And we’re back with more predictions! We tackled the East and West divisions earlier, and now we’re back to see who our staff likes to win their first round series in the North and Central. Let’s get into it!
Maddie: I really don’t trust the Habs here. I know we’ve seen them give some teams trouble this season, but the Leafs have really had their number (won seven of their ten meetings during the regular season). I think the Leafs are legitimately good, too, not just good for a weak North division. I think they can take this one pretty easily. Leafs in five.
Drew: Leafs in five games. Auston Matthews has been scoring goals like it’s nobody’s business and overall the talent level of Toronto will see off the Canadiens. who to their credit, put up a fight against the Flyers last year so you can’t count them out.
Steve: The logical part of my brain says Leafs in a sweep. The scarred Flyers fan part of my brain remembers last year’s playoffs all too well. Carey Price can turn it on at any time. Shea Weber can eat the right combination of steak and eggs in the morning and suddenly start obliterating guys like they’re nothing. Still, this is not a very good hockey team. The Leafs are too talented. I am going Leafs in 6, with Price stealing a couple of games.
Eamon: I think the Leafs are a good team, sure, but the Habs remain one of the best 5-on-5 teams in the NHL. Even with their sluggish defenders and inexperience at forward high in the lineup, I think Montreal has the pieces to give Toronto a tough, but still easily winnable series. I’ll take Toronto in six games here, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Canadiens were sunk by goaltending and got swept out, either.
Ryan Q.: All I want is chaos. It’s what I live for. Realistically, the Leafs will probably win in five or six. But I want the Habs to win in four or five. It would just be so funny. Plus, I really want to see more of Cole Caufield — the guy the Flyers didn’t draft. That would be very nice.
Kelly: I want to say Leafs in five but I am going to be generous to the Habs and say Leafs in six. I just don’t think the Canadiens have an answer for Toronto’s sick offense.
Kyle: Montreal is going to be a pain in Toronto’s ass much like they were last season for the Flyers, but Toronto just feels different this year. It feels like they have a better idea of what it’s going to take to win in the playoffs, and Jack Campbell is playing out of his effing mind right now. Toronto in six.
Brad: The Canadiens aren’t very good, but that alone won’t stop the Maple Leafs from losing a series. They can surely do it! In the end, I think the Habs only give them a light scare — maybe they split the first four games — but Toronto takes the series in six.
Kurt: The winners of this series? Well, folks? It’s us. Because whichever city loses this series is going to lose its god damn mind. And man, I want to pick the upset — how funny would it be if Toronto’s revelation in net turns into a pumpkin in the playoffs? — but ... I can’t. They’re just better. Leafs in six.
Ryan G.: Montreal might steal a game or two as they did last year against the Flyers, but this is the Leafs’ series to lose. Toronto choking in the playoffs would be unheard of, so I’m going with the Maple Leafs in five.
Drew: Oilers in six games. I think Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are going to will the Oilers to a series win in this one. It’s bound to happen. They want to show up on the big stage, and now is just the time to do it.
Maddie: Man, I don’t particularly like or trust either of these teams, if I’m honest. Like Drew said, I think the Oilers’ stars give them the edge in this matchup, so I think they take it. I don’t know how much further they’ll drag the team, but one round is manageable. Oilers in six.
Steve: Weird series. The Oilers are not as good as they probably should be considering that they have two of the best hockey players in the world. Perhaps the Two and a Half Men approach to team building is flawed (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, I am sorry, but you are the half man in this metaphor based on a lousy sitcom). The Jets are better than you’d think, because, how often do you really think about the Winnipeg Jets? I am reluctantly calling for the upset here, and I am sure that Connor McDavid will make me eat my words a dozen times a game. Jets in 7?
Eamon: Playoff hockey being enjoyable is predicated on the idea that really, it’s all bullshit. The same applies in every other sport due to the nature of sample sizes, but in the NHL randomness and goaltending rule, particularly in the first round of the playoffs. Connor Hellebuyck has been one of the best goalies in the NHL yet again this year (3rd in GSAx at all situations via Evolving Hockey’s model), and the gap between the Jets and Oilers at forward and on the back end is pretty miniscule. The wild card here is Mike Smith, who has been great out of nowhere this year; if he can match the peaks of his inconsistent (but stellar) regular season, the Oilers will win the series due to their superior high-end talent. I’ll take Edmonton in six games.
Ryan Q.: Connor McDavid is going to continue to score points as if his very existence depends on it. I’ve been impressed by what the Jets accomplished this year, but McDavid is just going absolutely ballistic this year. Give me Edmonton in five.
Kelly: As the smart folk above me have pointed out, on balance these teams are kinda even. But one of these teams has Connor McDavid, and that team will win in five because he’s not a human man.
Kyle: I guess it’s not the most insane thought that Winnipeg could win this series, because there’s always the possibility of the Mike Smith meltdown. With that said, Connor McDavid is so good that it probably won’t even matter. He’s the best player in the world by an astronomically wide margin, and he could score 20 points by the end of this series and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Edmonton in five.
Brad: For me, these are the two worst teams in the playoffs. However, one has Connor McDavid. Oilers in five.
Kurt: So, yes, Edmonton is better, because, yes, they have the best player in hockey and then another one of the 10 or so best. And yes, all Winnipeg is really good at is “doing goaltending”. But ... the Oilers are cursed, right? Like weren’t we having this same conversation last year and then they lost to a Blackhawks team that’s worse than this Winnipeg team is? And are we really gonna discount the possibility Mike Smith remembers that he’s not good at this any more? I mean, I’m still going Oilers, but I’ll say in seven games.
Ryan G.: Remember when Connor McDavid and the media were convinced that the Flyers defenseman that wore No. 23 injured him on purpose? Lol, that was fun. McDavid, despite training last offseason in Canada (which I’ve heard is bad), is going to drag the Oilers kicking and screaming into the second round. Oilers in five.
