Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
This series will be like big brother vs little brother. In short, the Jackets are going to get swept. The Lightning are better in every facet, goaltending, forwards, defense. I was personally at a game earlier this year that featured these two teams and it was pathetic. But let’s take the Blue Jacket apart piece by piece. Bobrovsky is a good goalie but he is also a choke job in the playoffs. His all-time playoff save percentage is .891 and his goals-against average is 3.49. He will not lead this team to success in the playoffs. Then there is the forwards. I am not ripping the Jackets forwards, they are good players, it is simply that they are completely outmatched by the competition. The difference between these forward cores is good vs great. Finally, the Jackets are outcoached. John Tortorella has had some good years under the Rangers and Jackets but he is not a good coach. Why? Well, he has a long history of playoff futility, and he cracks under pressure. Take the NHL trade deadline this year for example. His team was proven to be good but with a slight slump around the deadline, he trades two picks, plus two prospects for Matt Duchene who could very well leave next year. He also traded for an unneeded third goalie for some draft pick that isn’t even going to play in the playoffs. He has crushed any future the Blue Jackets may have had for one season. With all this in mind there is no reason the Blue Jackets can win this series, and playing a team that just matched the NHL wins record means they’re in for a long ride.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Washington Capitals
The Hurricanes were a feel-good story from but unfortunately for them, it’s all for naught. They are playing one of the best teams in the league in the Washington Capitals. The Hurricanes got swept by the Caps in the season series, not because of lack of talent but because they are simply outmatched. Goaltending, forwards, defense, you name it, the Capitals are better. The Hurricanes have shown a promising core for the future but they will lose in four games. The only thing the Hurricanes do have on their side is hungry young talent. However, they are facing a generational talent in Alex Ovechkin. As well as a team that is playing more comfortably now that they have won the Stanley Cup. Come back to me next year and the Hurricanes may compete. For now, though, they are going to get swept.
New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
This one was VERY hard to decide. Both these teams are very good but the problem with picking one of them is their records are almost identical, they tied the season series, one has better coaching but the other has better talent. At the end of the day though, I have to pick the Penguins in seven games. Sidney Crosby will lead his team to victory because they are a better team talent wise and they have beaten Trotz before. Trotz is a very intelligent coach and yes, he beat the Pens last year but now he doesn’t have Alex Ovechkin to lead the way. He also has a bad history against the Pens, last year aside, so with the lack of talent to help him he can only do so much. In the end, it will be a fantastic series but the Pens will come out on top.
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs met last year in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Boston won in seven games. Since then, the Maple Leafs acquired star forward John Tavares, and more recently traded for a solid defencemen in Jake Muzzin. However, despite what most people say about the Maple Leafs, I don’t buy their Stanley Cup chances. I have chosen the Bruins to win in seven games. First off, the Boston Bruins have more consistent goaltending in Tukka Rask than the Maple Leafs do in Frederick Anderson. Goaltending is one of the most crucial pieces to playoff success and although Anderson is good, he has not stayed been steady and cannot match Rask’s skill. Second, the Maple Leafs have proven this year that they cannot handle Boston’s top forward line. This line caused them a lot of trouble by scoring goals on multiple occasions and it’s sure to continue in the playoffs. Third, Boston has home-ice advantage. The Bruins have an outstanding home ice record of 29-9-3 this year and their crowd is always into it. They proved their home ice last year by winning game seven 4-7 against the Leafs. However, don’t think this won’t be a good series. Both teams are very good and the Maple Leafs could pull it off. Boston is the better team and should pull through with the win.
NOTE: Hockey is one of the best sports because of its parity. So although I can make solid educated guesses, keep the TV on, anything can and often does happen.