April 11, 2018
By Ralph Costanza
NHL Playoffs Are Finally Here!
The NHL playoffs are finally here and if you aren’t excited about it yet then you know nothing, Jon Snow! Even though my New York Rangers were not good enough this year to join the fray, this is the single best bracket I’ve seen over the past 7 or 8 years with single most ambiguous road to the cup. Eight of the sixteen teams have a legitimate shot at Lord Stanley’s grand prize, and the Wild Card teams are nothing to scoff at. So sit back, turn the baseball games off for a few weeks and set your DVR’s for those late west coast games……it’s Christmas again from April to June. Let’s take a look at the matchups in the first round of the NHL Playoffs 2018:
Western Conference Preview
#1 Nashville Predators vs. WC Colorado Avalanche
I love Nashville’s team this year and the President’s trophy winners are the Las Vegas oddsmakers favorite to win it all, but, Colorado is one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs and should give Nashville a tough go here. I would be surprised if Nashville lost but the Avs will make this interesting. Nashville in 6 games (OT finish)
#2 Winnipeg Jets vs. #3 Minnesota Wild
Winnipeg is getting ready to make a legit run here against a team that has been suspect on the road and hasn’t showed enough offensively or defensively to make me a believer. The fans in Winnipeg are rabid and will keep the Wild off balance here. Winnipeg easy. 5 games.
#1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. WC L.A. Kings
Vegas has quickly become the NHL’s most loveable team and deservingly so. They are fast, fun and dramatic. But the Kings are a entering the playoffs with arguably the league’s best goalie and league’s best defense. Karlsson will get his goals in this series but defense wins championships. I am calling an upset here in a “Quick” 7 games. Kings.
#2 Anaheim Ducks vs. #3 San Jose Sharks
As evenly matched of a series as you can come up with in this year’s playoffs, this California series should go the distant with plenty of OT games. Getzlaf and Rakell should see plenty of ice time and will be too much for netminder Martin Jones, who has not been playing his best hockey down the stretch here. Ducks in 7.
Eastern Conference Preview
#1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. WC New jersey Devils
Tampa Bay enters this series as clear cut favorites and Las Vegas casinos are giving them 6-1 to win it all. Although the Devils were good enough to finish in the top 16, and a few late season wins to eke in, that all ends here. It’s been a successful season for the Devils but a healthy Stamkos scores 5 in 6. Tampa Bay.
#2 Boston Bruins vs. #3 Toronto Maple Leafs
The shared favorite out of the east to make an appearance in the Finals, the Bruins are a solid mix of offense and defense. Marchand, Pastrnak and Bergeron will be too much for Frederik Andersen to handle here and the Leafs don’t have enough offense to get around Boston’s rock solid defense. Boston in 5.
#1 Washington Capitals vs. WC Columbus Blue Jackets
As much as I hate the Capitals the get a good draw vs. a team they match up well against. But don’t count out the Blue Jackets who are number ONE in the league since Feb.10 in goals scored with 101 an average of over 3.5/game. If they can keep that up and Bobrovsky can continue to be solid, they have a legit shot here in this series. OK, I talked myself into it. BJ’s in 7.
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #3 Philadelphia Flyers
Even with Matt Murray being less than great, Crosby, Malkin and Kessel should be too much for the Flyers to contain. Giroux and Voracek will score but the flyers defense needs to play out of their minds. I don’t see it here but there should be some high scoring games in this series. Oh, and these teams hate each other. This is the series to watch and there will be plenty of highlights. Penguins in 7.