For the second straight season, Rangers fans will be watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs as casual and (mostly) emotionally detached observers. While stress-free playoff hockey is great, I think we can all agree it would be more fun to be nervously anticipating that first game.
That said, this year’s playoffs feature some terrific first round match-ups, and the results could indeed have a direct impact on the Rangers in terms of the 2019 Draft. Dave covered those scenarios yesterday. And if nothing else, we can all band together and root against the Islanders, right?
Anyway, here are the BSB Staff picks. Feel free to share yours in the comments!
Tampa Bay vs. Columbus
Dave: There’s no way CBJ can withstand the fire power that is TBL. Lightning in 5.
Rob: I’m rooting against Tampa Bay (yes, I’m aware this affects the Rangers draft, I just don’t care) for a variety of reasons, but my heart won’t overtake my head in this scenario. The Lightning are historically great and will have a challenge in round 1, but their skill and depth will win out in this series. Still, look for Sergei Bobrovsky to have an impact for Columbus. Lightning in 6.
Becky: If only this matchup were based off of which coach I like more, it would be the Jackets in 4. But sadly, Columbus played not so great down the stretch and Tampa has more points than Jesus would have if he played hockey. Sad because Columbus is a 98 point team (whoa), but I think they go down fast. Lightning in 4.
Pat: Folks, CBJ was bad down the stretch, while the Lightning appear to be on a never-ending quest to embarrass basically every single player and team in the league this year. Whomst among us hasn’t been totally demoralized by Nikita Kucherov? Or Steven Stamkos? Or Brayden Point? All of those guys have 40+ goals by the way. Yeah, uh … Lightning in 4.
Boston vs. Toronto
Dave: This is going to be a great series. I like Toronto’s scoring depth, but their blue line will limit their success. I don’t think this is their year yet. I also can’t wait to see the carnage that would be Toronto if they lose in the first round. Bruins in 7.
Rob: The Bruins are a really solid team, but my hot take is that they’re over-reliant on their top line. It’s an incredible trio, but the Stanley Cup playoffs are so often decided by the players who don’t get top billing. Toronto’s middle six can be lethal in the right match-ups, and that group of players includes names like Matthews, Kadri and Nylander. This one is going seven, and probably into OT a few times to boot. Maple Leafs in 7.
Becky: Folks, I’m not sure if you’ve watched a lot of Toronto defense.. wait, no you definitely haven’t, because it barely exists. Boston may have some issues with depth and still putting Steven Kampfer out there, but Toronto is all smoke and mirrors. Bruins in 5.
Pat: Sure, the Leafs look legitimately, maybe even actually, good this year, but I think even with their forwards firing on all cylinders the Bruins can shut them down. From there it’s a question of defense, which I would say favors Boston, but also I’m a big Jake Muzzin guy so who knows. This one is basically a coin flip for me, but Boston’s top guys know how to do the damn thing. Indeed, it was once upon a time 4-1. I’m going to be kind to my Toronto friends and say that it’s Bruins in 7.
Washington vs. Carolina
Dave: Carolina is white hot right now and Washington is flawed. But the Caps have the experience and the go to goal scorers, and the Canes struggle in net. I’m fully onboard the Carolina bandwagon, but I don’t think they can withstand the Caps. Capitals in 6.
Rob: Winning the Stanley Cup twice in a row is really hard, especially when the path back to the Final means going through this year’s Eastern Conference. Carolina will own the puck all series and will be the first to four unless they commit a ton of silly penalties and give the Caps’ power play multiple chances. Hurricanes in 6.
Becky: Would love Carolina to win, but as much as we all hate him, I think Braden Holtby is Actually Very Good. Holtby will turn out to be the difference in this series, and Washington will get to Round 2 – but only to Round 2. Capitals in 6.
Pat: It’s just got to be the most fun team in the NHL. The Canes have the best defensive group in the league I think, and their forwards are really coming through. Besides, they’ve more or less been playing do or die hockey for the past month and well, they’re not dead, so it appears that they did (I wasn’t sure how to stretch that one, apologies for the clunky wording but you get the point). Washington is still riding high and has some excellent talents, but I don’t see it happening again. Even still, Carolina has a way of making things tense, so let’s go with the Hurricanes in 7.
NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh
Dave: I’m rooting for team meteor strike here, but the Isles are deeply flawed and relied entirely on two unproven goaltenders. That will get exploited in the playoffs. Penguins in 6.
Rob: The Islanders earned home ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time in 29 seasons. Let that sink in for a second. Anyway, it won’t matter. Penguins in 5.
Becky: It pains me to say but I think the Islanders, under Trotz, are better than the Penguins. Jake Guentzel and his 40 goals will try to bring this series to a win, but insufferable Isles fans will live to see another round. Islanders in 6.
