The most unique Stanley Cup Playoffs begins now. For half the field of the Sweet Sixteen, they got a head start by earning the right to be here. In a expanded format due to the pause in play on March 12, an extra eight teams were added to the postseason.
The Play In phase produced some surprising results. Among the highlights were both 12 seeds Montreal and Chicago advancing in each Conference. Both taking their best-of-five series in four games to send the Penguins and Oilers packing. You had the Blue Jackets showing their playoff mettle by out-grinding the one dimensional Maple Leafs in a compelling five.
Arizona over Nashville wasn’t a big surprise due to their young and improving core that includes key vets and strong goaltending. I should’ve seen it coming. The Islanders over the Panthers was predictable. Florida still hasn’t advanced in a round since ’96. Even a preliminary one. The Canucks used their superior skill to get the better of the defensive minded Wild in a competitive four.
The Hurricanes blitzed the Rangers, who weren’t ready from the get go in a sweep. Considering that they won the Draft Lottery which features Alexis Lafreniere, I doubt they care. Carolina outscored them 11-4 without Dougie Hamilton. He’ll probably be needed for the real first round. The Canadian battle between old rivals went to Calgary, who took advantage of Mark Schiefele’s unfortunate injury and Patrik Laine out to smother Winnipeg in four. They could be a sleeper.
Here’s the breakdown of the First Round with some quick picks.
(1) Flyers over (8) Canadiens in 6
(2) Lightning over (7) Blue Jackets in 6
(6) Islanders over (3) Capitals in 6
(5) Hurricanes over (4) Bruins in 7
(1) Golden Knights over (8) Blackhawks in 5
(2) Avalanche over (7) Coyotes in 6
(6) Flames over (3) Stars in 6
(4) Blues over (5) Canucks in 7
(1) Flyers over (6) Islanders in 6
(2) Lightning over (5) Hurricanes in 7
(1) Golden Knights over (6) Flames in 6
(2) Avalanche over (4) Blues in 7
(1) Flyers over (2) Lightning in 7
(2) Avalanche over (1) Golden Knights in 6
Stanley Cup Final
Philadelphia Flyers vs Colorado Avalanche
Stanley Cup Champion
Avalanche over Flyers in 7
Conn Smythe Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche