Washington Capitals (1st Metro) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (2nd Wild Card)
LAST 10: Washington (8-2-0) Toronto (6-4-0)
Tyler Yaremchuk: I don’t see a scenario the Maple Leafs outscore the Capitals, simply based on depth. I don’t see a scenario where Braden Holtby is outplayed by Frederik Andersen. I don’t see a scenario where a blue line that features Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak can outplay a team with Shattenkirk, Niskanen, Carlson (if healthy) and Orlov. This should be a sweep, so I’m not even going to complicate things.
Capitals in five.
Liam Horrobin: It’s fair to say that this is the most one-sided series out of all of them this post-season. The Maples Leafs have plenty of scoring on their side but the Caps can pretty much double that. We still don’t know what’s happening with Andersen too which will be a big fact. Overall, the Caps will just simply overpower the young leafs.
Capitals in four
Taylor Paniccia: While it’s exciting times in the 6ix for the Maple Leafs and the hype around the kid phenom Auston
Matthews, this is the worst matchup for the Leafs to get involved in. While I believe the Leafs will be an offensive powerhouse in the near future I don’t see them keeping up to the big guns of the Capitals. From goaltending in Brayden Holtby to their sound defense core, to the deep forward roster, topped off with offensive horses such as Ovechkin and Backstrom, I believe that the Caps are the most well-rounded team in the NHL. The Capitals ceiling for cup potential is higher than ever in recent years and look for the President Trophy winners to blow away the Leafs quickly.
Capitals in five.
Brayden Engel: This is absolutely the best case scenario for the Leafs. They came into the regular season with no expectations and now enter the postseason with similar optimism. Getting to watch the best team in the league skate circles around them will really help keep their egos in check and show them just how far away they are from where they need to be. I think they’re incredibly outmatched but have the ability to outscore even the best team and give the Caps a bit of a scare before they wake up and pull away.
Caps in 6.
Josh Goodings: Poor Leafs fans. So close to having an easy ride to the second round against Ottawa, but fall one point short and have to cross over to the big bad Metro division and face the best team in the NHL. The Leafs are probably going to lose to Washington, who very well could win the Stanley Cup this year, but they should have no shame in that. What the Leafs did this year was amazing, going from 30th in the NHL in 15/16 to a playoff berth in 16/17, lead by three-star rookies in Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. The future is very bright for the Leafs, but I think they’re gonna have to wait another year to win their first playoff series since 2004.
Capitals in five
Devin Horne: This Caps team is insanely good, like really, really good. Third overall for goals scored and first in goals against, by quite a gap too. The next closest team, Columbus let in 193 pucks this year while Washington only 177. That’s 2.15 goals against the Caps a game. Add to that Braden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin, and a deadline pickup in Kevin Shattenkirk, dude has 14 points in 19 games with Washington. I think this may be the year we see Ovie hoist, Lord Stanley. Leafs are pretty exciting, but they’re too young and too inexperienced. They’ll be a pretty exciting team this decade. Again, because of this awful playoff format, we’ll see the Caps and Pens in the second round, instead of the Eastern Conference Final. NHL fix this!
Capitals in five
THE VERDICT: Our resident Leafs expert even knows the Leafs are in tough this round. The Caps are too deep, expect this one to be over quick according to most of our writers.
Pittsburgh Penguins (2nd Metro) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd Metro)
LAST 10: Pittsburgh (4-4-2) Columbus (3-5-2)
Tyler Yaremchuk: I’ve toss and turned on this series for a long time. The Blue Jackets are an incredibly difficult team to beat. They never stop checking and will out work all game if nothing else. If their offense can wake up, I have no problem taking them in six or seven. On the other hands, could I really bet against a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Even with a depleted defense, they’re so solid. This could really go either way, and these two teams hate each other, which will only add to the excitement of this first round matchup. One of the hardest predict, but I’m going with my heart on this one.
