The first two teams have been eliminated from the NHL playoffs, and many would not have predicted that this would be the way the first round would unfold.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who won 62 games and the Presidents' Trophy during the regular season, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, were each swept in the first round, culminating with losses on Tuesday night.
The Lightning lost all four games to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are the second wild card in the Eastern Conference after just making it into the postseason. The New York Islanders swept the Penguins, and although they had a better seed than Pittsburgh, it was expected to be a competitive series.
The Blue Jackets and Islanders are into the conference semifinals. Six more teams will eventually join them after the rest of the first round takes place.
Remaining First-Round Schedule
Wednesday, April 17
Game 4: Boston at Toronto, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Game 4: Nashville at Dallas, 8 p.m., USA Network
Game 4: Calgary at Colorado, 10 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Thursday, April 18
Game 4: Washington at Carolina, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Game 5: St. Louis at Winnipeg, 8:30 p.m., USA Network
Game 5: Vegas at San Jose, 10 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Friday, April 19
Game 5: Toronto at Boston, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Game 5: Colorado at Calgary, 10 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Saturday, April 20
Game 5: Carolina at Washington, TBD
Game 5: Dallas at Nashville, TBD
Game 6: Winnipeg at St. Louis, TBD
Sunday, April 21
Game 6: Boston at Toronto, TBD*
Game 6: San Jose at Vegas, TBD*
Game 6: Calgary at Colorado, TBD*
Monday, April 22
Game 6: Washington at Carolina, TBD*
Game 6: Nashville at Dallas, TBD*
Game 7: St. Louis at Winnipeg, TBD*
Tuesday, April 23
Game 7: Toronto at Boston, TBD*
Game 7: Vegas at San Jose, TBD*
Game 7: Colorado at Calgary, TBD*
Wednesday, April 24
Game 7: Carolina at Washington, TBD*
Game 7: Dallas at Nashville, TBD*
With the Lightning eliminated, many people may be changing their Stanley Cup picks. Now that the clear top team from the regular season is out, the battle for this year's championship seems wide open.
In the Eastern Conference, the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals are the team to watch and should make a deep run through the playoffs.
Before beating the Penguins in last year's playoffs, the Caps had lost seven straight postseason series against Pittsburgh—Washington will not be disappointed to see the Penguins already out of the playoffs.
They could have added motivation to beat the Islanders, who are led by former Capitals coach Barry Trotz. After leading Washington to the Stanley Cup last year, Trotz resigned and was hired by New York shortly after.
But first, the Capitals will have to get past the Carolina Hurricanes. After dropping Game 3 at Carolina, Washington should bounce back and win the series in five games.
Then, the Capitals will find a way back to the Stanley Cup finals.
Last year's Western Conference champions are also off to a good start in the postseason, as the Vegas Golden Knights have a 3-1 lead over the San Jose Sharks in their first-round series. However, Vegas won't make it back to the Stanley Cup finals in its second season in franchise history.
Instead, the Calgary Flames will win the Western Conference finals and take on the Capitals for the Stanley Cup.
The Flames are facing some adversity, as they're down 2-1 in their first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, the No. 2 wild card in the Western Conference. However, Calgary was the best team in the West during the regular season for a reason, and it will bounce back in this series.
A Canadian team hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens claimed it. The Flames will have a deep postseason run and have a chance to end the country's drought.
What will happen when the Capitals and Flames meet in the Stanley Cup finals? Well, it should be a competitive series, but Washington will end up on top and win its second straight championship.