Pat: This one is weird for me because I have absolute antipathy towards both teams and their fans. I mean no offense to the teams or their fans. Trotz has the Islanders in top form though, so I’d have to go with the Islanders (Fishermen) in 7. I mean honestly, whatever.
Calgary vs. Colorado
Dave: This is going to be the most fun series in the first round. Both teams score at will and have elite level talent. Colorado is basically one line deep though, and I think Calgary will exploit that. Flames in 7.
Rob: I looked at the standings the other day and thought, “Huh, the Avalanche made the playoffs?” The Flames really impressed me the few times I saw them this year, and while I don’t think they’re quite a true contender yet, they should dispatch the Avalanche somewhat easily. Flames in 5.
Becky: It’s kind of cool that Mikko Rantanen will be back in time for Game 1, but I’m not sure that he’ll spark enough to take down a powerhouse in Calgary. This should be a fun series to watch, though, for the 5 (or 6) games it lasts. Flames in 5.
Pat: I don’t know or watch enough of these two teams to really be able to say, but Johnny Hockey went to BC with a buddy of mine and is also from NJ, so I’ve got to give it up for him. Nathan MacKinnon is wild though (remember when people scoffed at the idea of trading Brady Skjei for him straight up?) and Rantanen will be back. Goaltending here is a weird X-factor, because I feel like it’s always the guys you least expect to put up insane numbers who wind up stealing games night after night. Let’s say Flames in 6.
San Jose vs. Vegas
Dave: Yes, I’m going against the grain here, at least in terms of series length. San Jose is really going for it, and I think they get it together in the playoffs. VGK had their magical run, I don’t think they can do it again. Sharks in 5.
Rob: This is one of those match-ups that probably should happen later in the playoffs. These teams are nearly dead even across the board, and the only reason I’m picking San Jose is because they own home ice in Game 7. It’s really a coin flip of a series. Sharks in 7.
Becky: Because, like last year, I exist for emo Logan Couture tweets. Golden Knights in 4.
Pat: Vegas is no longer fun, the oracles have spoken. By that I mean I just can’t imagine a team with Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and oh right, Erik Karlsson on the backend not figuring out exactly how Vegas will play the puck about 20 minutes into the series and then totally stifling them from there on out. It might actually make me believe the whole “can’t play defense” thing if they didn’t seriously. They’ll lock it down, the forwards will be just good enough, and it’ll be Sharks in 6.
Nashville vs. Dallas
Dave: Dallas is starting to get hot and healthy, which is big. Nashville is just good and balanced. I think their love of 4th liners that fight and don’t do much else will be their downfall though. Plus I’m a homer and want Dallas to win so the Rangers can get their 1st rounder this year (if they get to the WCF). So homer pick, for the win. Stars in 7.
Rob: Even though they turned it around, I can’t get this story out of my head when I think of the Stars. It’s also really hard to pick a team whose goalie is Ben Bishop in the playoffs. Sorry, Zucc… Predators in 6.
Becky: Here’s my upset. I think the Predators are better than the Stars, but much like the Patriots tried to use last year (lol), the Stars are feisty and have the underdog thing working for them. Plus, the Stars have fairly decent goaltending (shudders at the thought of the Lehtonen years). I’ll put my money on this to be the upset. Stars in 7.
Pat: This one should be super fun, so it probably won’t be now that I’ve said it. I’m going to go with aspirational here instead of any kind of actual analysis and just say I hope both teams have a good time and that it goes 7 games. That’ll be Predators in 7, of course.
Winnipeg vs. St. Louis
Dave: Winnipeg is sneaky bad right now and backing into the playoffs. Meanwhile STL is the West’s hottest team. This could get ugly fast. Blues in 5.
Rob: St. Louis has been steamrolling the NHL for the last two months, and even though momentum is a fickle thing, they’re no fluke. As Dave mentioned, something’s not right in Winnipeg, and barring a goaltending implosion, the Blues should advance. Blues in 6.
Becky: The Blues were horrendous halfway through the season and turned it all around. The Jets have been fading to end the season. But the playoffs are a totally different beast. I think whoever wins this series will win the next series, because it’ll be that hard of a fight. Both teams have talent, both teams play a rough game, and both teams have goalies who can flash brilliance on any given night. I’ll be watching this series for sure. Jets in 7.
Pat: It’s my understanding that both of these teams have the capacity to be pretty good, but also the capacity to be pretty bad. I’m old enough to remember when St Louis was in contention for the Jack Hughes sweepstakes, which is to say I’m about 4 months old. However, I’m not old enough to remember the last time Patrik Laine scored a goal, despite the fact that he’s actually significantly younger than me. Time is a flat circle folks, and so is the coin I’m flipping to decide this one. Jets in 7.