First Round Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

by Grant Beery
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After a qualifying round that was really like none before it, the matchups for the first round of the REAL Stanley Cup Playoffs are set. We can dive deep into stats, rosters and the like, but really it’s going to come down to a couple key things to send a team further into the playoffs. Here’s some short takes and predictions from the Cascadia crew.

The West

#1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks

Grant (@voteforgrant):

VGK –  Vegas’s top line will need to continue to shine. If Stone, Karlsson, and Pacioretty don’t make plays and score goals, Stastny and the other won’t be able to make up the difference.

CHI – Corey Crawford won his job from Robin Lehner earlier this season when the latter was traded to Vegas. He’ll need to stay better than him to win this round.

Prediction – Vegas in 5 (Chicago will put up a bit of a fight, but not much.)

Rebecca (@RebeccaBMoloney):

Robin Lehner said it in his own words. This matchup could potentially pit the former Crawford-Lehner goalie tandem against each other. That’s a v. awkward goalie duel in the making. Both teams are solid in terms of skill and depth but Vegas finished first in the Pacific Division in the regular season and is undefeated in round robin matchups. The Knights are in top form and Chicago will have to pull off another miracle upset if they hope to get to the second round.

Prediction – Vegas Golden Knights in 6

Dan (@danmorse_):

Vegas is the better team, but if Chicago continues to get the Toews and Crawford from 5 years ago then this one could turn into a tossup. On the other hand, Mark Stone rules.

Prediction – VGK in 4

#2 Colorado Avalanche vs. #7 Arizona Coyotes

Grant:

COL – Light. Up. Kuemper. The Avs have shown all four of their lines can blast their way through stingy defenses like the Coyotes, so the real obstacle will be the lights out play of Darcy Kuemper.

ARI – Match Colorado in the goal scoring department. Don’t overthink the defense and goaltending. Instead focus on getting pucks on Grubauer or Francouz, easily the weakest part of the Avalanche game right now.

Prediction – Colorado in 7 (Goaltending is going to make this harder for the Avs than it needs to be.)

Rebecca:

Darcy Kemper can’t save you forever, Arizona. The Colorado Avalanche are coming to play and they’re playing to win. Kemper played out of his mind to help Arizona get here. The Coyotes are starting to build something great in the desert with the recent acquisitions of Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall. But they’re not there yet. Colorado is ready to make a deep cup run now with their star-studded lineup: Nathan McKinnon and Cale Makar, etc etc.

Prediction – Colorado Avalanche in 5

Dan:

The Avs need to make sure they don’t let Arizona take any penalties, or else they’re going to open themselves up to the short handed skills of Michael Grabner. If they can decline penalties they should be fine.

Prediction – COL in 6

#3 Dallas Stars vs. #6 Calgary Flames

Grant:

DAL – Dallas has not been an offensive-minded team this year, so they’ll need to rely on their notorious defensive game to get them out of this series. If they can’t shut down Calgary and limit chances, they’ll be going home.

CGY – Speaking of defense, Calgary is trending the right way when it comes to theirs. After a coaching change, they look good in this department. So, the real question will be can Johnny Gaudreau forget his playoff performance from a year ago and get some goals? If the Flames top two lines don’t score, Milan Lucic can’t punch his way out of this series.

Prediction – Dallas in 4 (Don’t @ me. Somebody’s gonna sweep and I have a gut feeling Calgary can’t hang.)

Rebecca:

I honestly don’t even know about this one but I have a good feeling about Calgary. In this house we love and support Johnny Gaudreau.

Prediction – Calgary Flames in 7

#4 St. Louis Blues vs. #5 Vancouver Canucks

Grant:

STL –  Even with the pause, the Blues seem to be in championship hangover mode, losing all of their round robin games. Tarasenko, healthy thanks to the extended break, needs to find his game again for the Blues to have any chance of defending their title. He had 0 points during the round robin.

VAN – The Canucks are a team full of young guys who haven’t had any experience in the playoffs. If the qualifying round was any indication, it only took one game for them to get over the nerves. As long as playoff newbies like Hughes and even Markstrom can hang, they have a good chance against the St. Louis Blues.

Prediction – Vancouver in 6 (Here’s your Western conference upset)

Rebecca:

I GUESS I’ll talk about the Vancouver Canucks and how their young dynamic forwards are a game changer for them. I GUESS I’ll talk about Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, and Bo Horvat all being on the same freaking team. I GUESS I’ll talk about how a future Seattle Kraken rival looks ready to make a deep cup run this year as long as Jordan Binnington doesn’t stand on his head. But I won’t like it. Enjoy this time, Vancouver, because Seattle’s coming for you.

Prediction – Vancouver Canucks in 5

The East

#1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens

Grant:

PHI – The Flyers are not a team that have a ton to critic
ize, which is why a lot of folks are picking them as the perfect spoiler for the Cup Finals. If they can keep up the bonkers power play success they had to end the regular season, they will succeed where the Penguins could not.

