With the conclusion of the first full NHL regular season since 2018-2019, we’ve finally, finally, reached the play-offs. As a fan of a team that missed qualifying for the postseason, the start of the first round of the play-offs is a good reminder of the quality of team necessary to contend for the Stanley Cup.
In terms of a programming note, we’ll have an open thread every day that there are play-offs games with a brief preview of the night’s festivities, we’ll share a couple of links on occasion, and just generally make a space for folks to talk NHL play-off hockey. Enjoy!
Game 1: Boston Bruins @ Carolina Hurricanes 7PM
The Hurricanes have been one of the league’s top teams for several seasons now and should be favoured against a Bruins team that simply isn’t as deep and has some real questions in net. Carolina is the better team. That being said, many analysts and fans have been predicting the end of this generation of Boston excellence for years — to no avail. As long as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pasternak are operating at something close to full capacity I am loathe to bury the B’s. This should be a good one.
Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Toronto Maple Leafs 730PM
By any reasonable statistical measure, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been an excellent team this regular season. They have a potent, deep offense led by the best goal scorer in the league, and a much improved blue line. They sent a franchise record for points in a season and for all of their troubles they get the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. For my money, this is the best first-round matchup I can remember in a long time; the hockey will be excellent.
If the Leafs were to lose a hard fought, seven game series against this Tampa squad it would be hard to objectively say they underperformed — it’s the Tampa Bay freakin’ Lightning! But it would also be incredibly funny for this team to bow out again in the first round, so that is absolutely what I am cheering for.
Game 1: St. Louis Blues @ Minnesota Wild 930PM
Besides the aforementioned Tampa-Toronto series, this probably has the potential to be the best first round match-up. An exciting series involving the Wild, you say? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Well, these aren’t your dad’s Wild. Thanks in particular to the partnership of Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, they’re, frankly, a lot of fun to watch. Meanwhile, St. Louis has been able to revive what was looking like an aging core with young stars like Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas. Minnesota’s been the superior team 5v5 but St. Louis’ work with the man advantage could give them a real edge if the Wild are undisciplined.
Game 1: Los Angeles Kings @ Edmonton Oilers 10PM
Unlike the first three games of the night, this is one of those first round matchups that leaves me feeling a bit cold. I can’t conceive of either of these teams winning the Cup outright, and while both teams have their stars neither really has much depth beyond their top two lines. Nonetheless, whoever gets through will likely have at least a puncher’s chance against the winner of the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames so might as well get familiar with them.