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It Is Playoff Eve, Which Means Playoff Predictions

‘Twas the night before playoffs, when all through the land
Not a player was stirring, not even Marchand;
The big screens were hung in the arena with care,
In hopes that Lord Stanley soon would be theirs;
The coaches were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of good defence danced in their heads;
And Ferraro in his suit, and Friedman with his beard,
While Wilson pondered delivering a spear.
Okay, you get the point. I’m no poet. But the NHL playoffs begin tomorrow.

After 142 days, the NHL season will officially resume when the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes drop that puck at 10 a.m. MT (12 p.m. ET, 9 a.m. PT).

Then the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks will broadcast nationally in both Canada and the USA at 1 p.m. MT. That is when hockey fans will see all the new bells and whistles that the NHL has planned for their broadcasts. We saw some of the new camera angles in the exhibition games, but not the full array. I’m intrigued to see how different the game will look.

And of course I’m most interested in who wins, who plays well and which team or players surprise us.

So here are some fearless prognostications. Read at your own peril.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE…

Photo: Twitter.com/NHL

#8 Calgary Flames (.564 P%) v. #9 Winnipeg Jets (.563)

Robin Brownlee: I’m looking at goaltending again in this series and I give the Jets a big advantage with Connor Hellebuyck over Cam Talbot and David Rittich. That said, I like Calgary’s forwards, so this is going to be interesting. Flames in five.

Wanye Gretz: I’ll be deep in the ground before I predict the Flames will score a single goal, much less win. If only they could lose in two. Jets in three.

Jason Strudwick: Jets goaltending wins this play-in over the Flames. Jets in four.

Baggedmilk: The Jets may not have the defensive group they once did but they have plenty of forwards that can burn you and one of the best goalies in the NHL, and I think that’s a combination that will be too much for Calgary to handle. Jets in five.

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Jason Gregor: The Jets aggressive forecheck and stellar goaltending makes them a tough matchup for the Flames. Jets in four.

#7 Vancouver Canucks (.565) v. #10 Minnesota Wild (.558)

Robin Brownlee: Just one point separated the Canucks and the Wild during the regular season, with Minnesota winning two of three meetings. Might goaltender Jacob Markstrom swing this series in favor of the Canucks? I think so. I’ll take the Canucks in five.

Wanye Gretz: My prediction is that the Sedin twins are so ineffective they will be invisible this entire series. YUCK. Wild in five.

Jason Strudwick: Canucks top-six is as deep as any in the NHL. Plus Markstrom adds up to an early exit from playoffs for the Wild. Canucks in five.

Baggedmilk: I really need the Canucks to win this play-in series to take themselves out of the running for Lafreniere. They have a good, young core and adding in another piece like that would annoy me to no end so I need the old, busted Wild to take the ‘L’ on this one. Canucks in four.

Jason Gregor: I always connect the Wild with boring, but they were playing quite well before the season was delayed. I like Vancouver’s style of play much better, but the Wild pull it out in five.

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#6 Nashville Predators (.565) v. #11 Arizona Coyotes (.529)

Robin Brownlee: The Coyotes were on a big time slide before COVID-19 halted play (8-13-4), and they’ve had the further distraction of GM John Chyka quitting on them. Still, I see this one being tight and competitive with the Predators winning in four.

Wanye Gretz: Personally I can’t stand any other of the 37 NHL franchises. I have no second favourite team — no “favourite non-Oiler” not named Brian Sutherby, Ryan Smyth, Sam Gagner or Jordan Eberle. What’s my point? Oh yeah: I actually like Nashville — fun games, great city. If they ever face the Oil though in the playoffs I hope their franchise is forced to fold midway through the first period of the first game of the series. Until then, Go Predators! Preds in four.

Jason Strudwick: Nash’s defence shuts down any kind of offence the ‘Yotes try to produce. Preds in three.

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Baggedmilk: The Coyotes are going to have a real hard time matching Nashville’s depth and the only reason I have them winning a single game is that they have great goaltending. Preds in four.

Jason Gregor: Coyotes will need their goalies to stand on their heads just to win a game. ‘Yotes early exit is why Taylor Hall doesn’t re-sign with them. He should mimic what Marian Hossa did and sign a one-year deal on a good team. Preds in four.

#5 Edmonton Oilers (.585) v. #12 Chicago Blackhawks (.514)

Robin Brownlee: A lot of the attention going in was on the health and availability of Chicago’s Corey Crawford, but while it looks like he’ll be back, he missed a lot of training camp. I don’t think Chicago’s defence can handle a healthy Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Oilers in four.

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Wanye Gretz: The Oilers are going to win every single game of these 2020 playoffs, including a sweep of the Stanley Cup Finals. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisai will use their spare time in the bubble to work on a secret program with the Pentagon to create an aerosol spray curing COVID. Those are my worst case predictions for the next 12 weeks. Oilers in three.

Jason Strudwick: 97 and 29 cause too many matchup issues at center. Oilers in four.

Baggedmilk: Listen, the Blackhawks aren’t anywhere close to the team they once were and if the Oilers can’t get past them in the play-in round then maybe we do deserve Lafreniere after all. Oilers in four.

Jason Gregor: The Hawks gave up the most high danger scoring chances in the NHL. They haven’t added any new players during the delay. The Oilers have the league’s top-two scorers. One plus the other equals a three game sweep for Edmonton.

All agree Oilers and Preds will move on. Brownlee went with Flames, while the Minn/Van series had Canucks slight favourite.