Blue Jackets in 7
Liam Horrobin: It’s disappointing to see these two heavyweights going at it in the first-round but it is what it is. The Penguins have just lost Kris Letang which will be a huge loss for them and I believe could be a series decider. The Blue Jackets, with Bobrovsky between the pipes, have got all they need to take down the Pens. Rookie star Zach Werenski will also have to lead by example at the back end for the Jackets.
Blue Jackets in 6
Taylor Paniccia: A season series won by the Blue Jackets this matchup is possibly the most tightly matched round one series. The Blue Jackets key to winning this series is their Vezina favoured goalie in Bobrovsky shutting the door and the all important shut-down matchup between Dubinsky and Crosby. Home-ice to me will be big in this one as well as special teams as both teams are good at home and on the special teams. Based purely on gut feeling and Stanley Cup defenders look for the Penguins to take down Lumbo in a long back and forth series.
By a coin toss, Penguins in seven.
Brayden Engel: After a white-hot streak in December, Torts’ Jackets have cooled off of late which is not something you want to hear about the team who’s about to take on Sidney Crosby and the defending Cup champs. While it’s hard to repeat these days, I don’t see the Pens having much difficulty with Columbus. Too much skill up and down the lineup, even with Letang out.
Pens in 5.
Josh Goodings: This is a very tight matchup between the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams in the East. Pittsburgh vs Columbus has become a heated rivalry ever since the two teams met in the playoffs in 2014. Columbus is now a very well rounded team with a great young defense core in front Sergei Bobrovsky, a soon to be two-time Vezina trophy winner, who I believe could be the key to Columbus winning this series. Pittsburgh also has a very good goaltender in Matt Murray, who was a big reason the Penguins won the cup last year, and I think he’ll hold his own in this goalie battle. The biggest difference in this series is that CBJ doesn’t have a Sidney Crosby, or an Evgeni Malkin. With those two healthy Pittsburgh is capable of beating anyone. The one red flag in Pittsburgh’s title defense is the injury of Kris Letang, that’s a massive blow to the Pens and could be their downfall if they meet Washington in the second round. Despite that, I still think they can get past Columbus without Letang.
Pittsburgh in seven
Devin Horne: You can’t bet against Sidney Crosby and the Pens, last year’s Cup champs. Crosby and Malkin are just deadly, and who hasn’t loved this renaissance of Phil Kessel? Losing Kris Letang is a huge loss, but those three forwards alone have 70 plus points this year. Columbus will give them some trouble, especially with Bobrovsky between the pipes. Again, playoff experience is huge especially in the first round when teams haven’t had that first round victory to boost them. Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad, and Alexander Wennberg just can’t match the Pens firepower.
Pittsburgh in six
THE VERDICT: Our first real disagreement. Four of us had the Pens, while one picked an upset with the Jackets. Most agree it will be entertaining and go deep, but in the end, BTI says it’s the Penguins series to lose!
Montreal Canadiens (1st Atlantic) vs New York Rangers (1st Wild Card)
LAST 10: Montreal (6-3-1) New York (3-4-3)
Tyler Yaremchuk: Price vs Lundqvist? I take Price every day of the week. The only way this series goes to the Rangers is if Lundqvist steals it himself. The Rangers defense is awful, their offense lacks a scoring superstar, they simply aren’t built for a long run in my mind. The Habs have been up and down all season, but they at least have all the ingredients for a team ready to take a plunge into round two in my mind.
Habs in 5.
Liam Horrobin: Carey Price will be challenged in this series against a Rangers team who finished fourth in the NHL in goals. Despite that, the Rangers finished the season freezing cold losing seven of their last 10 games. With the Rangers recent form and Carey Price being the best goaltender in the world, I can see the Canadiens taking this one.
Habs in 5
Taylor Paniccia: A matchup that can easily go both ways. As far as I’m concerned this can be a sweep by the Canadiens as Price purely dominates the declining New York Rangers or the Habs can pull out their inconsistent ways and get beaten in a long and fast series. The Habs swept the Rangers in the season series three straight. All eyes will be on the goaltending matchup that should most likely be won by Carey Price. Price has shutout the Rangers seven times in his career the most against any team and poses a 15-5-1 record against them lifetime. Both these teams have a very loud home-ice advantage but look for the Bell Centre to be a little bit louder with a Canadiens series win.
