The regular season is over and the first round matchups for the 2019 NHL Playoffs are set. The end of the season wasn’t very eventful with really just one small playoff race between the Hurricanes, Jackets and Habs that didn’t even last until the final game. What I’m saying is, I’m ready for the playoffs!
I’ve done well with my series picks the last few years and I’m expecting to have a profitable playoffs once again.
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (WC2)
The Lightning were by far the best team in the regular season breaking records and winning over 75% of their games, which is just ridiculous.
A lot of “experts” made a big deal about the fact the Blue Jackets added Duchene and Dzingel at the trade deadline, but as a Senators fan, I don’t think these guys really improved the team much, as was somewhat shown by the Blue Jackets just barely making the playoffs even after turning it up at the end of the year.
The Lightning are simply on a different level. Their speed and awareness in the offensive zone is something we really haven’t seen in a long time in the NHL. A big part of that is Kucherov who is in a league of his own offensively. I think the Bolts just have too many ways to score and I don’t think the Jackets will be able to keep up offensively.
Bobrovsky is playing solid to close out the season, and him stealing games is really the only way I see Columbus winning this series. And that said, the way the Bolts move the puck in the offensive zone a lot of time they’re shooting at an empty net after an amazing cross crease pass.
Even as huge favourites, I still think Tampa is bettable here. It’s not going to be the Jackets to knock them off.
Play: Lightning 1.25
Boston Bruins (2) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (3)
There is a ton of negativity around the Maple Leafs right now. The experts aren’t giving them a chance in this series, and even Maple Leafs fans seem already resigned to them losing this series.
Not so fast. The Maple Leafs are an improved team to last year, while the Bruins are not. The addition of Tavares should pay huge dividends in this series and if Kadri can step up his game and not get suspended I think he has the ability to slow down Patrice Bergeron’s line.
The Maple Leafs woes on defense are also being blown out of proportion in my opinion. Getting Jake Gardiner back is actually a huge boost for the team D, and if you take away game 7 last year he was without a doubt one of the teams best players in that series. If Gardiner can play at his best, and Muzzin can carry Zaitsev on the second pair, I actually don’t mind this top 6 on D. The issue on D is that the Bruins may be able to try to take out the left D on the forecheck and force Hainsey and Zaitsev to make breakout passes, which is not their strength. That said, overall, I think the defense is being underestimated.
Overall, I just think the Leafs have the more talented players, and if they can step up collectively there is no reason Toronto can’t win this series.
Take advantage of the long odds and get your bets in.
Play: Maple Leafs 2.40 @ SportsInteraction.com
Washington Capitals (1) vs Carolina Hurricanes (WC1)
The Hurricanes had a great season and only finished 5 points back of the Capitals in the standings, but I still think this is a very tough spot for Carolina.
The Capitals have the experience of a Stanley Cup win to draw on, and I think they have another level they can reach after a solid, but not remarkable regular season. The Caps are the proven commodity and they have a great top 9. There are some question marks on D with Kempny, who was +24 this season, getting injured late in the year, but Jensen was picked up at the deadline to improve the D depth and I think they will be fine.
Carolina has a solid young team, but they rely on Aho and Teravainen for a lot of offense, and both young players are unproven in the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, I think they will play well, but I don’t think they can keep up with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Oshie.
I like the Caps to get the job done in 6 or 7.
Play: Capitals 1.65
New York Islanders (2) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (3)
This is a classic battle between the system of the Islanders and the high end skill of the Penguins stars. When betting between system and stars in the playoffs, I’m going with the stars every time. I simply don’t think a team with Crosby, Malkin and Kessel all playing on different lines won’t be able to break down the Isles defense at points during this season en route to big wins.
Crosby, Malkin and Kessel are going to get their goals in this series and I don’t think the Islanders are going to be able to match them. I do still think the Penguins defense is the teams weakness, especially with a guy like Jack Johnson on the top pair, and a weak 3rd pair, but I still believe the stars will make up for the Penguins issues, at least in this series. If Dumoulin can go, that’s a huge boost for the Pens D as well.
Overall, I’ll take the game breaking ability of the Penguins over the defensive system of the Isles.
Play: Penguins 1.69