04.12.17 | Smar

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Washington Capitals- The Caps are one of the favorites to win it It all. Ovechkin is still seeking his first Cup and he will get a chance in 2017. The Caps are a very experienced, deep, and determined team. If they can stay healthy they will be one of the favorites to come out of the east. In years past, the Caps offense was reliant on Ovechkin and Backstrom. This year though the Caps are one of the deepest offensive teams in the league. They have six players with at least 20 goals this year. With Ovechkin and the Caps offense getting all the attention it's easy to forget about the defense. The Capitals defense in front of last year's Vezina winner Braden Holtby have been the best in the NHL this season, and it’s not even close. They have the fewest goals against this year by a wide margin. On top of all that, they have a good penalty kill and are even better power play when they have the odds. The Caps have been excellent all season and will be a tough bounce in the playoffs, but they do not have history on their side even if Ovechkin is.

Odds: +225 to win the east | +650 to win the cup

Toronto Maple Leafs- The Leafs are a young team loaded with talent. They are lead by rookie sensation Auston Matthews. Matthews will most likely win the Calder Memorial Trophy for his rookie of the year. Mathews leads all rookies in goals (39) and points (67). Matthews is not alone in the Leafs young attack. Mitchell Marner is quietly having an impressive rookie year himself with 61 points. Nazem Kadri has also had a productive year with 61 points. Frederick Anderson has solved the leafs goaltending controversy from last year. Anderson is (Record) and has a .918 save percentage this year. Of course, the downside of the Leafs youthful team is a lack of experience. The Leafs have also struggled defensively this year. Out of all the teams in the playoffs, the Leafs have given up the most goals this season. The thing that might surprise you is the Leafs have the 2nd best powerplay in the NHL at 23.8%. That won't be that much of an advantage because the Caps have the 4th best power play at 23.1%, but numbers don't win hockey games.

Odds: +5,000 to win the east | +8,000 to win the cup

Prediction: The Leafs will be fun to watch with all of their young talents. However, their lack of experience and depth won't allow them to beat the Caps. Frederick Anderson will steal a game from the Caps. However, The Caps high powered offensive and consistent defense will be too much for the Leafs defense to handle. The Leafs steal one, but the Caps win in five.

Game One | 7:00 | 4/13 | Toronto +178 | Washington -198

Montreal Canadiens Vs New York Rangers

Montreal Canadiens- Carey Price is considered by most to be the best goalie in the NHL. If the Canadians make a playoff run it will surely be due to play in net. The Canadiens offseason additions of Shea Weber and Alexander Radulov have made them a better hockey team. Weber has stepped in and anchored this Montreal Defense which has allowed the fourth-fewest amount of goals this season. We know the Habs blue liners and Carey Price will be solid. The question with the Canadians lies in the attack. Max Pacioretty has 35 goals and 32 assists for 67 points. New addition Alexander Radulov has an impressive return to the NHL with 54 points. The Canadians don't have scoring depth comparable to other teams in the playoffs. Getting consistent goal scoring will be crucial to the Habs success in the playoffs.

Odds: +650 to win the east | +1,500 to win the cup

New York Rangers- The Rangers are regulars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since the lockout in 2005, the Rangers have only missed the playoffs once back in 2010. The Rangers have consistently made the playoffs but have not claimed the won the Cup since '94. This year's Rangers team is similar to years past, a good hockey team but not the best. Henrik Lundqvist is a seasoned veteran and a wall in net. When he's on they are a hard team to beat. The Rangers have scored 253 goals this season that puts them 4th in the league. The Rangers get offense from a plethora of players. The speedy Mats Zuccarello tallied 59 points this season. Surprisingly, Chris Kreider leads the team with 28 goals. They have 4 players with at least 50 points and Kevin Hayes is just shy with 49.

Odds: +750 to win the east | +2,500 to win the cup

Prediction- Undoubtedly, this is one of the toughest matchups of the first round. The only thing I am sure of is that it will likely take seven games to decide this one. Due to Montreal having home ice and the head to head advantage in the regular season, I am picking the Canadiens in seven.

