As the Stanley Cup Playoffs start tomorrow, we break out the crystal balls to see if we can determine who will win the Eastern Conference matchups. We'll have the Western Conference matchups tomorrow. The least contested matchup among the staff here is the Capitals/Flyers game, in which nobody picked the upset. The Lightning/Red Wings matchup looks more like scattershooting with the variety of opinions we have there. Read on to see who we think emerges out of the first round for the East.
The Metropolitan Division
The Washington Capitals ran away with the Metro, the East, and the League this season. They'll draw the lower of the two wild cards in the East. Who do we think gets out of the Metro side of the Eastern Conference bracket?
Washington Capitals (1) vs Philadelphia Flyers (WC2)
Taylor: Flyers get some emotional boost from Ed Snider's passing, but Braden Holtby and the Capitals are too good to get bounced in the first round this year. Caps in 5.
Erin: The Capitals are clearly the better team, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a split of the first four with Philadelphia riding some momentum and emotion. Caps in 6.
Robert: Mason and Co. could always steal a game, but this is 2015 ANA/WPG. Caps in 4.
Marcus: I thought about hedging my bets and saying Capitals in 5. Nah. Caps in 4.
Wes: A Caps team that can score, defend and play between the pipes? Weird. Caps in 4.
David: Competitive rugged series (just like their regular season split) but not close. Caps in 5.
Derek: The Flyers have shown to be resilient, and are hot at the right time, but Washington won the President's Trophy for a reason. Caps in 6.
Ann: The Flyers made it in by the skin of their teeth and the Capitals have dominated all season. I don't foresee that changing in the first round. Caps in 4.
Kathleen: This should be a much more tense netminder battle than Holtby's mastodonic season may indicate, but the Caps' goals-per-game dominance will carry them to a relatively quick (though not easy) series win. Gostisbehere and Mason will keep it interesting. Caps in 5.
Melissa: The Flyers steal two from Holtby and Ovi, but are ultimately no match for a team that's impressed all season. Caps in 6.
Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs New York Rangers (3)
Taylor: Henrik Lunqvist keeps the Rangers in longer than they should be, and the Pens keep rolling at the right time of year. Pens in 7.
Erin: The Rangers are at the end of their time while the Penguins picked it up as the season went on. Plus I need some Trevor Daley playoff magic. Pens in 5.
Robert: This is a sweep, twice prolonged. Pens in 6.
Marcus: The streak is real, with or without Malkin. Pens in 5.
Wes: King Henrik will keep this series closer than it has a right to be. There's a lot of pride in this Rangers squad, but the top-heavy Pens are too talented. Pens in 6.
David: Pens are not just a hot team but a hot team with great underlying numbers. Rags are the opposite. Pens in 5.
Derek: The Pens play a couple of stinkers and King Henrik makes them pay for it with a great series. Rangers in 7.
Ann: Rumor has it the Penguins are getting Marc Andre Fleury back sooner rather than later. Lundqvist can steal them some games but with Malkin probably returning for the first round, the Penguins have more happening up front than the Rangers. Especially now that Phil Kessel found his scoring buddy. Pens in 6.
Kathleen: The Pens have heated up at a good time, and the Rangers' long list of key players just returning from injury is cause for concern. Keep an eye on Fleury (concussion) and Lundqvist (illness); as they go, so may their teams' fortunes. Pens in 6.
Melissa: Lundqvist keeps it close and the Blueshirts threaten to steal the series, but the Pens lock it down in the end. Pens in 6.
The Atlantic Division
The Florida Panthers took the Atlantic Division title by six points, but draw the higher of the two wild cards in the East. Can they move past the New York Islanders with their relative inexperience, and do the Detroit Red Wings extend their playoff success after backing into the playoffs thanks to an epic Boston Bruins collapse?
Florida Panthers (1) vs New York Islanders (WC1)
Taylor: Kevin Spacey in Space gives the Panthers voodoo magic over the Islanders and their terrible ice. Panthers in 6.
Erin: The Panthers got lucky at times throughout the season, but I trust the power Jagr's mullet to power them through the first round. Panthers in 7.
Robert: This should be a hot, wonderful mess of a series between two flawed but fun clubs. Panthers in 7.
Marcus: It may take the Panthers a game or two to figure it out, but they will be fine. Panthers in 6.
Wes: The difference here is goaltending. The Isles just don't have it right now. Alex Barkov might also be this post-season's break out. Kid is legit. Panthers in 7.
David: Tavares will keep it competitive but his support group has been invisible. Panthers in 6.
Derek: This series will be the closest and tightest out of them all. John Tavares turns out to be the difference-maker. Islanders in 7.
Ann: It just feels like the Panthers year. To make it to the final, that is. Not win the whole thing. But they're clearly blessed by whatever god looks over old dudes and rookies, and the Islanders can't seem to find themselves. Panthers in 7.
Kathleen: The Isles are cooling off at a bad time, so the Cats' edge in the season series could sustain them here. Plus it's hard to overestimate the power of mystic veteran-rookie alchemy (or of Holographic Astronaut President Frank Underwood). Panthers in 6.
Melissa: The series is closer than the end result makes it look, but the plucky Panthers knock off Tavares and the Islanders, and #SpaceyInSpace lives to fight another day. Panthers in 5.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs Detroit Red Wings (3)
Taylor: The injuries are just too severe for Tampa to overcome, and the Wings have just enough gas left in the tank not to be taken down by the injured squad. One last Push for Pavel. Red Wings in 6.
Erin: My head has a hard time picking the Lightning with all their injuries, but the Wings just don't impress me at all. Lightning in 7.
Robert: Tampa is missing half their team, but this iteration of Detroit is missing a whole good team. Lightning in 5.
Marcus: Datsyuk's retirement announcement feels like one final call to arms. That, and Stamkos is out. Red Wings in 6.
Wes: Hedman and Kucharov are banged up. Stralman and Stamkos are out. No, the Wings aren't great, but fate sure did hand them a plum first round matchup. Red Wings in 6.
David: Hard to predict but Detroit not dressing Mantha and scratching Smith and doing all the wrong things doesn't bode well. Lightning in 5.
Derek: Pavel Datsyuk plays some of his best hockey in a long time, but too much else goes horribly wrong for his team. Lightning in 5.
Ann: This is the one I'm most unsure of. I basically flipped a coin. The Lightning have lost key pieces of their roster to injury in the late stages. But Detroit is still Detroit. Red Wings in 7.
Kathleen: The stats favor the Bolts heavily, but no Stamkos and no Stralman probably means a tough time with a team that knows its way around the postseason like the Wings. In the end, can Bishop hold down Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Larkin? My guess is yes. Lightning in 7.
Melissa: The Lightning start the series strong, but stumble without Stamkos and Stralman (and potentially Johnson). Datsyuk seizes the chance for a statement-making swan song. Red Wings in 7.