The NHL playoffs are off to a great start and are once again proving that no team is ever safe in hockey's postseason.
The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins entered the playoffs as favorites in the Eastern Conference. Playing against the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively, both teams have already dropped a game. The Bruins are tied at one in the best-of-seven series, and the Penguins needed three goals in the third period to earn a 4-3 win and take a 2-1 series lead.
So, just a few days into this postseason, we are already getting hit with drama and intrigue.
There is some reservation that the switch to the bracket format will slow the momentum of the playoffs, but it certainly isn't altering anything yet.
As for the bracket? The NHL tweeted it:
For an updated NHL playoff bracket, check out NHLPlayoffsBracket.com.
Now have a look at my predictions.
|First-Round Matchups and Predictions|
|First-Round Matchup||Predicted Winner|
|Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings||Boston|
|Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning||Montreal|
|Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets||Pittsburgh|
|New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers||Philadelphia|
|First-Round Matchup||Predicted Winner|
|Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars||Anaheim|
|San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings||San Jose|
|Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild||Colorado|
|St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks||St. Louis|
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
These two Original Six teams are meeting in the postseason for the first time since 1957. Unfortunately, this matchup was not exactly worth the wait. This series is tied at 1-1, but it won't be close all the way.
The Red Wings stole Game 1 after Tuukka Rask made a rare error by allowing a goal he could have stopped. Detroit won 1-0. Jimmy Howard was wonderful in goal that game for the Red Wings.
The Bruins didn't have any problems scoring in the second as they cruised to a 4-1 win. Howard had a save percentage of .862 in that game, as the Bruins overwhelmed the Red Wings with their seemingly endless waves of effective lines. Boston will continue to wear out Detroit's defense, and the Red Wings will not be able to keep up.
Meanwhile, that will be all Rask needs. The goalie has been magnificent all year. Sure, he'd like to have the one he allowed in Game 1 back, but he still finished with a save percentage of .958 and finished Game 2 with a save percentage of .971.
On top of this, with Zdeno Chara patrolling the back for Boston, it's tough for Detroit to even get off shots. As Eye on Hockey tweets, Chara is a menacing presence even when he's laughing:
All of this amounts to Boston taking full control of this series.
Prediction: Boston wins, 4-1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Less than two minutes into the third period on Monday, the Blue Jackets led the Penguins 3-1 and looked like they were ready to take control of the series.
Moments later, Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen all scored within less than three minutes of each other, and the Penguins led 4-3.
ESPN passed along an Associated Press report with the following quote from Sidney Crosby on the Monday contest: "It's not ideal, especially when it's 2-1 and you fall behind (by two goals) again. Typically, it's not the way you win hockey games. But it showed a lot of character and a lot of patience."
Although it took a late flurry of goals, the Penguins were dictating the action for most of the game. They were controlling the pace and finished with a 41-20 advantage in shots on goal.
The third-period turnaround left a palpable feeling of gut-wrenching remorse and lost confidence in Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have been admirable in their effort to upset their more talented opponents, but this heartbreak will be too much for them to overcome.
Pittsburgh took the cap off their offense and have done so without Crosby or Evgeni Malkin notching a goal yet in the series. Pittsburgh is going to come out a more confident and effective team.
The Blue Jackets will be able to win one of the next three, but for the most part, this series is going to be all Pittsburgh the rest of the way.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins 4-2