Round one of the 2018 NHL playoffs is almost in the books. After a number of interesting storylines and predictions by contributors here at The Hockey Writers, it is time to settle up and set up round two. Let’s get into it.
Nashville Predators (Central #1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (WC #2)
Led by 22-year-old Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche have plenty to be proud of after rebounding this season and managing to slip into the playoffs. However, the Predators were the best team in the regular season. This team is deeper and hungrier. While it wasn’t always pretty, the Preds combined speed and skill with a physical presence in Game 6 to take the series. Nick Bonino had three points in the final game of the series.
The difference in the series can be summed up as: “[The Preds are a] team that knows what it takes to get to the Final and had too much talent and greater depth at all positions.”
OUTCOME: The Preds won in 6 games. My call was the Preds in 5 games. The THW majority call was the Preds in 5 games. If we assign one point for calling the winner and one point for getting the number of games correctly, we can compare predictions.
Running total: THW: 1, Me: 1.
Winnipeg Jets (Central #2) vs. Minnesota Wild (Central #3)
Winnipeg finished second in the Central and is loaded with offensive talent. What made this series exciting was the potential for the Jets to shrug off the weight of the past and win their first postseason win since relocating from Atlanta in 2011. The Jets did it in five games, beating the Wild in most facets of the game. Bring on the Preds. The predicted best second-round series is happening. Blake Wheeler is ready.
The difference in the series can be summed up as: “The Jets have a special group of players, and the Wild [didn’t] have a way to slow down that top-nine.”
OUTCOME: The Jets won in 5 games. My call was Jets in 5 games and the THW majority call was the Jets in 6 games. Two points for me and one for the THW crew.
Running total THW: 2, Me: 3.
Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific #1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (WC #1)
The Golden Knights continue to be the big story of 2018. As the league’s newest team, they set a number of records this season culminating in a division title. While the games were close in this series, Vegas beat the L.A. Kings in one of just two first-round sweeps. Marc-Andre Fleury was amazing throughout the series. Can the Golden Knights keep it up? Next up, San Jose.
The difference in the series can be summed up as: “Vegas has been exciting this year, and remain the best story of the season.”
OUTCOME: The Golden Knights won in 4 games. My call was the Knights in 6 games, while the THW majority predicted the Kings in 6 games. I didn’t predict the sweep, but I did call the Knights. Vegas, baby. Vegas.
Running total: THW: 2, Me: 4.
Anaheim Ducks (Pacific #2) vs. San Jose Sharks (Pacific #3)
California battles have made for some of the most hard-hitting and entertaining Stanley Cup playoff series in recent years. It wasn’t this year. While most predicted the Ducks would have brought more to the series, the Sharks continued their regular season dominance. Sweeping the Ducks has to feel good. Winning the Battle of California must feel even better. Smile Brent. You are off to the second round!
The difference in the series can be summed up as “The Sharks [had] the edge due to being strong at center and on defense with Fowler out.”
OUTCOME: The Sharks in 4 games. My call was the Ducks in 6 games. The THW majority call was the Ducks in 7 games. No one called this one. The final score in the Western conference?
Final score: THW: 2, Me: 4.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic #1) vs. New Jersey Devils (WC #2)
The Lightning finished first in the Atlantic and kept their hard-won reputation intact by taking the series in five games. Very few hockey analysts doubt that Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils will be back to the postseason. This is a fast, young, and talented team. They competed in every game. In the end, the Lightning had too much talent.
The difference in the series can be summed up as: “Tampa is deep all over; Jersey [had] one line and, all due respect to Keith Kinkaid, a glorified backup in net.”
OUTCOME: The Lightning won in 5 games. My call was the Lightning winning in 6 games. The THW majority call was the Lightning in 5 games.
Running total: THW: 2, Me: 1
Washington Capitals (Metro #1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (WC #1)
The big issue for the Capitals was in goal. After Braden Holtby struggled in the regular season, he was benched for the first two games of the series. Holtby relieved Phillipp Grubauer in the third period of Game 2 after the latter surrendered eight goals on 49 shots through the series’ first six periods. He returned to the lineup full-time in Game 3 and sparked the Caps to win four games in a row.
The difference in the series can be summed up as: “[The] Capitals have been great during the first round of the playoffs in past years, [they were] that way again.”
OUTCOME: The Capitals in 6 games. My call was the Caps in 5 games, while the THW majority also called the Caps winning in 6 games.
Running total: THW: 4, Me: 2.
Pittsburgh Penguins (Metro No. 2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Metro No. 3)
The battle of the Keystone State pitted the Flyers against their cross-state rival and back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Despite taking a lead in Game 6, Pittsburgh dominated the remainder of the game. Jake Guentzel scored four goals to break the heart of Flyers fans.
The difference in the series can be summed up as: “[The Pens were] too strong to go down in the first round, especially to a team that just barely made it in.”
OUTCOME: Pens won in 6 games. My call was the Pens in 6 games. The THW majority call was also the Pens in 6 games.
Running total: THW: 4, Me: 2.
Boston Bruins (Atlantic No. 2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Atlantic No. 3)
While both teams are fast, young, and fun to watch, in the end, many expected the Bruins’ grit and experience would win out.
Last night it was the play of Frederick Anderson that was the difference-maker. Andersen made 32 saves Monday as the Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 3-1 to tie their first-round playoff series at three games apiece and force a Game 7. Believe it or not, secret weapon Tomas Plekanec scored an empty-netter and has been one of the best players in the series.
OUTCOME: Unknown. My call was the Bruins in 6 games. That was obviously wrong. The majority prediction by THW contributors was the Bruins in 7 games. That prediction could still be correct.
Looks like while I inched out a victory in the Western Conference, the hive mind of THW contributors handed me my hat in the Eastern conference. Well done THW.
So what do you think?
Calling THW Readers
Having read our predictions, I am interested in your thoughts on Game 7. Please let me know in the comments section.
Two things are of specific interest.
- Who’s going to win Game 7—Toronto or Boston?
- What will the difference be in Game 7?
I look forward to reading your comments.
Criminologist by training. Hab fan for life. Aspiring Beer League hockey star.