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Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Predictions

The Defending Big D staff uses their own set of criteria to determine who wins each series as the Playoffs open tonight.

Dallas Stars v Calgary Flames Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

There really is no right or wrong way to pick playoff round winners. Some will use logic, some will use feelings, some will look at stats, some will rely on their eyeballs. If you’re Mark Zimmerman of Defending Big D, and you’ve been sick since before the Ducks game last week, you rely on a theme of ex-Stars to root for. How did other staff members make their playoff predictions? Read on to find out and then tell us who seems spot on and who might need to re-evaluate their choices in the comments.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

FLORIDA PANTHERS (A1) vs WASHINGTON CAPITALS (WC2)

Taylor: I want nothing but good things for a team that’s been on the cusp for a while and is located in the Sun Belt. FLA in 6

Tyler: Washington’s got enough bite in them to make Florida sweat, but the Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy for a reason. FLA in 6

Rob: Florida is an absolute wagon. The Caps have Ovie but the Panthers have everything else. FLA in 5

Wes: Does Washington have the offensive talent to go on an all-time bender and score their way into the second round? Yeah, especially if they start getting power plays. Thing is, the Panthers are a juggernaut. A Caps win would be more about Florida collapsing than anything else. FLA in 5

Mark: Love Ovi, but Ukraine. FLA in 4

Trent: Florida is a great team, man. Ovi is questionable on the health front. And do we really trust Laviolette to do anything right? Panthers in however many games as fans they have attend game 2

Greg: The Panthers have been the best team in the east all year long. They have a +94 goal differential. They are a staggering 34-7 on home ice this year. Washington, on the other hand, hasn’t been good on home ice. They’re 19-6-6. FLA in 5

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (A2) vs TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (A3)

Taylor: I’ve got my popcorn ready. TBL in 6

Tyler: Toronto and losing in Game 7 — name a more iconic duo. TBL in 7

Rob: Tampa has played a lot of hockey in the past two years and haven’t looked as dominant this season. Toronto has matured and has the pieces up and down to make a run. TOR in 6

Wes: It’s been a few years since anybody beat the Bolts 4 of 7. Hard to see it happening this year. If Toronto’s goaltending holds up, this turns into a strength-on-strength matchup between Victor Hedman and the NHL’s king goal-scorer. To be man, you gotta beat the man (woo) so it’s TB for me until someone does. TBL in 6

Mark: Easy choice. Perry or Spezza. TOR in 5

Trent: simply for the takes that would come out about how Toronto still isn’t able to win a playoff series I’ll go TBL in 7

Greg: Another year in which the Maple Leafs don’t win a playoff series. Despite finishing second in the Atlantic division and having the offensive weapons they have, they have the luxury of facing the two-time defending champions in the first round. I think they have enough weapons to push this to seven, but Andrei Vasilevskiy is a different animal in the playoffs and that will be enough for Tampa to win the series. TBL in 7

CAROLINA HURRICANES (M1) vs BOSTON BRUINS (WC1)

Taylor: I want to see some Storm Surges. CAR in 6

Tyler: I find Boston to be a bit underwhelming to be perfectly honest, but with Andersen’s status up in the air, I’m not sure I’m high on Carolina either. BOS in 7

Rob: Carolina has too much up front for me to reasonably pick Boston. CAR in 6

Wes: the Canes owned the season series and are both deep and dangerous. Boston, meanwhile, just sort of manages excellence every dang year. Which batch of goalies holds up? Does Boston have enough scoring depth? I say no. CAR in 5

Mark: A bunch of ex-Stars are also ex-Bruins. That tells you something about Boston. CAR in 6

Trent: Carolina has been excellent all year. Boston has “been there, done that.” My recency bias reminds me that Boston hasn’t lost on the first round since 2017, when they lost to the Ottawa Senators, an eventual Eastern Conference Finals team—which tells you it’s been a while. And a lot of folks in my Twitter echo chamber tell me that Carolina may be lacking that true takeover guy (a take a don’t really agree with). But all of that can be pushed way to the side, and I think it’s Carolina’s time to shine. CAR in 6

Greg: Carolina finished second in the Eastern Conference in points (116) and have an incredible home record (29-8-4). Boston isn’t a slouch, but I still think the Hurricanes are the better team and will take care of this series in six. CAR in 6

NEW YORK RANGERS (M2) vs PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (M3)

Taylor: The only question, in my mind, is whether Shesterkin gets enough help or if he wins this series single-handedly. NYR in 6

Tyler: Igor Shesterkin is only human. I think. PIT in 5

Rob: This series might be the most interesting of the bunch. Look at this series to go the distance. PIT in 7

Wes: neither team is really great. Pittsburgh have Crosby but the Rangers have an all world goalie. That matters a ton in a series. Did Shesterkin get enough rest? NYR in 6

Mark: Rangers released Sean Avery into the universe. PIT in 5

Trent: Hand up. I haven’t watched much of either of these teams this year. PIT in 5

Greg: Seems weird to pick against Sidney Crosby in the first round of the playoffs but here I am. And I’m picking it to be very one sided series. Why? I haven’t got a clue. Just going with my gut here. NYR in 5

WESTERN CONFERENCE

COLORADO AVALANCHE (C1) vs NASHVILLE PREDATORS (WC2)

Taylor: The brooms are very much ready to make their first sweep of the postseason. COL in 4

Tyler: With Saros, Nashville would have had a really solid chance to pull off the upset here. Without him, they might be able to steal a game. Might be. COL in 5

