Congratulations to the eight teams for making it this far. The first step is complete, but now the real work begins. For 15 teams, the dream will not happen this year. No team wants to go home in the first round, but for four teams, all that hard work during the regular season will mean nothing. Let’s take a look at which teams should make it to the next round.
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Nashville Predators Vs. Dallas Stars
Prediction: Nashville in 6
As much as I think Dallas can keep up with the Predators, I don’t believe they have the depth to get past them. The Stars were lead by Ben Bishop, who finished the season with a 1.89 GAA and a .934 SV%, but is he 100% healthy heading into tonight’s game? Can the Stars’ offence come to life and score enough goals? This Nashville team is deep, and they are going to give Dallas a ton of trouble. They won’t sweep them, but in the end, they will have enough to get past them in the first round. Until next year, Dallas.
Winnipeg Jets Vs. St. Louis Blues
Prediction: St. Louis in 7
We have our first upset of the first round! As much as I would love to see Winnipeg move on to the second round, there is no way they are getting past this St. Louis team, a team that has been on fire since the beginning of January. Both teams have depth up front, they defence is good, but St. Louis has the upper hand in goal, and it’s not even close.
Jordan Binnington was called up back in January, and since then, the Blues have gone from last in the Western Conference to third in the Pacific Division. No one was expecting the rookie goalie to make that much of a difference, but he came in, posted a 1.89 GAA, a .927 SV% and finished with a 24-5-1 record. To top it all off, he finished with five shutouts. He’s been the backbone of this team for the last few months, and he deserves the chance to play game one of the playoffs.
That being said, Jake Allen is probably going to see some ice time in the first round, and despite the fact that he has played better over the last few weeks, he isn’t the reason this team finished where they did. If Binnington struggles, or isn’t elite, they might turn to Allen, and that will not end well. The Jets are going to give St. Louis a run for their money, but can Hellebuyck be the goalie to stand on his head and keep his team in the game? Not for seven games.
It will be a close series, but I’ll give the edge to St. Louis. If they keep playing amazing hockey like they did in the regular season, no team will be able to slow them down in the playoffs.
Calgary Flames Vs. Colorado Avalanche
Prediction: Calgary in 4
The Avalanche managed to squeak into the playoffs with 90-points thanks to Philipp Grubauer and his strong play late in the season, but let’s not pretend like they have any chance of getting past the Calgary Flames. This series will be over and gone just as quick as it got started.
Calgary’s weakness is in goal, but the Avalanche don’t have better goaltending on paper to take advantage of that match up. We have two teams with mediocre goaltending, so that will probably lead to a ton of goals. The Flames have the depth up front to score goals and their defence is above league average, so how in the world will Colorado get past this team?
For large stretches of the season, Colorado was carried by their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. Of the three, only MacKinnon is fully healthy. Landeskog returned late in the season and he seems to be fully healed, but we still don’t know if Rantanen will be ready to go for game one. Outside of that top line, this team has no depth, and you can’t win in the playoffs if you don’t have depth. Couple that with the fact that Semyon Varlamov is going to see more starts than he should, and you have a team that gets eliminated in four.
The Avalanche don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. They benefited from playing in a weak Western Conference. There is good news for this team– they will have the fourth overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft!
San Jose Sharks Vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights
Prediction: Las Vegas in 6
Two years in a row that the San Jose Sharks face off against the Golden Knights in the first round, but it won’t be a surprise when the Sharks get eliminated by a much better Las Vegas team. You can say what you want about the Sharks and their record, but let me clear on one thing: this team is a fraud!
Let’s start with the man behind the Sharks being a fraud: Martin Jones. Of the 19 goalies to play 50 games or more this season, Jones was third in wins with 36. That sounds good, right? Once you start digging deeper, you realize that wins isn’t a good way to evaluate how good a goalie is, because he finished with a 2.94 GAA and a.896 SV%, which would rank him 15th and 19th in both categories. Of all the goalies to play over 50 games this season, Martin Jones has the worst SV%, worse than Craig Anderson, Carter Hutton and Mikko Koskinen. It’s mind blowing that he was able to post a 36-19-5 record with numbers like that.
On the other side, Marc-Andre Fleury was really good. He won 35 games this season and posted a very respectable 2.51 GAA and a .913 SV%. He was the backbone of his team all season long, and he will be the best player on the ice for his team all playoffs.
The mismatch in goal is enough for me to give the series to Las Vegas. The Sharks have more firepower in terms of scoring goals, but they can’t win every playoff game 7-5. They won’t be able to just outscore the Golden Knights every game. Unless Martin Jones finds another gear in the playoffs, he’s going to be the reason why his team doesn;t make it out of the first round.