Drew: Predators in seven games. In a result that is sure to make Eamon very happy, I think the Preds will make some kind of run, 2010 Flyers style, and win in the first round as Carolina will choke yet again. Better yet, if Brind’Amour isn’t brought back, bring Rod to Philly. Make it happen.
Maddie: I really like the Hurricanes this year. I don’t know if I’d put them in “Cup favorite” territory, but I think they can make a real run. The Predators are definitely coming in with some momentum, but I just think the Hurricanes are the better team, and they should get the better of a series. Hurricanes in six.
Steve: Here’s the story of the Hurricanes. The team the old hockey men came to blame. Placed in a division said couldn’t be won. Finished in first place they could be, the champions of the wooooorld.
All this disgracing Bob Dylan to say Rod the Bod and the ‘Canes in 5. Sorry, Smashville.
Eamon: In an upset vaguely reminiscent of the Blues upsetting the Jets in the first round in the 2019 postseason, the Predators get carried by the hottest goalie in the NHL (Juuse Saros) and defeat the Hurricanes in six games. I think Nashville is vastly inferior in terms of talent, coaching, and overall play than the Hurricanes, but they have a fourth line that has been historically dominant while maintaining physicality that matches up well with the bottom of Carolina’s lineup. If Eeli Tolvanen’s return from injury sees an uptick in power play scoring, the Predators are a legit threat until Saros cools off. Yes, I know I’m a homer, no, I will not apologize.
Ryan Q.: As much as I’ve enjoyed the Preds since their run to the Final a few years back, this one ain’t it, chief. The Hurricanes are by far the better team, even though I still think their goaltending is rather suspect. Aho, Svechnikov, Trochek and Teravainen will be very difficult to stop, and I’m thinking Carolina will want some redemption after getting smoked by the Preds in their regular season finale. Canes in five (maybe six).
Kelly: CANES IN FIVE LFG
Kyle: I love the Canes and they’re probably the team I’m rooting for most to win the whole damn thing. They have such a fun team and come on it’s Rod the Bod how can you not root for them. Canes in five.
Brad: While I can buy into the Predators making a 2010 Flyers run, I’m not picking against the Jerks. Carolina is a much better team, but do I have faith in Petr Mrazek? No. Is that because of how bad he was with the Flyers? Yes. However, Dougie Hamilton had another fantastic season and remains one of the best defensemen in the league. I just really want to see this team go all the way. Hurricanes in five.
Kurt: As a great philosopher once said: North Carolina, come on and raise up. Take your shirt off. Twist it ‘round your head. Spin it like a helicopter. Hurricanes in five.
Ryan G.: The Hurricanes are for real, but the Predators might steal a game or two. Give me Carolina in six with a side of Cane’s sauce (real ones know).
Drew: Lightning in five games. If the reports that Stamkos and Kucherov will be healthy for the playoffs are true, then the defending Stanley Cup champions will have no problem with the Panthers. In fairness, the Panthers have played better than I had assumed they would, but I can’t see them pulling off an upset here.
Maddie: Yeah, even if they’re going to be getting back up to speed on the fly, with Stamkos and Kucherov back in the lineup, the Lightning are really hard to bet against. I think the Panthers can definitely make things interesting, but I really like the Lightning here. Lightning in six.
Steve: Lightning in 5. How the hell are they allowed to just conjure all world talents from out of nowhere? Not fair!
Eamon: There’s been quality work done on how the Panthers have been so good this year, but essentially the consensus answer comes from their attacks precipitating in waves. That’s been a strategy that decimated the likes of the Stars, Predators, and even at times the top two teams in the division, but the Lightning have the personnel and coaching to counteract Joel Quenneville and his squad. I’ll take Tampa in seven games.
Ryan Q.: I so badly want this to turn into the next great rivalry in hockey. It’s definitely a long shot, but I would love to see two hockey teams from Florida just go insane whenever they play one another. As good as the Panthers have been this year, I’m still not ready to count out the Lightning. Like, at all. Even without Nikita Kucherov, I truly think they’re good enough to make another deep run. Tampa in six.
Kelly: The Tampa Bay Lightning are a bunch of dirty cheaters but you have to respect it. Also, I don’t believe in the Florida Panthers like, at all. I simply do not buy it. Lightning in five.
Kyle: I could not agree more with Quigs here. if this series goes seven and has a ton of extra curricular activities after whistles and whatnot, this is a rivalry ESPN and Turner Sports are going to market the hell out of next season with the new TV deal, or at least they should. I can’t pick against the Lightning especially with the amount of talent they have coming back. I think rust will be a factor, but Tampa would be the team to overcome it. Tampa in seven.
Brad: I’m actually pretty pumped for this series; these two teams should make for some great games. The Panthers were shockingly good this year, but the Lightning are the Lightning and I can’t in good faith bet against them. Tampa in six.
Kurt: It is absolutely god damn wild that the NHL just let Tampa get away with this Kucherov nonsense. I mean, I respect the hell out of it, because the salary cap is bullshit and players should just get paid for being good at hockey. But ... how was every other team that has a snowball’s chance in hell at winning the Cup not calling the league office every single day demanding they do something about this? It is the most flagrant, brazen instance of cap circumvention I have ever seen, and I watched the entire Paul Holmgren era of Philadelphia Flyers hockey. Just wild. Anywho, Joel Quenneville is my enemy. Lightning in five.
Ryan G.: I’ll do it. I’ll take the Panthers against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. Tampa Bay has been upset early in the playoffs before, and they don’t have an easy series to get their top guys back up to speed. The Lightning are cheaters and cheaters never win, right? Panthers in seven.