. The Flames have talent up and down the roster, while the Avs are reliant on one line and spotty goaltending. Flames in 4

J.P.: “Playoffs Grubauer” left an unfortunate bad taste in my mouth. Flames in 5

Kevin: The Avs roster is admittedly patchwork beyond their top talent, but that top talent is good enough to steal a couple, especially if Grubauer plays anywhere near the level that he did down the stretch. Flames in 6

Peerless: If you have a bet to make on which series will have the most goals scored, this is the one to pick. And that’s with it not going too far. Calgary’s offense is deeper, and while their goaltending isn’t necessarily better, it is more consistent. Flames in 5

Becca: My biggest question mark for Calgary is in net, because if Mike Smith gets the bulk of the games (and it does appear as if he’s at least starting Game 1)... that’s a problem. Still, I think ultimately their depth up front and on the blueline overcome any issues they may have between the pipes. For now. Flames in 5

Alex: The Flames’ offense is so solid throughout, and the Avalanche struggle past their top line. The goaltending is more even in this matchup than in others, but Calgary’s tandem proved more consistent this season. Flames in 6

Greg: This is my pick for the most entertaining series of the first round, as both these teams have serious potential to make a cup run. However, I think the Golden Knights are a different team since they acquired Mark Stone, and I (along with most of their fan base) don’t trust the Sharks goaltending. Knights in 7

J.P.: Hmm. With good goaltending, the Sharks would be a serious contender. They haven’t gotten that this season, not by a longshot, and the Knights are stacked (though I’m by no means sold on their blueline). Why didn’t San Jose address their goalie sitch at the deadline? They may have a long summer to think about that. Knights in 6

Kevin: Last year’s improbable run for the Knights will be balanced by a crushing first round exit, and all will be right in the world. Sharks in 6

Peerless: Earlier in the season, San Jose was my pick to come out of a Western Conference that is a collection of teams with flaws. The Sharks’ is goaltending, and it has not improved. Both of their netminders – Martin Jones, Aaron Dell – finished the season with a save percentage under .900. In his last nine games, Jones’ save percentage was .873. That’s a bad place to be going into the playoffs. Knights in 6

Becca: My heart says to pick the Sharks, because I’d love nothing more than to see Vegas get bounced in the first round and get more Joe Thornton as a result… but as has been noted above, that goaltending is just too suspect and I’m not convinced either SJ netminder will be able to steal so much as a game. Unless the Sharks can just outscore Vegas every night (which isn’t the craziest of possibilities) it’s probably going the other way. Knights in 6

Alex: If Martin Jones hadn’t looked so suspect this season, the Sharks would probably be my pick here. However, as everyone else has mentioned, it’s hard to bet on a team with such shaky goaltending. Combine that with the Sharks’ bad stretch at the end of the season and Vegas adding Mark Stone at the trade deadline, and you’ve got Vegas advancing. San Jose will put up a fight, though. Knights in 7


In summary: