If the NHL playoffs started today, there would certainly be some interesting match ups. The playoff picture will potentially change daily, but I thought right now would be a good time to take a look at how things currently stand.
New York Rangers (W2) vs Boston Bruins (A1):
I don’t think many expected the Rangers to slip in as the second Wild Card, but that is where things stand right now. It’s another year of the Rangers under performing with a star studded lineup.
The Bruins and the Rangers met three times this season, and Boston swept the series. Boston won 2-1 on November 19th, 3-2 on November 29th, and most recently, 6-3 on March 2nd.
Prediction: The Rangers are always a tough out in the playoffs (just ask the Washington Capitals), but Boston would win in six.
Montreal Canadiens (A3) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (A2):
In a post Marty St. Louis trade world, many expected the Tampa Bay Lightning to fall out of the playoff race. There have been some ups and downs in the past few weeks, but they are holding on. I would not be surprised to see the Lightning slip into a Wild Card slot, but right now they would meet up with the Montreal Canadiens.
Tampa Bay and Montreal have met three times so far this season and each game has required extra frames. Tampa Bay has won once in the shootout and once in OT at Montreal. Montreal got the upper hand in the shootout at Tampa back in December.
Prediction: With St. Louis this would have been a pretty exciting match up. I am not sure the Lightning that forced overtime / shootouts would be the same team to show up in the playoffs. Steven Stamkos is back and would give the Lightning a chance to contend. In the end I would expect Montreal to win in five.
Toronto Maple Leafs (W1) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (M1):
The Pittsburgh Penguins have led the Metropolitan Division for pretty much the entire season, and at this point no team in the Metro will be able to catch them. However, I would not count the Toronto Maple Leafs out in this one. Questions about the Penguins goaltending situation have once again come up after an embarrassing home and home sweep courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The two teams have played three times so far this season. Pittsburgh has won twice; a 6-5 shootout win back in November and a 3-1 win back in December. Toronto’s only win was a 4-1 victory back in October.
Prediction: I won’t hide it, I want the Leafs to win this one. However, I think the doubt surrounding Marc Andre-Fleury is an over-reaction. The Penguins had a bad weekend, but they have been the best team in the East for the majority of the year. Still, I believe Toronto would give them a series; I’d put it at Pittsburgh in seven.
Columbus Blue Jackets (M3) vs Philadelphia Flyers (M2)
The Columbus Blue Jackets are actually a part of a “If the playoffs started today post” and it isn’t October. Let that sink in. Barring some epic collapse, the Blue Jackets will be taking part in their second playoff series since entering the NHL in 2000. Right now they would be meeting up with the Philadelphia Flyers, who have recovered from a rough start and won their way back into contention. This match up would give us the Sergei Bobrovsky (former Flyer) vs Steve Mason (former Blue Jackets) story line, that I am sure NBC will just eat up.
The two teams have played three times this season. Philadelphia took the first match up 5-4 back on December 19th. Columbus rallied back two days later with a 6-3 win. Most recently, the Blue Jackets won 5-2 on January 23rd.
Prediction: Columbus has yet to win a playoff game in their entire history, so history does not support a good Columbus performance here. However, this is a different team who has shown they can beat the Flyers. Philadelphia started terrible this season, but they have rallied back and have been playing outstanding hockey recently. Their sweep of the Penguins showed they are ready to contend in the East. In the end I give this one to the Blue Jackets in six. I am still not buying into Steve Mason in net. I’ve seen firsthand what happens to him in the playoffs.