The first round of the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs are now set with the end of the 2018-2019 regular season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the Presidents’ Trophy winners while the Pittsburgh Penguins have made the playoffs for the 13th straight year. The New York Islanders have home ice advantage for the first time since 1988, while both south California teams, the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Carolina Hurricanes also ended a 10 year post season drought by making the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Out of seven Canadian teams, three made the playoffs: Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Winnipeg Jets. Two Original Six teams made the playoffs: Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The road to the Stanley Cup starts with these match-ups:
Columbus Blue Jackets (98 points) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (128 points)
The Lightning are the defending President’s Trophy winners. They also won all three regular season match-ups. Look for the Lightning to win in five games.
Toronto Maple Leafs (100 points) vs. Boston Bruins (107 points)
This is an Original Six match-up. This is the 16th time these two teams have met in the playoffs and the second straight year. The Leafs have won eight of the previous 15 match-ups, but the Bruins have won the last five straight post season match-ups. The Bruins also won three of the four regular season match-ups this year. Look for a seven game series with the Leafs getting the win in Game 7.
Carolina Hurricanes (99 points) vs. Washington Capitals (104 points)
This is the first ever post-season match-up between the two teams and the Capitals won all four games during the regular season. The Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Look for the Capitals to win in six closely contested games.
Pittsburgh Penguins (100 points) vs. New York Islanders (103 points)
This is the fifth post-season match-up between these teams with the Islanders winning three of the last four match-ups, including their last meeting back in 2013. Each team won two games against each other during the regular season. Look for the Penguins to win in six games.
Dallas Stars (93 points) vs. Nashville Predators (100 points)
This is the first post-season match-up between the two teams with the Predators winning three of five regular season match-ups this year. Look for the Predators to advance in six games.
St. Louis Blues (99 points) vs. Winnipeg Jets (99 points)
This is the first post-season match-up between these teams and the Jets get home ice advantage thanks to having more regulation and overtime wins during the regular season. The Jets also won three of four teams during the regular season. Look for the Jets to win in six games.
Colorado Avalanche (90 points) vs. Calgary Flames (107 points)
This is the first time that these two teams have met in the playoffs and the Flames won all three games during the regular season. Look for the Flames to win in five games.
Vegas Golden Knights (93 points) vs. San Jose Sharks (101 points)
The Golden Knights have made the playoffs both seasons they have played in the NHL and made it to the Finals last year losing out to the Capitals in five games. The two teams met last year in the quarter-finals with the Golden Knights winning in six games. They met up four times in the regular season and won two games each. Look for the Sharks to upset the Golden Knights in seven games.
So, my predictions are for the following teams to make it to the next round:
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
San Jose Sharks