MTL – It’s nice to see Carey Price back to his old tricks of stealing games from his opponents. It’s a no-brainer that he will be the reason the Habs have any chance against the Flyers.

Prediction – Flyers in 5. (Carey Price will steal a game, but this is gonna be the Philly Show.)

Rebecca:

The Philadelphia Flyers have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Armed with spite and loaded with skill, they have all the right ingredients to make it to the final. The Montreal Canadiens are about to get two for flinching. Well… Carey Price isn’t going to flinch but that won’t be enough to win the series for Montreal. Plus, the Flyers have a phenomenal goalie of their own: former Everett Silvertip Carter Hart.

Prediction – Philadelphia Flyers in 5

Dan:

The key for the Canadiens is to do whatever they did to the other Pennsylvania team in the play-in round and hope lightning strikes twice. Well that, and have Carey Price play up to his ability.

The Flyers have a legitimate top-end first line, and a knock-off Mat Barzal on the second line? If Carter Hart can handle the pressure in his first real playoff series, they should be able to lock this one up.

Prediction – PHI in 5

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets

Grant:

TBL – Don’t get swept? In all seriousness, Tampa just needs to realize that with Hedman out at least a game and Stamkos out longer, they still have the ability to match up with and beat Columbus. Get through the injuries, get through the series.

CBJ – Columbus needs to keep up the offense. It’s what got them through Toronto and it will be the only way they oust Tampa Bay twice in a row. Dubois will deliver, but will Bjorkstrand put some points on the board this series? He was noticeably absent during the Toronto series and that would have me worried if I were Columbus.

Prediction – Columbus in 4 (I BELIEVE.)

Rebecca:

I have to pick the Tampa Bay Lightning. I have to. After the complete beat down they experienced last year, they need to win this series. The Lightning were Cup favorites in 2019 but the Blue Jackets wiped the floor with them in the first round. Losing again to the same team will completely break their spirit. They need to slay this dragon. Please.

Prediction – Tampa Bay Lightning in 7

#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 New York Islanders

Grant:

WSH – Ovechkin needs to start scoring some goals. He is another star who seems to be struggling coming out of the pause, netting zero points to his name in the qualifying round. He’ll be the key against an Islanders team that doesn’t give up a ton of room in their own zone.

NYI – Varlamov looked solid in his first appearance in the postseason since his time in Colorado. If he can stand on his head against his former team, this should be a nice upset. I know Barry Trotz is counting on Varly for the same reason.

Prediction – Capitals in 6 (As nice as it would be to see Trotz and Varly upset their former team, Ovi isn’t going to stay silent for long.)

Rebecca:

Trotz’s former team v. Trotz’s current team. Barry Trotz is very familiar with the Washington Capitals because he was their coach in 2018 when they won the Stanley Cup. Let’s see how well he counters their tactics. Ultimately, it’s hard to bet against Ovi and the things he can do to a puck out there on that o-zone left dot.

Prediction – Washington Capitals in 6

#4 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Carolina Hurricanes

Grant:

BOS – Boston is a favorite to barrel through the Eastern Conference on the way to a Stanley Cup title, but they’ll need Pastrnak to be better than Svechnikov. He’s the one who wins games for this team.

CAR – That Svechnikov fella scored a nice hat trick against the Rangers, but if the Canes don’t want to get swept again by the Bruins, they’ll need to step on the gas and just drown the Bruins with scoring chances. This will need to be a whole team effort as the Bruins’ top scorers will not stay silent like they did in the round robin.

Prediction – Carolina in 7 (It’ll take the entire series, but this is going to be your Cinderella upset for the East.)

Rebecca:

Boston is the villain of this matchup, obviously. No one wants another Boston team to win a championship (besides Doug). The Bruins have a lot of heavyweights on their roster but the Canes are a bunch of jerks that won’t let themselves be pushed around. Andrei Svechnikov already has a hat trick and he’s just getting started.

Prediction – Carolina Hurricanes in 7

We full expect and encourage you to tell us why we are absolutely correct, but also understand if you need to tell us why we are wrong in the comments below. We’ll see you again in round two.

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3 comments

gbeery@cascadiasn.com August 11, 2020 - 8:19 PM

Of course Hedman is playing today. I wonder if his ankle is still funny. I still stand by my prediction of the Lightning getting swept.

Reply
gbeery@cascadiasn.com August 11, 2020 - 8:19 PM

Of course Hedman is playing today. I wonder if his ankle is still funny. I still stand by my prediction of the Lightning getting swept.

Reply
gbeery@cascadiasn.com August 11, 2020 - 8:19 PM

Of course Hedman is playing today. I wonder if his ankle is still funny. I still stand by my prediction of the Lightning getting swept.

Reply

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