Chicago Blackhawks (1st Central) vs Nashville Predators (2nd Wild Card)
LAST 10: Chicago (3-3-4) Nashville (5-4-1)
Tyler Yaremchuk: Let’s start with this: I really really really like the Nashville Predators. I think their defence is exceptional and if Pekka Rinne plays good then they could be giving the Hawks dynasty a real run for their money. In the end, I think Chicago is too deep. They can beat you in too many ways and have a lot of players breakthrough this year (Panik, Hartman). My pick is
Blackhawks in six.
Liam Horrobin: This serious could easily go to seven games with the amount of fire power both teams have. Nashville have the young up and coming roster led by Flip Forsberg up front and Subban at the back. On the flip side, the Blackhawks have all the experience in the world and that’s what will help them cross the line.
Blackhawks in seven
Taylor Paniccia: A Western Conference dark-horse to many people, this is a first round matchup that the Predators didn’t want to get involved in heading into the playoffs. These two teams have met twice in the postseason in recent years (2010 and 2015) with the Blackhawks winning both series in six games. It’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks love to play against the Nashville Predators as the Hawks took the season series this year four games to one. This is a Chicago team that knows how to win and will be looking to avenge their first round exit from last year and hunt down the Predators.
Blackhawks in six.
Brayden Engel: For the second time in 3 years, Nashville gets the pleasure of taking on the Blackhawks in the first round. Much like in 2015, I don’t see the out-experienced and out-skilled Predators making much of a dent in the armour of juggernaut Chicago.
Blackhawks in six.
Josh Goodings: As much as I’d love to see Nashville take down Chicago I don’t see this series being much different from the one in 2015. I really like Nashville’s young core of Forsberg, Johansen, Subban, and Josi. I expected more from the Preds this season, but they still have a bright future. Sadly I don’t think they have enough to beat the Blackhawks, who many were skeptical of after they failed to advance to the second round last year. But clearly they’re still the good ol’ Blackhawks, finishing 3rd in the NHL this year with 109 points. I think the Preds will be the Hawks first victim on their path to another Stanley Cup Final.
Blackhawks in six.
Devin Horne: How can you bet against Patrick Kane and Johnny Toews? The Blackhawks are still the dominant force in the west and will cruise to the western conference final. Nashville still doesn’t have all of the pieces they need to make a deep push, Subban was a great addition but I feel like they need something more up front. Watch out for Pekka Rinne though.
Blackhawks in six.
THE VERDICT: Experience and knowing how to win has BTI thinking the Hawks escape a potentially electric Nashville squad. Hawks late in the series is what we’ve decided.
Minnesota Wild (2nd Central) vs St. Louis Blues (3rd Central)
LAST 10: Minnesota (5-3-2) St. Louis (7-1-2)
Tyler Yaremchuk: I think the consensus is that this series will be one of the least exciting (or least attention grabbing) in the first round. Minnesota is slipping and if Devan Dubnyk isn’t back to his elite level in a hurry, then the Wild are in serious trouble. On the Blues side, even without Shattenkirk, they have a very good defense. You also can’t forget about Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues are also a better 5v5 possession team, so when the whistles go away in the playoffs (like they often do), I give them the edge.
Blues in seven.
Liam Horrobin: The Wild are getting cold at the wrong time! Devan Dubnyk’s have got worse every month which will also not help out the Wild. On the other hand, the Blues have been playing good hockey of late giving themselves a 7-1-2 record in their last 10 games. Out of all the series in west, this will be the closest one but I am going to have to take the Blues. Another great regular season for Boudreau but yet another disappointing postseason.
Blues in seven.
Taylor Paniccia: A few months ago I held the Minnesota Wild as one of my favourites in the West. But After buying at the deadline the Wild have cooled down as well as their goaltending from Devan Dubnyk, while the deadline seller Blues went on a hot run with much improved goaltending from Jake Allen. A fairly even season series between the two teams, (Blues taking it three games to two) look for special teams to play an important role in this playoff series, with the Blues running better numbers on the PP as well as the PK. While the Wild hold the title for most goals scored and goal differential in the West look for Jake Allen and the Blues to keep up their peak heading into the post-season and take down the Wild.
