NHL Playoffs Preview

It may feel like the NHL playoffs already kicked off with a crazy past two weeks of hockey, but that was only the qualifying round. Yes really, that was only the qualifying round, and if the play in the remainder of the postseason is as good as what we’ve been able to witness over the past few weeks, then we are in for a treat. Let's do a quick rundown series by series of who I think will win and advance to the second round. 

Eastern Conference 

Philadelphia Flyers (1) vs Montreal Canadiens (8) 

The Canadiens upset the Penguins in the qualifying round to sneak into the playoffs as the 8 seed. Montreal should be thankful for the opportunity to appear in this year's playoffs because in any regular season they would be a long ways away from having this opportunity, but obviously nothing is normal in 2020 so they were able to grab a spot with the extended qualifying round. I thought the qualifying round was a lot of fun to watch but teams like the Canadiens should not have a spot in the playoffs when they're so far out of it during the regular season. With that being said I think the Flyers will win this series fairly easily as I think they have the most complete roster in the NHL from top to bottom. They have a great mix of veterans and young forwards such as captain Claude Giroux, winger James Van Riemsdyk, and veteran Sean Couturier, among others. Carter Hart looks unstoppable in goal and this Flyers team looks much improved from last season where they missed the playoffs. The Canadiens may be good in a few years, but I think the Flyers win this series as they have a great group of guys who seem primed from this moment. Flyers in 5 

(Picture Credit: Yahoo! Sports)

Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (7) 

It will be a rematch of the historic 1 vs 8 playoff series upset from last year where Columbus upset Tampa Bay and I think these two teams will be looking for blood once again this year. Columbus defeated the Maple Leafs in the qualifying round and look ready to give Tampa a good run for their money again this year. These teams are both extremely talented and have shown that they can both win in the playoffs over the past few seasons. Despite losing some key players after last year including their star goalie, Columbus was still able to put together a product that could get them into the playoffs. I really like this matchup for both teams as they have high flying offenses that should make for an exciting playoff series. I can really see this series going either way, but I think after last year's defeat, Tampa’s going to be hungry for revenge which is why I’m picking them to win the series. Lightning in 7 

*This was supposed to be published a day earlier but I cannot believe the first game of this series went into 5 overtimes! Yes 5. Absolutely insane stuff so as I said before this series is going to be exciting. 

(Picture Credit: Amalie Arena)

Washington Capitals (3) vs New York Islanders (6) 

This is going to be an interesting series between two teams that I think don’t exactly have the legs to go too far in the playoffs this year. The Capitals don’t seem to have the same energy as they did two years ago when they won the Stanley Cup, but they should still be taken seriously. The Islanders are also an interesting team, as they were very streaky over the course of the season and failed to find consistency over the course of the year. As always Alex Ovechkin is can't miss TV, especially in the playoffs, but I think the Islanders flourish in the underdog role which is why I’m picking them to upset the Capitals in the first round. Islanders in 6 

(Picture Credit: Bleacher Report) 

Boston Bruins (4) vs Carolina Hurricanes (5) 

This will be a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals in the first round this year and I think this will be the best series to watch in the Eastern Conference during this first round of play. The Bruins were the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, but they really struggled against the elite teams in round robin play, finishing with a record of 0-3. The Bruins know how to win and in fact they were just 60 minutes from winning the Stanley Cup last year, where they lost in 7 games to the St. Louis Blues. It’s going to be a strong, smart, veteran heavy team in Boston vs a young, fast, and flashy Carolina squad which is going to make for some truly interesting games. I can really see this series going both ways, but I think the break in play benefited the Hurricanes more than the Bruins, which is why I’m picking the Hurricanes to defeat the reigning Eastern Conference champions.Hurricanes in 6 

(Picture Credit: The Boston Globe)

Western Conference 

Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs Chicago Blackhawks (8)

Chicago is another example of a team who won’t have gotten into the playoffs if it hadn’t been for the new qualifying format this year, as they upset the Edmonton Oilers in 4 games in the qualifying round. With that being said I don’t think they’ll have enough to beat the Western Conference Champions, the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas has a rather impressive resume for a team that’s only been in the league for 3 years, and I think they’ll continue to add to that this year as I’m expecting them to win this series against Chicago. I’m going to give the Blackhawks a few games because they have such an accomplished veteran core, who is very experienced in the playoffs. With that being said I don’t think it will be enough for Chicago to squeak past the Golden Knights. Golden Knights in 7 

(Picture Credit: Fox News)

Colorado Avalanche (2) vs Arizona Coyotes (7) 

This right here is another must watch match up that I’m extremely excited to watch. Colorado is a very skilled, young team that should not be taken lightly, especially with superstars Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar. They’re extremely solid on the offensive side of the puck and they also have a great defensive core and goalie. Arizona on the other hand also has a high flying offense, but I feel as if they don’t have a deep enough roster to compete with the flashy Avalanche team. There’s gonna be a lot of goals scored this series, there’s no question about that, but I think Colorado has a little too much strength for the Coyotes to handle. Avalanche in 6 

(Picture Credit: NHL Trade Rumors)

Dallas Stars (3) vs Calgary Flames (6)

This is going to be a gritty, speedy series between the Flames and Stars. I really like both of these teams but of course only one of them can move on to the second round. The Stars looked decent in the round robin tournament and I really had a very tough time deciding who I was going to pick for this series. Calgary has some really nice speedy forwards such as Johnny Gaudreau and slashers such as Milan Lucic. For me I believe that momentum is going to be the most crucial part of this series and I just have a gut feeling that Flames are going to take this series from Dallas. I picked the Stars to win the Stanley Cup during the preseason, but I just like the Flames a little bit better in this matchup, as I think they have something to prove after some sloppy playoff results over the past few years. Flames in 5

(Picture Credit: Sportsnet)

St. Louis Blues (4) vs Vancouver Canucks (5) 

The reigning Stanley Cup Champions went winless in the round robin round, but that they still have a very dangerous roster that should not be messed with. Last year they showed that they know how to win in crucial situations and I think that’ll be no different this postseason. The Canucks have a nice roster that is young and talented, but I think they drew a bad matchup against St. Louis this year. There’s really not much to say about this series, I just think that St. Louis is going to show the NHL why they won the cup last year and will take this series to move onto the next round. I’m predicting this series to go 7 games with the Canucks winning a few games late, but in a crucial game 7 the Blues will have the edge. Blues in 7

(Picture Credit: FiveThirtyEight)

Western Conference Finals 

Colorado Avalanche defeat Calgary Flames in 7 games 

(Picture Credit: The Rink)

Eastern Conference Finals 

Philadelphia Flyers defeat Carolina Hurricanes in 6 games 

(Picture Credit: Broad Street Hockey)

Stanley Cup Finals 

Philadelphia Flyers defeat Colorado Avalanche in 6 games 

(Picture Credit: Philly Influencer)
- Andrew Gardner, UNH '23 

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