N.H.L. Playoffs: What to Watch from the First Round

The Capitals won the high-scoring season series, 2-1. The series begins Thursday in Washington.

No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 3 Columbus Blue Jackets


The Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky, one of the N.H.L.’s top goalies, collecting a rebound before the Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist can get his stick on This specific during a regular-season game. The two teams will meet from the first round of the playoffs.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Columbus Coach John Tortorella as well as Pittsburgh Coach Mike Sullivan are close friends, however do not expect This specific series to be friendly. The Penguins (50-21-11) had a litany of injuries down the stretch including to defenseman Kris Letang, their leader in time on ice, as well as Evgeni Malkin, one of their big-ticket forwards. While Letang can be done for the year, Malkin should be ready for the playoffs. Mending or recently returned Penguins include defensemen Olli Maatta as well as Trevor Daley as well as forwards Matt Cullen, Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin as well as Chris Kunitz.

The Blue Jackets (50-24-8) have one of the top goaltenders in hockey in Sergei Bobrovsky, however he can be unproven from the playoffs. Since entering the league in 2000-1, Columbus has never won a playoff series in two appearances. Only three Blue Jackets, forwards Brandon Saad as well as Scott Hartnell as well as center Brandon Dubinsky, have been to the conference finals or beyond. Columbus backed into the playoffs, losing six of its last seven games. The Jackets are also hobbled by injuries. Defenseman Ryan Murray appears unlikely to play from the series, however the star rookie defenseman Zach Werenski can be anticipated to return via an upper-body injury he sustained April 2.

The teams split their season series, 2-2. Game 1 can be Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

Atlantic Division

No. 1 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 4 Rangers

Montreal (47-26-9) essentially went wire to wire in first place from the Atlantic, though of which may be more of an indictment of the team’s competition than an endorsement of its performance. The Canadiens even fired their coach, Michel Therrien, in February as well as replaced him with Claude Julien, a former Montreal coach who had recently been let go by the Bruins. Montreal went 16-7-1 under Julien. The Canadiens’ success still starts as well as ends in net with Carey cost, who was injured by the Rangers’ Chris Kreider the last time the teams met from the postseason, from the 2014 Eastern Conference finals.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has struggled This specific season. He also features a poor playing history in Montreal, where he has not won a regular-season game since 2009, though he was 2-1 which has a 2.82 goals-against average as well as a .915 save percentage during the 2014 playoffs.

The Rangers (48-28-6) have won only three of their past 10 games, however are the stronger offensive team from the series. They could love to see a resurgence via the speedy wing Michael Grabner, who was second on the team in goals however had only one in his last 23 games.

The Canadiens swept the season series, 3-0. Game 1 can be Wednesday in Montreal.

No. 2 Ottawa Senators vs. No. 3 Boston Bruins


Coach Guy Boucher led the Senators into the playoffs despite a goalie carousel as well as an offense of which was 22nd in goals.

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

After three years out of the N.H.L., Coach Guy Boucher made a triumphant return, leading the Senators to the playoffs despite a goalie carousel, mediocre special teams as well as an offense of which was 22nd in goals. however sound defensive structure as well as the wizardry of Erik Karlsson buoyed Ottawa (44-28-10). He remains a strong candidate for the Norris Trophy, which honors the league’s top defenseman, an award he has already earned twice, as well as may be considered for the Hart Trophy, given to the most valuable player. His 71 points led the team by a wide margin.

In February, the Bruins (44-31-7) fired Julien, who led them to a Stanley Cup in 2011 as well as a finals berth in 2013, as well as replaced him with Bruce Cassidy. The change reignited the offense, increasing its production by about a goal a game. Under Cassidy, Boston has gone 18-8-1. There are significant holdovers via the Julien era meshed with more recently integrated talent. Most notable, wing Brad Marchand has gone via pesky to prolific, notching a career-high 39 goals.

The Senators won all four games between the teams This specific season. Game 1 can be Wednesday in Ottawa.

Pacific Division

No. 1 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 4 Calgary Flames

The series highlights one of the strangest current losing streaks from the N.H.L. The Flames have not won a regular-season game in Anaheim since Jan. 19, 2004, losing 25 games in a row. Calgary won a playoff game in Anaheim in 2006 as well as will have to win at least one to get past the Ducks, who ended the season on a 14-game point streak. Since Feb. 14, the Ducks have gone 13-1-1 against playoff teams. Their captain, Ryan Getzlaf, erupted in March, posting 20 points in 13 games. Patrick Eaves, a trade-deadline acquisition, has 11 goals in 21 games with Anaheim (46-23-13). however No. 1 defenseman Cam Fowler will probably miss the first round after injuring his knee against the Flames This specific month.

