The Predators – who lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in last year’s Stanley Cup final – won the Presidents’ Trophy this season because of a deep lineup that boasts strong centres in Turris, Ryan Johansen, Nick Bonino and Mike Fisher.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers – Expect nothing short of fireworks whenever the two Pennsylvania rivals meet in the playoffs.
“You can play a 1-to-16 playoff pool, but I would suggest to you that there’ll be inequities in that”, Predators GM David Poile said, referencing travel among the issues. But the Devils aren’t waiting for anything.
Tampa Bay’s opponent is hoping to get Marcus Johansson back after he missed New Jersey’s final 35 games with a concussion. These teams were only separated by one point in the standings. After all, why should losing two games in overtime count the same as winning a game? “There’s not much you can do to change it”. “They’re just more intense and more familiar with this format than they were in the old format”. This is Taylor Hall’s and Nico Hischier’s first crack at it, but veterans like Michael Grabner, Patrick Maroon, and Brian Boyle will help out the cause because they have been there before. Vanek finished his nineteen game regular season with the Blue Jackets with a grand total of fifteen points; split nearly evenly between goals and assists with seven and eight respectively. In his first season without the guidance of Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray posted a modest.907 save percentage, including an end-of-season run of allowing four or more goals in three of his last six starts. Quite frankly, this matchup is a lot more even than some are painting it to be.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have 50 wins with one game left to play. They were swept by Anaheim in 2015 in their only trip to the postseason since returning to Winnipeg six years ago. They both have calmer demeanor’s. Remember, with all the speed on this Devils team, at any moment the Devils can score.
The Flyers were able to keep some games close during the regular season, but were still outscored 20-11 across the four contests.
In the West, the already-deep top-seeded Nashville Predators are on the verge of getting forward Calle Jarnkrok back after he missed nearly the final month of the regular season with an upper-body injury. The Preds will beat the Colorado Avalanche in five games.
The Bruins are optimistic injured forwards Rick Nash, Riley Nash and Sean Kuraly will be ready for Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. The Dallas Stars are living proof of that. Whatever your take on it, only eight teams have won the Stanley Cup after winning the Presidents Trophy, since the latter was introduced in the 1985-86 season.
Pittsburgh has won all four games against the Flyers this season, keeping Philadelphia to just five goals in the process and will look to avenge the defeat it suffered in the corresponding matchup in 2012.
These two teams don’t like each other. Thus, the playoffs generally feature tight series’, and a favorite sweeping an underdog is the exception, not the rule. But for this series, being the road team will loom larger in the long run and will be impactful on the outcome. But I would not count out the Devils just yet. The Wild have had far more playoff experience than the Jets. Vanek’s performance will certainly be something that could launch the Columbus Blue Jackets into Stanley Cup contention; however he’ll certainly have to avoid a playoff performance like his stint in Minnesota.