As the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs get ready to begin, here are series predictions for the first round

Nashville Predators (C1) vs Dallas Stars (WC1)

As back-to-back Central Division champions, the Predators come into this series looking to make quick work of their division foes, the Dallas Stars. The Predators have high hopes for this year and don’t want to get bogged down in a longer playoff series that might extend to six or seven games. For the Stars, coming into this one as the underdog, they really have nothing to lose, after ending the season 5-3-2 in their final 10 games to earn a playoff spot. They need to find a way to solve Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne if they even want a chance of winning this series. I’m guessing this will be a comfortable five-game series win for the Predators.

Winnipeg Jets (C2) vs St. Louis Blues (C3)

This series is highlighted by two players, one on each team.. Patrik Laine of the Jets has tallied a measly 50 points this season. Considering his usual firepower, Laine should be producing much more than this, and the success of the Jets, in part, comes down to whether or not Laine can get going offensively. For the Blues, goaltender Jordan Binnington will be the key; he has been a wall for St. Louis this year. With an incredible save percentage of .927 in his rookie season, Binnington will absolutely be looked at to lead the way through the Jets and beyond. However, the rookie won’t be enough; the Jets will win this series 4-2.

Calgary Flames (P1) vs Colorado Avalanche (WC2)

The Flames come into this one with their best season since they won the Stanley Cup in 1989. With 50 wins and 107 points, the Flames have offense and defense, but their goaltending is where things become tricky. They don’t have a clear number one goaltender, which can be an asset or a curse. The Avalanche have their top forward line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, with a solid goaltender in Philipp Grubauer –– and that’s all that’s notable. Because of this, the Flames should claim this series in six games.

San Jose Sharks (P2) vs Vegas Golden Knights (P3)

This series is a rematch of 2018’s Western Conference Semi-Finals, where the Vegas Golden Knights beat the San Jose Sharks 4-2. This year will be competitive once again as both teams are similar. Although the Golden Knights are missing notable forwards in James Neal and David Perron, they should still be able to take care of the Sharks in a comfortable six games, as they did last year.

Tampa Bay Lightning (A1) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (WC 2)

Arguably the most lopsided series of the playoffs, many believe the Blue Jackets don’t stand a chance in this series, and I agree. The Lightning tied the all-time NHL wins record this season with an incredible 62. The Blue Jackets on the other hand barely snuck into the playoffs on the second to last day of the season. Most are expecting a sweep by the Lightning, but I think the Blue Jackets have enough firepower to steal a game, but just one. My prediction is the Lightning will take this series in five.

Boston Bruins (A2) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (A3)

A rematch of last season’s first round matchup, the Bruins and Maple Leafs will battle once again. Probably the closest and most anticipated series of the first round, these two “Original Six” foes have a lot of hatred for each other. The Bruins have a great offense but are lacking on defense, and the Maple Leafs are in the same boat. A high scoring series, the winner will be determined by who can capitalize the most on their offensive opportunities. I think the Bruins have the edge in this one as they have a slight edge on the defensive side. Although it’s slight, it should be enough to get them through this series, which is sure to be a close one. The Bruins will defeat the Maple Leafs but in six games instead of seven like we saw last year.

Washington Capitals (M1) vs Carolina Hurricanes (WC1)

This will be a more peculiar series than I think people believe, although it pits the defending Stanley Cup Champions against a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009 against one another. The Capitals’ championship last year shouldn’t mean a thing; they have a habit of getting off to slow starts in the playoffs. If the Hurricanes can muster up some quick offense and maybe even squeak out a game-one win, this could be a very competitive series with a possible upset. However, I’m going to stick with the safer bet and say the Capitals will pull it out in a quick five games.

New York Islanders (M2) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (M3)

The Penguins will take on the Islanders in what is expected to be an even battle. Although it is always hard to count the Penguins out considering their recent history, they have to lose at some point. However, I don’t think it will be in this series. The Islanders are a talented squad who will be successful for years to come, but the Penguins are always a powerhouse as long as they have players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and goaltender Matt Murray. This one will go down to the wire, but the Penguins will squeak it out in seven games.