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NHL 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference First Round

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If there’s one thing the Defending Big D crew can agree on, it’s that the Maple Leafs will be a first round exit.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the Dallas Stars may not have noticed (or cared), but the Stanley Cup Playoffs start tonight. While a showdown between the Capitals and the Maple Leafs does seem a bit lopsided, there’s always that outside chance, right? So here to take a stab at predicting the outcome of the first round is your entire Defending Big D crew.

Montreal Canadiens (1) vs New York Rangers (WC1)

Taylor: Carey Price will win this one for Montreal, if no one else will. Henrik Lundqvist has had a weird year, and I expect this to be more of a goalie dual than other series. Canadiens in 6.

Mike: This will be an old-fashioned goalie showdown. King Henrik had an up and down season but found his game as the season progressed. Carey Price, though, is on a different level and will carry Montreal. Canadiens in 7.

Robert: Hank is bank, but Habs ain't bad. We're all pulling for Jordie here, right? Right. Canadiens in 4.

Ann: Listen, if the Habs don't win this for Jordie Benn (it will ultimately be for their own reasons but I will make it all about Jordie Benn) then I wash my hands of all of them. Carey Price and JoBenn will reign victorious over Hank, who will finally lose all control and murder his team. Canadiens in 6.

Wes: I do not love the Rangers being 3-4-3 in their last 10 games. I also do not love Montreal having two players top 20 goals. A better offensive team would take advantage of a leaky Lundqvist and Dallas-esque NYR defense, but that's not who Les Habs are. Rangers in 7.

Erin: Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. Lundqvist hasn't really been on top of his game this year while Carey Price is still Carey Price. The Habs don't have the offense to go all the way, but they don't need to for this round. Canadiens in 5.

David: The Rangers are a bottom ten possession team. Montreal ranks 3rd in shot attempt differential and is led by Carey Price. This isn't a series. It's a bloodbath. Canadiens in 4.

Derek: The obvious storyline here is the epic goaltending duel between Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, and for good reason. Both teams rely on scoring by committee, so stopping pucks will be huge. Luckily for Montreal, their goalie is the best in the business. Canadiens in 6.

Melissa: Henrik Lundqvist's record at the Bell Centre isn't great, and Carey Price comes to play. Bonus prediction: Jordie Benn scores a big-time goal for the Habs. Canadiens in 6.

Jordan: While the Rangers may have initially been happy with avoiding the Metro side of the bracket, I think they immediately run into a wall here. Sorry, I mean Carey Price. Oh well, same thing. Canadiens in 5.

Kathleen: King Henrik vs. Jesus Price Superstar? NBC Sports wishes this one would go the distance...but Price is healthy, and the Habs look convincing behind him. Canadiens in 6.

Ottawa Senators (2) vs Boston Bruins (3)

Taylor: I flipped a coin. Bruins in 7.

Mike: The firing of Claude Julien seem to revitalize the Bruins. Ottawa, while not flashy, gets the job done. The Sens out-grit Boston to advance. Senators in 6.

Robert: Well, see, the thing about this is that Boston sucks and deserves to suffer unending heartbreak as a franchise, and their tears bring me ineffable joy. Let doom of the deepest night be pulled down upon their ursine heads. Senators in 4.

Ann: *yaaaawn* As closely as I hold some fans of the Bruins to my heart, I can't believe in their team. I asked Brad Marchand to pick a number between one and ten, his number was two (games suspended). Too bad, the number was 7. Senators in 7.

Wes: The Sens need Erik Karlsson at 100% to win this series. He's not 100%. Furthermore, they were a -2 Goal Differential team this season. Boston (+22) is going to advance. Bruins in 5.

Erin: I would really rather the Senators win this year, but they are not a great team who took advantage of a top-heavy, bottom bleh Eastern Conference this year. The Bruins are steady enough to get through them to the second round of the decidedly weaker half of the bracket. Bruins in 6.

David: The Sens are the only playoff team with a negative goal differential. Only their save percentage has made them look accidentally successful. Bruins in 4.

Derek: Craig Anderson is having an incredible, inspiring season, and I think he has what it takes to steal a few games. However, the Bruins have a notable edge in skill and structure, and that should be enough to win this series. Bruins in 6.

Melissa: Injuries to Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo really hurt the Bruins and give Erik Karlsson and the Sens a chance to advance. Senators in 6.

Jordan: Boston is going to just be too much for Ottawa. Craig Anderson likely steals a game like he always does, but an injured Senator team will be over-matched here. Bruins in 5.

Kathleen: Will this series be decided by the refs? It could get ugly as two teams who are finally restored to their perceived birthright of the playoffs try to claw their way to the second round. The Sens have an edge in extra minutes, which may be the difference. Senators in 7.