Blues in six.
Brayden Engel: The Blues are 15-3-2 in their last 20 games coming into this series. Not to mention Dubnyk’s abysmal .895 SV% since the Blues started their streak. While regular season success/momentum doesn’t guarantee anything, it makes St Louis a sexy pick for an “upset”.
Blues in 7.
Josh Goodings: The Blues have been red hot ever since Mike Yeo became the new bench boss, while Minnesota has seen their very strong start drop off as of late. Devan Dubnyk looked like a potential Vezina winner at the halfway point, now he might not even be nominated. Dubnyk went 6-8-2 with a .895 SV% since the beginning of March, and if he doesn’t turn it around now the Wild’s playoff run will be very short lived. On the other hand Jake Allen has been red hot since March, going 11-2-2 with a .942 SV%. Despite trading Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline the Blues still have a very solid d-core, as well as the biggest offensive threat in the series in Vladimir Tarasenko. I smell an upset in the state of hockey.
Blues in Six
Devin Horne: Am I the only person not looking forward to this snooze fest? This is the series I’m least looking forward to, excitement has faded as the Wild have cooled off and Dubnyk isn’t standing on his head like he was earlier this season. St. Louis trading Kevin Shattenkirk didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence. Sure, you don’t want to lose him for nothing, but if the Blues thought they had a shot they wouldn’t have traded him.
Wild in Seven
THE VERDICT: A hot Jake Allen and a cold Dubnyk is all the reasoning most of our writers needed to make the Blues their “sexy” upset pick in round one. It’ll take a lot of hockey, but Blues in six or seven is our call.
Anaheim Ducks (1st Pacific) vs Calgary Flames (1st Wild Card)
LAST 10: Anahiem (8-0-2) Calgary (4-6-0)
Tyler Yaremchuk: The Flames can’t win in Anaheim, I don’t know why, and if the Flames knew why then they wouldn’t keep losing. Are they due for a win in So-Cal? I would say no. Even without Fowler, the Ducks are solid on the backend and i trust their offensive core, especially with the addition of Eaves. The Flames can win if the Ducks health becomes a serious issue or if they can throw the Ducks off their game by adding some bad blood to things. I don’t see that happening.
Ducks in 5.
Liam Horrobin: This will be a fun but short series. The Flames have got all the speed up front while the Ducks have it all at the back which could be the difference maker. When you have a first line which has Perry and Getzlaf, then the second line with Ryan Kesler it’s very difficult to not say they’re the favourite. Much like Nashville, the Flames will have to rely heavily on their goaltender Brian Elliott if they want any chance of winning.
Ducks in 5.
Taylor Paniccia: A matchup I’m very excited to watch. This series has all the signs of good old school hockey as these two teams do not like each other. The size and physicality of the Anaheim Ducks will be a problem for the small forwards of the Calgary Flames. With the Flames not winning in Anaheim in over ten years look for this to a be a mental problem for Calgary. While the Flames do have a deep roster the Ducks dominated the season series (four games to one) and have been one of the NHL’s best down the stretch. Look for the Ducks to extinguish the Flames quickly.
Ducks in 5.
Brayden Engel: Another familiar matchup brings the return of the Red Mile and, in all likelihood, a disappointment for Calgary fans. I’m not one for season series numbers because I think a playoff date varies greatly from playing on the second half of a back to back in December but Anaheim did win 4 of 5 against their first round opponents. There’s no way a Randy Carlyle coached team could let its fans down right?
Ducks in 5.
Josh Goodings: The Flames cannot win in Anaheim. Simple as that. The Flames haven’t won a game at the Honda Centre since 2006. Insane, and I really don’t think that’s gonna change during this series. Not to mention Anaheim is just a better, more experienced team. This should be a quick and easy series for the Ducks.
