If the season were to end today, and the playoffs start tomorrow, the current playoff matchups would be very interesting and a little different then years past. As a fun little buffer day heading into the last day of the bye week, a view at the playoff race seems about right. A good way to give some fans a preview of what could come and for some other fans a chance to hit the panic button and start to sweat.
Eastern Conference Playoff Matchups…
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Philadelphia Flyers:
How confident are you heading into this matchup Flyer fans? How confident are we as NHL fans that this matchup could happen? Personally, I don’t see the Flyers sneaking in, yes they have been a solid team, but knowing this team, a period of downfall is to occur. The Flyer also have 33 games remaining and of those 33 games 25 of them are against quality teams, and 27 of them are against other Eastern conference teams. Who do you have in a seven-game series? I’m going Lightning in five.
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs:
This matchup, I think is a lock to occur. Can’t see the Bruins jumping the Lightning, and can’t see any other Atlantic team jumping the Leafs, therefore this #2, #3 matchup is to occur. And for a seven-game series, that will favor four games on Boston home ice, I’d have to go Boston this series. I think all around Boston is the better team and have the leadership that has been here plenty of times before, while the Leafs rely heavily on their youth, while their veterans are not as experienced in this situation nor as productive as the Bruins veteran leadership.
Washington Capitals vs New Jersey Devils:
Again, I don’t think we see this matchup, due to the fact the Devils have been on a skid lately and now only trail the Penguins/Columbus by one point and are ahead of the Rangers/Islanders by one point. Very well could see the Devils miss the playoffs and either the Islanders or Rangers sneak in and what we would see is a matchup that everyone is very aware of. Washington is going to hold that #1 spot for the rest of the season so whoever is the first wildcard spot will face off against them. But by the looks of this matchup, it would again be a very similar matchup compared to the Islanders/Rangers. Personally, whoever the Capitals face first round, I think they take them down, which means it could call for a rematch of Pittsburgh vs Washington.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins:
I think we probably see this matchup as well, the Blue Jackets are finally getting healthy and I think for the Penguins remaining 31 games they can hold off the wild card teams and stay in the three spot. Like last season we saw these two face off and last season ended in a Penguins series win, expect this time around, I think Columbus takes it. During the regular season this year, the Penguins have won both games in a shootout and they play each other two more times to close out the year. I like Columbus here, just due to the fact the Penguins lack defensive depth and Columbus got a taste of this team last year. They know the playoff atmosphere, they know what to expect, I think Columbus comes out much better this time around.
In the Hunt:
New York Rangers: Trail Flyers and Devils by 1 point
New York Islanders: Trail Flyers and Devils by 1 point
Carolina Hurricanes: Trail Flyers and Devils by 4 points
Western Conference matchups coming at you around 12:45 p.m./ 1:00 p.m.