Stanley Cup Playoffs preview: Glances and predictions

Stanley Cup Playoffs preview: Glances and predictions

As the march to the Cup gets underway, here’s a look at the first round.

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals face the Maple Leafs during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals face the Maple Leafs during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo Credit: Office of the governor / Philip Kamrass

The thoughts of the Rangers and their fans will be, for the next week or more, squarely on the Canadiens during the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On the flip side, there’s bound to be a few disgruntled Islanders and Devils fans around these parts invested in a Habs victory.

But the rest of the hockey world has plenty more to follow as the march to the Cup gets underway this week. Here’s a glance at each of the other seven first-round series.

Senators vs. Bruins

No. 2 and three in the Atlantic Division, the Sens and Bruins don’t look set for a competitive series on paper. Ottawa, led by defenseman Erik Karlsson, swept four regular-season matchups, including a shootout last week. But Boston responded to a February coaching change well and should make it interesting. Senators in seven.

Capitals vs. Maple Leafs

Washington repeated as Presidents’ Trophy winners because, well, they’re talented everywhere. From sniper Alex Ovechkin to reigning Vezina winner Braden Holtby, the Caps are in another league than rookie Auston Matthews and wild-card Toronto. The Metropolitan Division champions are the closest thing to a lock in the first round. Capitals in five.

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets

The Metropolitan Division is stacked, and both No. 2 Pittsburgh or No. 3 Columbus earned more points than Atlantic champion Montreal. But, seeding the way it is, one of these teams will go home early. The Pens are banged up, and they’ll have trouble against netminder Sergei Bobrovsky in what should be an excellent series. Blue Jackets in seven.

Blackhawks vs. Predators

The last time these two met in the postseason in 2015, Chicago used its first-round victory over the Preds as a springboard to another Stanley Cup crown. With the Central Division champs winning four of five over wild-card Nashville this season, expect more dominance from the trio of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. Blackhawks in six.

Wild vs. Blues

Minnesota and St. Louis, the Central’s Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, are no playoff strangers either. The Wild ousted the Blues two years ago, and 2017 may see some déjà vu if Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk plays as he did most of the season (2.06 GAA) rather than in March (2.94 GAA). Wild in seven.

Ducks vs. Flames

No team in the Western Conference won more home games (29) than Pacific Division champion Anaheim. Couple that with the fact the Ducks haven’t lost in regulation since March 10, and Ryan Getzlaf looks like he’ll be reaching the next round. Wild-card Calgary can’t measure up to Anaheim’s blue line depth, even with Cam Fowler out. Ducks in five.

Oilers vs. Sharks

Connor McDavid, the 20-year-old Art Ross Trophy winner, makes his postseason debut for resurgent Edmonton, the Pacific’s No. 2, as the Oilers end a 10-year postseason drought. With Pacific third seed San Jose floundering, having won four of the last 13, the Oilers and their young superstar look second-round bound. Oilers in five.

Scott Fontana