The first round of the 2021 National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs are now set and will begin on May 15th, 2021.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, the league redeployed the teams so that there would be one seven team division of all the Canadian based teams, while the other teams, all located in the US, play in three divisions.
As such, the first rounds of the playoffs will see four Canadian based teams play between each other.
The first round match-ups are as follows:
North (Canadian) Division:
Montreal Canadiens (59 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (77 points.) The Leafs won seven of 10 meetings this year, while the Canadiens have won eight of the 15 postseason matchups, the last one being in 1979 which the Canadiens won. Look for the Leafs to win in six games.
Winnipeg Jets (61 points) vs. Edmonton Oilers (72 points.) This is the first postseason matchup between the two teams and the first time that the two cities have faced off in the NHL playoffs since 1990, when Edmonton won. The Oilers won seven of the nine meetings this season. Look for the Oilers to win in five games.
Nashville Predators (64 points) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (80 points.) The Hurricanes won six out of eight meetings this season and this is their first postseason matchup. Look for the Hurricanes to win in four.
Tampa Bay Lightning (75 points) vs. Florida Panthers (79 points.) The Panthers won five of eight regular season matchups, and this is their first postseason matchup and the first time that two Florida based teams have met in the playoffs since the 1999 NFL playoffs. Look for a seven game series with the Lightning, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, winning.
New York Islanders (71 points) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (77 points.) The Penguins have won six of the eight meetings during the regular season. The Islanders have won five of their six postseason matchups, including a four game sweep in 2019. Look for the Penguins to win in six games.
Boston Bruins (73 points) vs. Washington Capitals (77 points.) Both teams won four times during the regular season and the Capitals have won two of the three times they have met up in the postseason, including the last time back in 2012. Look for the Capitals to win in six games.
So, I predict the following teams will win in the first round: Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsbirgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, and Washington Capitals.