Alright, all playoff matchups are set and now the best time of the year begins. Playoff hockey. Although these playoff matchups were set basically, every team has officially clinched a spot, and we have our four matchups for the East coming at you here.
New Jersey Devils: 44-29-9, 2nd Wild Card, 3-0-0 vs Tampa Bay this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning: 54-23-5, 1st Atlantic and 0-2-1 vs New Jersey this season.
The Lightning will head into the playoffs with starting goaltender Andrei Vasaliveskiy, a Vezina favorite and 44 wins goaltender this season, while the Devils may be looking to go with Keith Kinkaid, who has collected 26 wins this season and has taken over the goalie reign as of now. The Lightning’s top performer Nikita Kucherov tallied 100 points, 39 goals this season while the Devils top performer Taylor Hall tallied 93 points, 39 goals this season. This will be Hall’s first playoff run and Kucherov’s third playoff run. The Devils now are obviously not the favorites here, Tampa gets four home games and are the better team on paper, but the Devils play have shown they play a quick, relentless game. The Devils may be the underdog here, but they will certainly put up a fight, I could see the Devils taking the Lightning to seven games, but the Lightning will win this series. Hopefully, Steven Stamkos is back, right now he is questionable, but eyeing a return soon.
Toronto Maple Leafs, 49-26-7, 3rd Atlantic, 4-0-0 vs Boston this season.
Boston Bruins. 50-20-12, 2nd Atlantic, 0-3-1 vs Toronto this season.
The Bruins and Leafs meet once again in the playoffs. Being two original six teams these two go way back before many of us can remember. The Bruins had a chance to secure the #1 seed in the Atlantic but dropped their game Sunday night against Florida. The Bruins have played the Leafs four times this season and this will be the 16th time they face each other in the playoffs. The last time they met int he playoffs was 2012 when the Bruins won the series 4-3. The Bruins top performer, Brad Marchand with 85 points and the Maple Leafs Mitch Marner with 69 points. The Leafs definitely posses the skill and talent to match the Bruins, but the Bruins have a list of veterans on this roster, that are not only veterans but also their top guns. This series will sure go to seven games and be one of the best first-round matchups. Ultimately, I see Boston winning in seven.
Columbus Blue Jackets, 45-30-7, 1st Wild Card, 97 points, 1-3-0 vs Washington this season.
Washington Capitals, 49-26-7, 1st Metropolitan, 3-1-0 vs Columbus this season.
This is going to be a very good series, with the Blue Jackets getting hot late in the year they will make for a rough first round opponent for Washington. Last season Columbus got bounced in the first round in five games vs Pittsburgh we can expect a much different result this time around. I would not be surprised if Columbus took this series either. The Capitals flying a little under the radar this year and everyone writing them off already could play a big factor in this teams success. The Capitals Alex Ovechkin 49 goals and Evgeny Kuznetsov career year, will cause a headache for Columbus d-men. These two have not the worst spirited rivalry, but it is playoff hockey and we can expect these two to now spark a rivalry here after this one. The Capitals top performer Alex Ovechkin with 87 points, Blue Jackets, newly acquired offseason piece Artem Panarin has settled in nicely with Columbus with 82 points. The Blue Jackets speed, offensive power will make it tough for Washington d-men, but the Capitals are the all-around better team. I see Capitals taking this in six.
Philadelphia Flyers, 42-26-14, 3rd Metropolitan, 0-2-2 Penguins this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins, 47-29-6, 2nd Metropolitan, 4-0-0 vs Flyers this season.
This will more than likely be the best playoff matchup of the first round. Mainly because of the fans also. It is well known that all Flyers fans despise the Penguins and their players, mostly Sidney Crosby. But these two have met in the playoffs six times before this and the Flyers hold the advantage 4-2. Each time these two met, no matter the circumstance it is always a hard fought game, no factor in playoff hockey this is going to be a bloodbath. The Flyers top performer and Hart candidate, Claude Giroux tallied 102 points and 34 goals this season while the Penguins top performer Evgeni Malkin tallied 98 points and 42 goals this season. There is not much to say about this one besides, sit back, watch and enjoy a seven-game series. At the end of it, I see Penguins on top.