BSH playoff predictions: Eastern Conference

Let's get predicting!

BSH playoff predictions: Eastern Conference
credit: Heather Barry / Heather Barry Images

Can you believe it, folks? Playoffs are here already! The first round kicks off tonight, and it's sure to be wild. And, as you know, we here at BSH have a lot of opinions, and we're here to give you our predictions on how all of these series are going to shake out. First up, let's talk about the Eastern Conference!

Bruins vs. Panthers

Maddie: I know what I WANT to happen in this series – there would truly be nothing funnier than our old pal Alex Lyon leading the Panthers to a huge upset, knocking the Bruins out in the first round. But I don’t know if I can fully commit to that actually happening. So uh, Bruins in 7?
Jacob: I don’t take the Panthers that seriously just yet, and the Bruins unfortunately are the best regular season team in NHL history so, it’s hard to ignore that. In addition to Maddie’s desire for an Alex Lyon masterclass, I would also love to see a Radko Gudas 103 MPH point shot for an OT winner, but dreams don’t come true, Everything Is Pain, and Bruins in 5.
Thomas: Bruins too good. Historically good. Bruins in five.
Kelly: I was hoping for a Bruins-Islanders matchup because it felt like that was the most likely way we’d see an upset, but with this series there’s just no way. Stupid Bruins too good. Bruins in five.
Joe: Matthew Tkachuk would’ve had the Hart locked up if Connor McDavid didn’t have an insane year, but even Tkachuk having the year he did isn’t going to be enough to stop this Bruins squad. Aaron Ekblad’s been lost without MacKenzie Weegar, and as much as I’d like to see Alex Lyon goalie the Bruins out of a historic Cup run, I can’t see it happening. They may be a bitter rival, but this Bruins team is so good, you guys, and so fun to watch. Boston in five.
Kurt: Someone pointed out somewhere the other day (apologies as I do not remember where) that for as good as the Bruins have been, and they have been utterly dominant, it says a lot about the state of hockey that by all public accounts (i.e. public model predictions, betting lines, etc.), the most dominant regular-season team in NHL history has a better chance to lose in the first round to a 92-point Panthers team than it does to win the Stanley Cup. Hockey is weird. Anywho, if you’re making a ranking of the best players in this series, I legitimately think Matt Tkachuk might be the best one, so Florida has a chance. The problem is that the Bruins probably have, like, the next seven guys on that ranking. Just gonna be too much for Florida. Bruins in seven.
Matt: I’ve probably been more checked out of non-Flyers NHL hockey than any other season in recent memory, so many of my picks are coming from the gut or are just complete guesses—more in vein of “their colors are better”-type thinking than any kind of actual analysis. That being said, unfortunately, I’m at least tuned in enough to know that Bruins are quite good. Boston in five.
Nick: The difference between the Bruins’ 135 points and the next best record, belonging to Carolina, is the same as the gap between the Canes and the currently-golfing Penguins. Matthew Tkachuk might be the best player in the East, but I can’t see Boston losing against those Florida defensemen. Bruins in five.
Ryan Q: I’m taking the Bruins here, but I think it’ll be closer than people think. Because Matthew Tkachuk has got that dawg in him! I cannot wait to see what unfolds between Tkachuk and Brad Marchand. I’m sure there are going to be several dustups this series, and I, for one, cannot wait for it. Bruins in six.
Ryan G: I want to take the Panthers here. I really do. But I can’t. Alex Lyon has been a fun story to get the Cats into the playoffs but I’m not convinced that he can sustain this against the best team the NHL has seen in quite some time. It’s Cup or bust in Boston and the B’s aren’t busting out quite yet. Bruins in six.
Jay: This shouldn’t really be a contest and much like a bear versus an actual panther, the Bruins will come out on top. Bruins in 5.
Mike D: We know the Bruins’ story but the Panthers are still  deep, talented and scary in their own right. While Tkachuk might drag this season on, the difference in goal to me is the difference here — Bruins in six competitive games.