Ducks in 5
Devin Horne: We were so close to the first playoff battle of Alberta since 1991, but Anaheim had to ruin that. Thanks guys. As an Oiler fan I’m not sure which team I hate more, since acquiring Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler the Ducks are giving Calgary a run for it’s money. It would be a dream come true for Calgary to upset the Ducks and possibly meet Edmonton in the second round, but the Ducks are just too good. Deep down the middle and even with the Cam Fowler injury their defense is still a force. Add to that Calgary hasn’t won in Anaheim in 20 some games.
Ducks in 6
THE VERDICT: I swear we didn’t discuss this, another consensus. Ducks will continue their dominace over the Flames despite a banged up defensive core. Ducks in 5 all across the board is our call.
Edmonton Oilers (2nd Pacific) vs San Jose Sharks (3rd Pacific)
LAST 10: Edmonton (8-2-0) San Jose (4-6-0)
Tyler Yaremchuk: The San Jose Sharks are banged up and slumping. The Edmonton Oilers are healthy, fast and hot. That would explain why many have the Oilers walking away with this, but I’d pump the breaks. This Sharks team knows how to win and they know how to play in the playoffs. They can get away with the little slashes and cheap plays, a definite advantage over a younger Oilers team. Martin Jones should also be scaring Oilers fans, he’s the type who can carry a team through a round and he proved it last year. In the end, I think the raw skill of Edmonton prevails, but barely.
Oilers in seven.
Liam Horrobin: With the injuries that the Sharks have had in recent weeks, you’ve got to make the Oilers the
favourites. However, even without those injuries, the Oilers still took the season series verse the Sharks. Although Connor McDavid led the league and Oilers in points, in the last few weeks, the Oil have had numerous other players step up like Lucic and Eberle. With those guys now hitting a hot streak, the depth that the Oilers have will help them defeat the Sharks.
Oilers in five.
Taylor Paniccia: It’s no secret and people have to realize it. The Edmonton Oilers have owned all Western Conference season series matchups this year. The Oilers have won the season series against all Western Conference playoff teams except for the Wild and the Predators. With the fade of the San Jose Sharks in the later stages of the season and the injuries to the likes of Thornton, Couture and Pavelski, look for the Oilers to drown the Sharks in their return to the post-season.
Oilers in six.
Brayden Engel: Connor McDavid puts up 4 goals in his first game of the postseason and exposes himself to Joe Thornton, setting the tone for the series. Really think home ice makes a huge difference in this one with Edmontonians finally hosting some playoff action and getting to wear orange to the games to show their support for the NDP party’s leadership.
McDavid in 7.
Josh Goodings: The Oilers are legit. After finishing 29th in the NHL last year, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Cam Talbot have lead the blue and orange back to the playoffs with a 103 point season. They’re no joke, and they’ve been great against not only the pacific division but the entire Western Conference, winning their season series against every team except Nashville and Minnesota. They won the season series against San Jose 3-1-1, winning the 3 most recent games. Earning home-ice advantage in this series was huge for the Oilers, as they won their last nine home games of the season. Brent Burns is the clear cut MVP of the Sharks this season, but it’s worth noting he slowed down at the end of the season, scoring only 2 goals in his last 23 games. Logan Couture and Joe Thornton being banged up could also make this series much easier for the Oilers, but the Sharks are not a team to just shrug off, this will be a hard series for the Oilers to win. But the Sharks have the biggest challenge in this series, stopping the McDavid/Draisaitl duo. Draisaitl put up 21 points in the last 14 games, while McDavid had 25 points on his 14 game point streak to close out the year. The Oilers head into their first playoff berth since 2006 extremely hot, with no intentions of slowing down.
Oilers in six
Devin Horne: Decade of darkness is over! I predicted the Oil to make the post season, but I thought they would be fighting tooth and nail for a wild card spot, not 2 points back of a Pacific Division title. Thornton is going to play hurt, as is Logan Couture. Sharks are still deep at centre and Martin Jones is an absolute beast. The Oil faired pretty well against the Sharks this season, taking the season series 3 to 2. Connor McDavid is the best player on earth, Draisaitl, Maroon, Talbot, and Eberle/Lucic are finally hitting their strides. This Oilers team is looking scary. Sharks are the veteran team and will be a handful for the Oilers, but I think the Oil squeeze into the second round.
Oilers in seven.