Rob: Soros being injured is just another reason why Colorado doesn’t allow Nashville to win a game. COL in 4

Wes: Josi v Makar winner gets the Norris! There’s enough going on (Duchene rebound season!?) that, even without Soros, Nashville should keep it competitive, but let’s be honest, Colorado should cruise. COL in 5

Mark: Always loved Nuke. COL in 6

Trent: can’t go against Colorado here. Nashville may steal one, but I think this is the sweep of round 1. Nothing against Nashville, but Colorado is insane. COL in 4

Greg: Everything that was said about Florida can be said about Colorado. They’ve been on a mission this season. Whether they can get out of the second round remains to be seen. For the first round, though, the Predators backed into playing the wrong team. COL in 5

MINNESOTA WILD (C2) vs ST. LOUIS BLUES (C3)

Taylor: Either way this goes, a good team is going home. MIN in 7

Tyler: St. Louis has had Minnesota’s number for the past several seasons. Maybe this is a WSH/PIT situation when the Wild finally pull it off, but don’t hold your breath. STL in 6

Rob: Both of these teams are absolute powerhouses coming into this series. Its a shame this is a first round match-up. That being said the Blues take this one. STL in 7

Wes: Barn. Burner. The Blues are 7-2-1 heading into the playoffs. Good, right? Well, The Wild are 8-1-1. The Wild scored 310 goals this season, the Blues scored 311. Both teams can keep the puck out of the net as well. For me, it’s the goaltending. I trust Minnesota a little more than I trust the Blues. MIN in 7

Mark: Goligoski and a few games worth of Zuc vs. Monty and Otter on the bench. That a tie, so dislike of Binnington vs inability to root for Wild. Hmm. Coin-flip is STL in 7

Trent: this is going to be the best series of them all. I still don’t respect the Wild, and until they stop trying to steal the North Stars, I won’t. Still going to be an insane series. STL in 7

Greg: This series is a pick-em in my opinion. I feel like both of these teams are pretty evenly matched. I give the slight edge to the Blues mainly because of their recent playoff success. But that doesn’t mean the Wild can’t win this series. STL in 7

CALGARY FLAMES (P1) vs DALLAS STARS (WC1)

Taylor: Can Miro Heiskanen go beast mode for the playoffs again? Is John Klingberg’s swan song in Dallas a fairytale or a train wreck? Is Jake Oettinger ready for the playoff pressure? Do we trust Calgary’s top line to get shut down enough for Dallas to eek out an edge? CGY in 6

Tyler: Dallas is the only team in the playoffs with a negative goal differential. Calgary is one of the most complete teams in the playoffs. So naturally Dallas will pull off the upset, lose in the second round against a lesser opponent, and then sign Bowness to a 90 year contract extension. DAL in 6

Rob: If Dallas can get hot then they have a punchers chance. I just don’t believe the Stars can score enough to keep up with the horses the Flames have up front. Dallas will be able to defend, but for how long given the scoring woes? It all has to go perfectly for Dallas to win and I don’t see that formula repeating itself four times. CGY in 6

Wes: Miro could explode like last time, the Stars could get “Colorado Oettinger” and never, ever discount Pavelski and Sons. With that said, Miro excepted, Calgary is better than Dallas across the board. Yes, even Top Line vs. Top Line. Maybe they pull a rabbit, but it’s hard to see this group getting to and staying at their peak for a full 7-game series. CGY in 6

Mark: Homer pick. DAL in 6

Trent: upper management seems to think the Stars are built to succeed in the playoffs, despite barely stumbling in to qualify. I don’t hate this view, as I could see the grind mentality succeeding over 7 games against the same opponent. But Calgary has an elite offense, and Dallas hasn’t shown me they are truly great defensively, even though that’s the sole focus at times. Stars may put up a fight, but unless goaltending is anything but elite, I think the Flames take this one. CGY in 6

Greg: Maybe this is a homer call but I’m hoping the Stars top line and the play of Oettinger can win them a few games in this series. I like the matchup with Calgary better than I did with the Avs but I still don’t know if Dallas has the firepower to win a series against the Flames. The Stars are the only team in the playoffs with a negative goal differential and Calgary is one of the best in that category. That math doesn’t bode well. CGY in 7

EDMONTON OILERS (P2) vs LOS ANGELES KINGS (P3)

Taylor: The weakest of the first round matchups, I’m not sure this one will be worth the price of staying up late for. EDM in 6

Tyler: I don’t trust Edmonton’s goaltending, but they have too much star power to lose to a team just exiting a rebuild (or rather would still be in one of the Pacific wasn’t terrible). EDM in 4

Rob: Edmonton has too much up front and enough in goal to end a nice story in the Kings. EDM in 6

Wes: I do not trust Edmonton’s goaltending. Same time, LA isn’t exactly at the end of their rebuild. I say Edmonton has enough fire power to escape their flaws this round, but it’s one of those “who knows when the bottom might drop out” pics. EDM in 6

Mark: Mike Smith rocks. EDM in 5

Trent: another cursed Canadian team playing here. But I think their matchup is against a truly inferior opponent. McDavid and Co. get the win in a high-scoring series. Should be a lot of fun to watch, assuming you don’t like sleeping and can watch all 7 games with 9:15 CT puck drops. EDM in 7

Greg: I feel like the Kings are the silent team here. I mean they’re in the playoffs and nobody really has talked about them all season. That being said, the Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Those two combined for 99 goals and 233 points this season. EDM in 6