Game One | 7:00 | 4/12 | Rangers +121 | Montreal -134

Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins

Ottawa Senators- The Senators have probably surprised some people by how well they have played this year. The Senators are led by captain, and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson. Karlsson alone is enough to make teams worry.  He has racked up 71 points this season which is 2nd best among defensemen. Kyle Turris has 27 goals this season which is best among the Senators. As a team, the Senators have conceded the 9th fewest amount of goals this season. Give credit to their defensemen and Craig Anderson in net for that stat. Their offense has struggled at times this season and they lack a dangerous forward that can put the puck in the net. Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman are having nice years, but they are not up to par with some of the other fire-power in the East. The Senators will have to keep it low scoring for them to succeed in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Odds: +3,000 to win the east | +4,000 to win the cup

Boston Bruins- Brad Marchand has had one of the best seasons of his career. Marchand leads the Bruins in goals, assists, and points. His 39 goals are tied for 3rd in the league. Boston has also gotten contributions from David Krejci (54 points) and Patrice Bergeron (53 points). Bergeron the former Frank J. Selke award winner, remains one of the best defensive forwards in the game. The Surprise for the Bruins this season has been David Pastrnak. The Czech was drafted 25th overall in the 2014 draft. He has 34 goals and 36 assist this season. That puts him 2nd on the team with 70 points. The Bruins defense is anchored by veteran Zdeno Chara. The team defense is pretty good; they have allowed the 8th fewest goals against this season. They also have the best penalty kill percentage in the league. 2014 Vezina winner Tuukka Rask is between the pipes. The Bruins not only have playoff experience but they have Stanley Cup experience. The Bruins have all the pieces to make a run but that doesn't mean they will. Torey Krug’s status is unknown for the playoffs. It’s likely he will miss some time after he left the game against the last game against the Senators injured.

Odds: +1,100 to win the east | +2,500 to win the cup

Prediction: This series is another one that has the potential to go 7 games. The Senators have dominated the matchup this season, but the Bruins have more playoff experience. Recent history says the Bruins usually do well in the playoffs while the Senators struggle or are absent altogether. However, times are changing and the Bruins have a lot of new players on this years team. Ottawa in 7.  

Game One | 7:00 | 4/12 | Boston -119 | Ottowa +108

Pittsburgh Penguins Vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Pittsburgh Penguins- Sidney Crosby is pretty good. Sid is tied for 2nd in points and leads the NHL in goals with 44. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are also having great years with 72 and 70 points respectively. The defending champions have no problem scoring. They have scored 278 goals this season which is 15 more than the next best team. The Pens lead the league in shots per game. They are also 4th in shots against per game. When you play the Pens you know it's going to be a fast-paced shootout. Kris Letang usually leads a solid back end that isn't afraid to join the attack. The defending champs will have to adapt because Letang just suffered a neck injury that will rule him out for the entire playoffs. The good news is Olli Maatta just returned from an injury and will play in the postseason. Look for veteran Mark Streit to see more ice time in the absence of Letang. Matt Murray returns in net after an impressive performance in last year's playoffs. If the Penguins can turn the game into a high paced shootout, then the defending champions should be able to beat anyone.

Odds: +350 to win the east | +800 to win the cup

Columbus Blue Jackets- The Jackets 2016/2017 season was highlighted by their 16 game winning streak earlier in the season. Sergei Bobrovsky is having another impressive year with a 2.06 GAA and .931 save%. Those stats will likely earn him his 2nd Vezina trophy. The Jackets defensemen deserve just as much credit as Bobrovsky. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones are a couple of talented young defensemen. Werenski is just 19 and has put up 47 points this season. He is also plus 17 on the year. Werenski hasn't played in the last few games due to an injury but is expected to be back in the playoffs. The Jackets get offense from a number of forwards. Cam Atkinson has 35 goals and 62 points. Wennberg, Saad, Foligno, and Gagner all have at least 50 points. This kind of production from multiple players is something the Jackets have not seen in previous years. The Jackets are one of the few teams that are top ten in both goals for and goals against. Columbus is a deep team that won’t fear anyone.

Odds: +4,000 to win the east | +10,000 to win the cup

Prediction- The defending champions are returning with most of the same from last year. However, it’s rare that a defending champion even makes it back to the finals, let alone repeat as champions. The Blue Jackets are one of the best teams defensively in the league. They will be able to handle Crosby and company. Matt Murray will need to match Bobrovsky's level of play in order for the Pens to win the series. The two teams split the regular season series at 2 games a piece. This one is another series likely to go to 7. I won’t be surprised if the defending champions make an early exit from this year’s playoffs. In fact, I am predicting it. Columbus wins in seven.

Game One | 7:30 | 4/12 | Columbus +151 | Pittsburgh -167

All odds are from Oddshark on 4/12/17.