EASTERN CONFERENCE…

#8 Toronto Maple Leafs (.579) v. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets (.579)

Robin Brownlee: This series comes down to Toronto’s explosive attack against the Blue Jackets’ stingy defence, ranked third overall in goals-against. I’ll take that defence, anchored by Seth Jones, in a short best-of-five series. Jackets in five.

Wanye Gretz: I enjoy watching the Maple Leafs organization because I love the 365 days a year circus of hockey in Toronto. It’s good for the game if Toronto has some sizzle. Plus it’s so entertaining to watch them constantly flounder like the NHLs Knicks. Leafs in five.

Jason Strudwick: Columbus will ground and pound TO into golf season just like they did Tampa last year. Blue Jackets in four.

Baggedmilk: As much as I’d love to see the Leafs lose in the play-in round, I don’t think it’s going to happen because of the skill they have up front. The Leafs have a lot of firepower and that’s going to cause the Blue Jackets fits even though they were able to dispatch the Lightning in last year’s playoffs, I don’t think they’ll be able to match. Toronto in four.

Jason Gregor: High octane offence against a relentless forecheck and stingy defensive team. This will be a highly entertaining series, and the Leafs win their first playoff series since 2004. Of course this isn’t a real playoff series, so when they lose in the next round opposing fans will remind them. Maple Leafs in five.

#7 New York Islanders (.588) v. #10 Florida Panthers (.565)

Robin Brownlee: The Islanders swept the Panthers in three games this season and I don’t see any reason why they won’t do it in this series, even with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal for Florida. Bobrovsky hasn’t been nearly good enough in his first season in Florida. Islanders in three.

Wanye Gretz: Jordan Eberle, my sweet Prince. You are now a father and in this version of the matrix you are somehow an Islander, not an Oiler. I hope you win this series and many more in your career. Islanders in five.

Jason Strudwick: Islanders will choke the offence out of FLA. Isles in four.

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Baggedmilk: Barry Trotz has the Islanders playing very tight defensively and that’s going to be a problem for the Panthers. Combined with the fact Bobrovsky hasn’t looked much like himself this season I don’t like Florida’s chances of getting through this round. Islanders in five.

Jason Gregor: Eberle will be bagged from the endless prank calls from Wanye. In fact, the entire team will be, as Wanye calls every room trying to track him down. This, combined with the Panthers top-end forwards and Bobrovsky finding his game, leads to Panthers in four.

#6 Carolina Hurricanes (.596) v. #11 New York Rangers (.564)

Robin Brownlee: The Rangers usually beat the Hurricanes for fun — they were 4-0-0 against them this season and are 31-6-0 against them dating back to 2011.  I don’t see that changing in this series. I’ll take the Rangers in four.

Wanye Gretz: You think I would pick Carolina to win something? Outrageous. The only member of the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Club that I don’t have a lifetime beef with is Doug Weight, for obvious reasons. Never forgive! Rangers in five.

Jason Strudwick: I take the Rangers goalies all day long. Rangers in four.

Baggedmilk: The Rangers had a very nice run towards the end of the season to even get them in this position, but I don’t believe they have the same depth as the Hurricanes. Canes in five.

Jason Gregor: If they wore the Hartford Whalers jerseys they’d win easily, but they still manage to overcome that bad decision and defeat the Rangers in five.

#5 Pittsburgh Penguins (.623) v. #12 Montreal Canadiens (.500)

Robin Brownlee: Even with Carey Price in goal, I don’t see how the Habs have an answer for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of Pittsburgh’s forwards. The Penguins are simply too deep top to bottom for the Canadiens to have a shot. Penguins in three.

Wanye Gretz: Crosby and Malkin are rested and healed going into the playoffs for the first time ever and this will probably de-age them both five years. Price will have to stand on his head and score a couple power play goals for the Habs to prevail. Pens in three.

Jason Strudwick: Who is going to score for Montreal? Pens in two.

Baggedmilk: Montreal has absolutely no business being in this playoff tournament, so the fact that I’m even foreseeing they win a single game could be a stretch. Penguins in four.

Jason Gregor: The last time the Habs were in the playoffs, 2017, they lost in six games. In their four losses Carey Price had  combined .933Sv%. He can play unreal and the Habs are still going to get swept by a deeper, and now healthy, Penguins team. Pens in three.

No surprise everyone went with the Penguins. I’m the only one who likes the Panthers, while the other two series are split 3-2.

SEEDING ROUND…

East…

Brownlee: Philly, Tampa, Boston and Capitals.

Wanye: Washington, Boston, Philly and Tampa.

Strudwick: Boston. They can’t help themselves, all they do is win with this core. Tampa, Philly and Washington.

Baggedmilk: Boston, Philly, Tampa Bay and Washington.

Gregor: Tampa Bay, Capitals, Flyers and Bruins.

Picks are all over the board. But, trust me, Lightning are poised to crush some teams.

West…

Brownlee: Colorado, Vegas, St. Louis and Dallas.

Wanye: Vegas, Colorado, St. Louis and Dallas.

Strudwick: Avalanche: so young and good they are going to come out flying. Blues, Vegas and Dallas.

Baggedmilk: Vegas, St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas.

Gregor: Colorado, St. Louis, Vegas and Dallas.

It is like we are back in the late 1990s early 2000s as everyone picked Edmonton to defeat Chicago and Dallas to finish fourth, which means they’d meet in the next round.

Which teams do you feel will win?

Any upset special you like?

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR