By: Jordan Freeman
A look at the 1st round of the NHL Playoffs
It’s the best time of year for hockey fans, the NHL Playoffs. Round one is barely a week old and is already almost over. So far, we have seen close battles and shocking runaways that have left many fans saying R.I.P to their bracket. Here’s a breakdown of each match-up in the 1st round, and who is most likely to move on.
Pittsburgh vs Columbus
Two regular season studs meeting up in the first round. The 2nd and 3rd seeds from the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins had a chance to seal the deal on the sweep Tuesday night and be the first team into round two. But the Blue Jackets were not ready to call it quits. Here’s how their games have gone: 3-1 P, 4-1 P, 5-4 OT P, 5-4 C. This series could potentially be knotted up at 2-2, but the Penguins are one away from the second round. This series is going about as well as I’d expected for Columbus. Going in all odds were favoring Pittsburg and giving the lower seed a fighting chance is something they’d like to avoid (looking at you Washington). As the series shifts back to Pittsburg I’d say it ends there. Pittsburg to advance.
Washington vs Toronto
When it was decided these two teams were going to meet in the first round, all odds were with the Capitals. I was looking for a sweep here, but the Capitals’ patchy playoff work again has reared its head. Here’s the breakdown: 3-2 OT W, 4-3 2OT T, 4-3 OT T, 5-4 W. The Caps have managed to tie the series at two, but for their fans, flashbacks to seasons pass where they watched their team go down and out early. Still Washington has a major advantage in virtually every department. If they play like it, they will advance.
Ottawa vs Boston
A series that was bound to be a close one. Ottawa and Boston have played four games, all decided by a difference of one goal. 2-1 B, 4-3 OT O, 4-2 OT O, 1-0 O. Honestly, I expected Boston to have the edge by this point, or at least be tied. Really it could go either way, but the Senators have taken advantage and have been a perfect road team so far. This series is being over looked by everyone who isn’t a fan of either team, but has been one of the closest. Ottawa to advance.
Montreal vs New York
This has been one of the better series in the playoffs so far. Montreal and New York are tied 2-2 going into Thursdays match-up at the Bell Centre. 2-0 N, 4-3 OT M, 3-1 M, 2-1 N. This series has been even split at both rinks, and no one can grab solid advantage of home ice. Now that the games are back and forth between New York and Montreal, it’s a toss-up of who wants to win more? Cary Price and Henrik Lundqvist, two of the best goalies in the world battling it out in net. This series could go all the way to seven games, and if just looking at the first four games, it’s a literal coin toss.
Minnesota vs St. Louis
Another surprise in the opening round of the playoffs, the Wild and Blues. With a chance to sweep a division rival, St. Louis was shutout for the first time this post season late Wednesday night. 2-1 S, 2-1 S, 3-1 S, 2-0 M. The Wild have avoided the sweep and have a chance to get to within one on home ice, where they are 0-2. A lot of people counted the Blues out before the series even began, but goaltender Jake Allen and unlikely heroes have strangled nearly all life out of the Wild. In a valiant desperation push, and with the breaks they’ve been looking for, Minnesota stays alive. Still, the odds are not in their favor and winning four in a row just doesn’t seem likely. St. Louis surely does not want a repeat of last year against the Hawks, so expect the Blues to come out swinging in game five. St. Louis to advance.
Chicago vs Nashville
This is no doubt the surprise of the first round. 1-0 N, 5-0 N, 3-2 OT N. The Predators have looked good all season long and did well enough to earn a wild card spot. On paper the Hawks are the superior choice, but then continued their trend from last year of poor play on their home rink. Nashville has already done the unthinkable by shutting out Chicago not once, but twice at United Center. The Blackhawks looked to rebound in the Music City, but after a 3-2 comeback by the Predators, they are one nail last nail in the coffin away from another early exit. Nashville to advance.
Anaheim vs Calgary
The Ducks and Flames. Anaheim is the first team to advance after sweeping the Flames with a 3-1 game four. 3-2, 3-2, 5-4 OT, 3-1. Calgary choked away a 4-2 lead going into the third in game three and were finished off in overtime. The Ducks were the favorite to win, but a sweep was not expected. Either way, they will have a banged-up Edmonton or San Jose team to look forward to now that they can put this series behind them. Anaheim advances.
Edmonton vs San Jose
Two teams that do not have a lot of experience against each other in the playoffs. There have been three shutouts in the series so far as it stands two apiece. 3-2 OT S, 2-0 E, 1-0 E, 7-0 S. Another matchup where home ice has not made a big impact on advantage. While a 7-0 route is impressive, it means little in the long run. This is a series where the stars will have to be the difference makers. Likely going to game 7, I think Edmonton has the better chance to advance, but any mistake could be costly.
That’s my run down of the first-round of the playoffs. While Anaheim is the only assured team to move on (as of April 19th). The rest are my predictions as to how the series will end. Keep in your hearts the brackets that do not survive this opening round.