Habs in six.
Brayden Engel: I see most of us feel the same way about this series and it’s tough to disagree. Price is the best in the world and has an insane record in elimination games which means he can turn it on when it counts. He’s carried this team before and this won’t be any different.
Habs in 5.
Josh Goodings: This is a pretty close matchup between two similar teams. Both the Rangers and Habs are pretty average teams that are held up by world-class goaltenders, and it will likely come down to the goalie matchup. That matchup isn’t nearly as close as it was the last time these teams met in the playoffs in 2014. Despite having a few rough months this season, Carey Price is still one of, if not the best goalie(s) in the world, and is capable of winning this series largely by himself. Lundqvist, on the other hand, seems to be falling off at the age of 35, posting a .910 SV% this season, the lowest of his career. This might be because the Rangers defense is not nearly as good as it was when they won the President’s trophy in 14/15. Although they’re pretty close, I’d say the Habs are the better team and have the better goalie. They also swept the season series 3-0. So as long as Chris Kreider doesn’t take out Price again, the Habs should be fine.
Montreal in six
Devin Horne: The Rangers looked pretty great earlier this season, but the holes in their defensive core are pretty glaring now. I don’t think Hank alone can bring them a victory here, his GAA and save percentage both slipped a bit this season. Habs have been pretty good this year, Carey Price is back to his usual self and the addition of Alexander Radulov has been a great pick up.
Montreal in six
THE VERDICT: Another clean decision. Rangers simply won’t be able to hold onto the Habs for more than 5 or 6 games.
Ottawa Senators (2nd Atlantic) vs Boston Bruins (3rd Atlantic)
LAST 10: Ottawa (4-4-2) Boston (6-3-1)
Tyler Yaremchuk: Two teams being thrown around by injuries to end the season. Two teams who have struggled with inconsistency all season. This is as much of a toss up as any other series. In the end, I like the Senators to take it. It’s incredibly close and will likely come down to one goal in game six or seven. Boston drives possession and creates chances better than Ottawa, and if they can keep things at 5v5 they should have the edge.
Bruins in 7.
Liam Horrobin: I can’t wait to watch this series, said nobody ever. Both sides are rigged with injuries to important players and don’t have too many superstars. This series will not be one to remember in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, however, we’ve still got to give a prediction. In my eyes, Brad Marchand will help the Bruins come out on top over the Ottawa Senators.
Bruins in 6
Taylor Paniccia: The Ottawa Senators are the only team in the post-season with a negative goal differential. Weird. But this is a good first round matchup for them as they swept the season series four games straight as this could be a big mental boost for them. Just based on season series I have the Senators taking down the Bruins but making a quick second round exit.
Senators in six.
Brayden Engel: This is must miss TV. These are the two worst teams in the playoffs as far as I’m concerned with the Sens being riddled with injuries and the Bruins being old and dirty. That said, it will likely be a tightly contested series with a lot of variables. Karlsson has to play every game for the Sens to have a chance but that will be for naught if Anderson can’t find his game. In the end, I’m going to err on the side of experience in Rask, Bergeron, and Marchand.
Bruins in seven.
Josh Goodings: The Senators are the worst team in the playoffs this year. They’re the only team in the playoffs with a negative goal differential, and if they didn’t have Erik Karlsson they’d have a pretty good shot at drafting Nolan Patrick this summer. Despite being swept in the season series by Ottawa, Boston is the better team and should be moving on to the second round.
Boston in six
Devin Horne: Both teams suffered from injuries and inconsistency this year, and both nearly limped into the postseason. Ottawa does not generate enough offence, they’re the worst offensive team to make the postseason. The Bruins power play was seventh best this year, and they finished the season with the league’s best penalty kill. Also, I love Brad Marchand, a pest who also finished sixth in league scoring. That most recent incidents was pretty disgusting though.