Leafs vs. Lightning

Maddie: I think the Leafs are the actual favorite in this series and I can’t properly express how much anxiety that fills me with. Objectively I like their chances and their style of play heading into the playoffs here more than in years passed, but I’m still Big Nervous. Anyway. Leafs in 6.
Jacob: I have a strong, deep rooted desire to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs lose. It is one of my deepest guilty pleasures, right next to Fuzzy Peaches and Modelo. However, there is simply no reason for them to not get it done this year, they are in better shape, deeper, and fresher than a Tampa team who has been put through the meat grinder for what feels like a half-decade. Ryan O’Reilly was the most picture perfect addition, Jake McCabe has looked solid, they beefed up their bottom six with the most annoying players in the NHL, hell they even brought back Luke Schenn for the Feels. It has to be their time. It just has to be. So Lightning in 7 lol.
Thomas: Is this really going to be the Leafs’ year? Things have been going a little too well for them and the expectation is that they win their first playoff series since 2004. But, I feel like you can’t pick the Leafs to win a series until they actually do. I can guarantee that they will lose Game 1 due to some questionable officiating and people are going to get so mad. Lightning in seven.
Kelly: I am legit psyched about this series. It’s going to be SO FUN. And unlike every other year of literally our entire lives it feels like this is the year that the Leafs can take down a big one in the first round. The Mitch Marner shirsey is coming out of the drawer. Leafs in six.
Joe: I have a friend who’s a Leafs fan so I gotta say Toronto, but I’d be pulling for them anyway. Tampa’s looked sluggish down the stretch, and unless they’re lulling everybody into a false sense of security and they “flip the switch,” I think their time’s up. Back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances are probably exhausting. Leafs are gonna go up 3-2 and still let it get to game seven though, because of course they will, so Leafs in seven (only to get stomped by the Bruins in the second round, so that all is right with the world).
Kurt: This really is the ultimate test of “how much can a team pack it in during the regular season before flipping that switch in the postseason?” Because on paper … Toronto is pretty clearly better, right? And we only believe in Tampa because they’ve been here and done it and they’ve proven they’re extraordinarily difficult to kill off in settings like this? Ah crap I’m talking myself off my initial point here. Focus. Toronto’s better, and it I’m going to convince myself the Sixers are going to make it past the second round, I kind of have to believe the Leafs are eventually going to get past the first round. No time like the present. Leafs in five.
Matt: Just gonna even things out here and pick the Lightning. Feels like a real toss-up to me and also not sure which way to lean karmically: picking the Leafs feels like “fool me twice/thrice/four times, shame on me” but also picking the Lightning feels like just rubbing it in. Lightning in six.
Nick: Toronto’s clearly been better but I’m not going to be the fool to overlook the Lightning, who seem to have mastered the concept of surviving the regular season before turning it on in the playoffs. That said, I will be the fool to believe in the Leafs to win their first playoff series since, like, Original 6 days. Toronto in seven.
Ryan Q: This is it. This is finally the year the Leafs will win a series. I can feel it in my bone marrow. Of course, in typical Leafs fashion, it’s not gonna be easy. But I do think they’ll pull it out. I just think Tampa has to be so worn out after going to the Final for three straight years. Leafs in seven.
Ryan G: The Leafs have stuck with their core group and added Ryan O’Reilly (and others) to it this season. On the other side, the Lightning always seem to find these role players that step up (see: Hagel, Brandon) but every year they’re downgrading in a few spots. This is the year that Toronto finally does it -- but I can’t rely on them in a Game 7. Leafs in six.
Jay: I normally don’t tune into much playoff hockey…but I just may for this one? Only if to see the Leafs lose and laugh so hard I forget I’m a Flyers fan. Lightning in 7.
Mike D: This just has to be it for the Maple Leafs right? Right? *Looks at Andrei Vasilevskiy* Welp — Lightning in seven.

Hurricanes vs. Islanders

Maddie: Losing Svechnikov really hurts, but I still do like the Hurricanes to get the better of this matchup (plus, it would be really nice to see Shayne Gostisbehere get past the first round). Hurricanes in 7.
Thomas: Carolina should really beat the Islanders in every single game, but that stupid damn team will commit fully to being incredibly annoying and they arguably have the best goaltender in the league right now. It feels a little rude to say this because I like the Hurricanes, but I think it might be Islanders in seven.
Kelly: Like Maddie said, the Svechnikov injury was a huge blow to the Canes – Bill mentioned on this week’s pod that since Svech went down the Canes’ scoring has fallen off a cliff. Not great! And as Thomas said (I always jump into these roundtables too late and all of my Extremely Good Thoughts have been stolen by others smdh), the Islanders’ goaltending is stupid good. It’s going to be a real slog for them but I want the Canes to do this so I’m going to try and manifest it: Canes in seven.
Joe: Yeah, losing Svechnikov–and Max Pacioretty before him–is devastating for the Canes. It’s a shame the Islanders didn’t get the Bruins in round one, because that would’ve been the most intriguing first round matchup of the playoffs but alas, here we are. I still give the edge to Carolina though, and imagine the success of the Isles hinges on Ilya Sorokin putting on a clinic and Matt Barzal healthy and firing on all cylinders. I also just hate the Islanders because when I first started watching the Flyers in 2020, they’re the team that knocked them out of the bubble–you never forget your first elimination, thus ending my only experience with Flyers playoff hockey. Hurricanes in six.
Kurt: Carolina leads the league in Former Broad Street Hockey Writers In Their Front Office Per 60, so I’m willing to look past the fact that their post-Svech-injury vibes have been way off and that the Islanders are built in a lab to be annoying in settings like this. Hurricanes in seven.
Jacob: Hurricanes are fun, but the Isles are painfully annoying to play against in the playoffs. I could see them pulling off an upset but the Hurricanes have a bit more playoff experience now to go along with their superb talent. Ghost Bear second round, let’s ride, Canes in 6.
Matt: Islanders in six.
Nick: I indulged in a few libations Friday and told my group chat I thought the Islanders would win this series. Do I believe it? I’m not sure, but if nothing else I’m committed to the bit. And besides, Ilya Sorokin is the best goalie alive and I don’t trust Carolina to finish without Andrei Svechnikov. Isles in 7.
Ryan Q: I’m surprised at how close so many people think this series will be. The Hurricanes are the better team, but as fun as it would be to watch them just play their game and send the Isles home in four, I don’t think that’ll happen. The Isles are boring, and watching them play hockey is often miserable, but it is effective. I’ll give them a win, but I can see the Canes winning in five.
Ryan G: Ilya Sorokin should probably get more votes for the Vezina than he will and he has a chance to steal this series for the Islanders. This is going to be your vintage playoff hockey series where goals are hard to come by and that should actually benefit a Hurricanes team that lacks any real offensive star power. They’ll keep pushing and pushing and forechecking the hell out of you. Canes in six.
Jay: The Islanders shouldn’t exist let alone be in the playoffs. Canes would clearly be the favorite if not for a number of injuries. I think the Canes come out on top. Canes in six.
Mike D: Counting on the Islanders to much up this series and give Carolina all they can handle but in the end the Hurricanes are just the better team and figure out a way in a grinder of a long series. Hurricanes in six.