Calgary (45-33-4) returns to the playoffs after a one-year absence as well as a coaching change of which left the playoff newcomer Glen Gulutzan behind its bench. The youthful Flames, led by Johnny Gaudreau as well as Sean Monahan, have an intriguing mix of skill as well as grit as well as overhauled goaltending. Their starter, Brian Elliott, won 17 of his 21 starts in February as well as March, as well as defenseman Dougie Hamilton blossomed into a 50-point scorer This specific season.

Anaheim took four out of all 5 regular-season games via Calgary, with two of those wins coming in April. In their final meeting, the teams combined for 112 penalty minutes. Anaheim led the league with 46 fighting majors, as well as the Flames were fourth with 35, which means This specific could be the most volatile matchup of the playoffs. Game 1 can be Thursday in Anaheim.

No. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 3 San Jose Sharks


The Oilers’ Connor McDavid, right, after recording his 100th point of the season.

Candice Ward/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The Oilers (47-26-9) last qualified for the playoffs in 2006, when Chris Pronger led them to within a game of their first Stanley Cup since 1990. This specific season McDavid, their captain, can be a Hart Trophy candidate at age 20, having led the N.H.L. in points with 100. With players like Milan Lucic as well as Andrej Sekera, the Oilers have added grit as well as defensive depth over the past two seasons, as well as an underperforming second line found its scoring stroke late from the season. Edmonton Coach Todd McLellan knows the Sharks well — he coached them for seven seasons.

The Sharks (46-29-7) are the defending Western Conference champions, however they did not end the regular season on a high note, losing nine of their last 13 games. San Jose hopes to get star forwards Logan Couture as well as Joe Thornton back via injuries for the series. Still, various other core players like Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns as well as Marc-Edouard Vlasic have proved bankable.

Edmonton won three of all 5 regular-season games against San Jose, with McDavid notching 8 points in those games. Game 1 can be Wednesday in Edmonton.

Central Division

No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators


The Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane had 34 goals as well as 55 assists This specific season.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Blackhawks (50-23-9), who have won three Stanley Cups from the past seven years, are battle tested, as well as the star forward Patrick Kane can be on a roll. His 40 points as well as 19 goals since the All-Star break are the most of any player from the playoffs. Kane’s linemate Artemi Panarin was also a point-per-game player in of which span as the Hawks surged to the top of the West from the second half of the season. Chicago reacquired Johnny Oduya at the deadline, restoring its core four defensemen via the 2015 Cup-winning team.

Nashville (41-29-12) overcame a stumbling start to make the playoffs. Defenseman P. K. Subban, acquired in a blockbuster trade from the off-season, heated up down the stretch, as did wings James Neal as well as Filip Forsberg. Pekka Rinne may not be as consistently dominant as he once was, however he put together a strong finish.

Chicago won four of all 5 regular-season meetings. Both teams like to push speed as well as tempo, which resulted in some high-scoring clashes. The series starts Thursday in Chicago, as well as the Predators are tied with the Ducks for the fewest road wins (17) among the teams from the playoffs.

No. 2 Minnesota Wild vs. No. 3 St. Louis Blues

The Wild thrived for most of the season under their fresh coach, Bruce Boudreau, until a free fall in March, when they won only four of 16 games. however the Wild (49-25-8) finished the season by winning all 5 of six, as well as they have a deep, well-rounded roster of which ranked from the top 10 in goals for, goals against, power-play conversion rate, penalty-kill percentage, shots per game as well as face-off percentage. Normally a low-scoring team, Minnesota had a goal differential of plus-58. Center Eric Staal, signed as a free agent, had his best season in all 5 years, as well as Minnesota’s deadline pickup, the shutdown center Martin Hanzal, offers Boudreau options in line combinations as well as defensive matchups.

The Blues (46-29-7) counter with Mike Yeo, who coached the Wild for nearly all 5 seasons. He took over in St. Louis after Ken Hitchcock was dismissed 50 games into a meandering season. Yeo led them to a 22-8-2 record. At the trade deadline, the Blues dealt a coveted defenseman, Shattenkirk, to Washington, as well as may have considered selling off more players. Instead, they elevated their game. In contrast to years past, the Blues are not a bruising team loaded with size. They have transitioned to a skill-based attack led by right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, left wing Jaden Schwartz as well as defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

The Blues took three of all 5 games via the Wild during the season. Game 1 can be Wednesday in St. Paul.

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