Washington Capitals (1) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (WC2)

Taylor: Toronto will win their first playoff game on home ice in seemingly forever, and while that Auston Matthews kid will continue scoring, they're not match for the Caps. Capitals in 5.

Mike: Will this finally be the year for Washington? Once again, the Capitals are President's Trophy champs and expected to win it all. One thing is for certain, they will not lose this series. Capitals in 4.

Robert: Shaky goaltending (unless Andersen isn't concussed), a young blue line, and fantastic playmaking up front? Seems like we saw a team like this recently, but I can't quite put my finger on when. Capitals in 6.

Ann: If anyone predicts the team that got in off the skin of their teeth against Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin, they're probably from Toronto. Still, the Leafs do have American hero Auston Matthews, who might buy them a game. Capitals in 5.

Wes: We get one more year (at least) before Leafs fans grow truly insufferable, but they're not going to beat the "this could be the year" Capitals. Capitals in 5.

Erin: The Capitals usually flame out in the playoffs, but not until later. I would love to see Auston Matthews advance just to see the traditional hockey markets have to twist themselves into knots avoiding talking about why markets like Phoenix are valuable, but alas, it's not to be. Capitals in 5.

David: The Caps' shooting percentage should come down to Earth, but the Leafs are down defensemen with suspect goaltending against the beast of the East. Capitals in 5.

Derek: The Leafs are enjoying a miracle season thanks to their envious rookie class, and their success will see the team take a couple of games, including one in Washington. The Caps, of course, are Cup favorites for a reason, and will put that rebellion to rest. Capitals in 6.

Melissa: The Leafs hang around just long enough for fans to think they have a chance to win the series, but Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby eventually shut that down. Capitals in 6.

Jordan: Much like Philadelphia last season, the Leafs will give Washington just about all they can handle. All of the pressure is on the Caps but they have the team to overcome that. Capitals in 6.

Kathleen: History favors the Caps as repeat President's Trophy winners - and more to the point, last year's gobsmacking first-round exit galvanized them to spend every effort preparing for this moment. Papi will make this fun to watch, and yet: Capitals in 5.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (3)

Taylor: Everyone is going to think the Pens will steam roll the little upstart Blue Jackets, but I feel like this might be more evenly matched than people think. Ultimately experience wins out, but barely. Penguins in 7.

Mike: Can the upstart Blue Jackets keep shocking the world and defeat the mighty, defending Stanley Cup champions? Yes. The man they call "Bob" will carry Columbus in front of one of the most underrated fan bases in hockey. Blue Jackets in 6.

Robert: Even the Kid can't play forward and defense at the same time. With Kris Letang down, the Pens will be lucky to force a game seven. That said, we all know John Tortorella is capable of of screwing up when he coaches teams playing against Crosby. Blue Jackets in 7.

Ann: I have decided I am very committed to the Blackhawks not being the first repeat in the salary cap era. That said, I want only good things for Sam Gagner. The loss of Letang might make this closer than it might otherwise be, but we've seen this match up before. Penguins in 6.

Wes: Under normal circumstances I'd say Pens in a laugher, but things are seldom that simple. Letang is out, Malkin is aching, Hagelin is hurt, Kuniz is out, the list goes on. I think Crosby an Kessel will be enough to get them past the Jackets, but this is a troubled Penguins group. Penguins in 7.

Erin: Boy do I want Columbus to win this series, and with the injuries the Penguins have taken on in the back half, it's just plausible enough to make me hopeful. Crosby is Crosby and his team will always get 127 percent of the benefit of the doubt from the officiating, which will probably be the difference. That should be enough to convince me, but I'll make this pick with my heart and not my brain. Blue Jackets in 7.

David: Dubinsky versus Crosby is what this series is all about. And maybe Tortorella stalking the hallways. Competitive series with Letang (most underrated d-man in the league IMO) out but still. Pittsburgh in 6.

Derek: The Blue Jackets are stumbling at just the wrong time, as the playoffs loom. The Pens don't care, and will show no mercy. Sergei Bobrovsky will do yeoman's work but to no avail, as the rest of his team gets badly outgunned. Penguins in 5.

Melissa: It's a tougher series than it should be for the Penguins, but they manage to pull it off. Penguins in 7.

Jordan: Many of the statistics favor the Penguins but there is just something about these Blue Jackets. The Letang injury proves costly for Pittsburgh in their attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup Champs. Blue Jackets in 7.

Kathleen: Are the Penguins too banged up for a repeat? The Jackets have really come together this year, and Officer Bob has only gotten better since his statement performance in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Blue Jackets in 7.