Devils vs. Rangers

Maddie: I don’t know man. I think this one is going to be close, but I’m leaning Devils here? I think? Devils in 7, before I change my mind again. Devils in 7.
Jacob: Devils are fun (?), have a ton of youthful talent, and they look hungry. I respect the Rangers going all in but I think there’s a chance that all of the mercenaries they have acquired leave them without the cohesion they need to really beat a team as good as NJ. Devils in 6.
Thomas: Both teams stink. Rangers in six. Better goalie, better defensemen, better forwards.
Kelly: It is INFURIATING how much fun this series is going to be. I hate it so much. And saying this pains my entire Flyers-fan soul: Devils in six.
Joe: I’m with Kelly: this series is going to be bonkers, and I’m so here for it. However, I think it’s going to be the Rangers: they have a mind-boggling top-six that’s finding its form, very good defense led by a Norris-worthy season from Adam Fox, and Igor Shesterkin’s posted a 0.946 save percentage since mid-March, including two shutouts–he’s heating up at just the right time. If Shesterkin keeps up that level of play, there really isn’t going to be anything the Devils can do. Plus, I have to wonder about the lack of playoff experience in the Devils’ locker room, so Rangers in six because the Devils are going to choke once it’s an elimination game. It’ll be the reverse next year, though.
Kurt: Here’s the thing about the Devils (other than “I hate them”, which doesn’t really matter here because I also hate the Rangers): they’re a puck-possession-dominant team that plays with a lot of speed and has just-fine goaltending. I have watched the New York Rangers of the last 15 years goaltend, rope-a-dope, and counterpunch at teams like this — teams that they should lose to — and get the better of them too many times in big moments to pick against them in good conscience here. Most fun series of the first round if I can set aside for a minute which two teams are playing in it. Rangers in six.
Matt: It obviously sucks to have to pick one of these teams, but it is softened by not having either the Penguins or the Capitals in the playoffs. Devils in seven.
Nick: The Rangers were an epic Tampa Bay turnaround away from winning the East last year and might be better this year. It feels so wrong to type this, but the Devils are so much fun and might be the best team outside Boston. I just can’t take Vitek Vanecek over Igor Shesterkin. This series is going to rule and will be my priority the next two weeks. Rangers in seven.
Ryan Q: I feel like this is going to be one of the wildest series of the first round, especially given the obvious potential of a rivalry renewal. As crazy as it is to say, i think it would be cool to see the Devils win this series with their young core, but I just don’t think they’ll be able to contend against the Rangers’ vets. It’ll be close, though. I’ll take Rangers in seven.
Ryan G: I haven’t been sold on the Devils all year long. In fact, over the final weeks of the season I kept thinking to myself how much I was looking forward to betting against them in the playoffs. But I just can’t do it. They seem to have the Rangers’ number. In my least confident prediction, let’s go with the Devils -- in a confident seven games.
Jay: Would you rather eat shit sandwich or a shit taco? Devils are the better team and that pains me to my core because there isn’t a sports franchise I despise more. Devils in six.
Mike D: Toughest one to pick in the East and see this as a total toss-up but trust the goalie in the Rangers’ crease enough to get the job done and advance by stealing a game or two — Rangers in seven.