A look into our thoughts on how the first round will play out...
NY Islanders - Florida: Nothing against the Islanders, bu the Panthers are the better team here and only a deer-in-the-headlights series from its cavalcade of young stars will prevent advancement. If the Cats can capture the opening back-to-back at home, look out. They can ride that momentum to a quick win knockout of the Isles, and perhaps, a long way after that. Florida in six.
Detroit - Tampa Bay: The Lightning's injury issues are going to make this a longer series than it should be. I'm not a big fan of where the Red Wings are at this year, but they will pull it together enough to give the Bolts a scare. Ben Bishop will lead Tampa Bay to second round, all-Florida, showdown with the Cats, Tampa Bay in seven.
Philadelphia - Washington: The Capitals are an impressive bunch and had a pretty easy march through the regular season. The Flyers have been a nice story, winning a lot of late season game to bounce the Bruins out the playoffs. The heavy weight of expectations will keep this close to start, but the stacked Caps will pull away. Washington in six.
NY Rangers - Pittsburgh: The Penguins didn't look like anything special at the start of the season, but now they are looking sort of, kind of elite, while it looks the window for a potential championship is starting to close on the banged-up Rangers. New York's playoff moxie will test the Pens at first, but Sidney Crosby and crew will prevail. Pittsburgh in six.
Minnesota - Dallas: Minnesota's new team is about to take one on the chin from its old team. The Stars boast a powerful offense that the Wild are going to have a real hard time keeping up with. Couple that with the fact that Minnesota doesn't have the firepower to exploit Dallas' weakness in goal and it's not a good combination. The Wild's 87 points were the lowest among the league's playoff qualifiers. Dallas in five.
Chicago - St. Louis: Wow, this series... I don't even know. These are two teams good enough to appear in the Stanley Cup Finals and one will be out after the first round. I'm taking my head out of this prediction and going with my heart. I'm a bit over the Blackhawks and it's the Blues time to rise. The champs will fall. St. Louis in six.
Nashville - Anaheim: A win on the added-on, final day of the regular season gave the Ducks the Pacific crown and a match-up with the Predators instead of the Sharks. This is going to be a good one, but I think experience will pull the quackers through in hard-fought series that will go the distance. Anaheim in seven.
San Jose - Los Angeles: A California death-match featuring two very good teams. Sure, the Kings have what it takes to make another long run, but I'm not buying it this year. An under-the-radar Sharks will be the one the advances here. San Jose in six.
NY Islanders - Florida: My loyalties are no secret. Cats have the goaltending advantage and superior depth at both ends if boo-boos crop up - and they well may as I'm expecting a ferociously physical tourney. Florida in six.
Detroit - Tampa Bay: It's become the norm to critique the Wings as being on their final legs, and perhaps given Pavel Datsyuk's recent leanings toward calling it a career in the NHL there may be truth to a rebuild on the horizon, but they made it in when Boston didn't. If the Bolts can overcome current injury issues - and those are of a mucho-serious variety - they should eke out a victory in the end. This is a really tough one. Tampa Bay in seven.
Philadelphia - Washington: The Flyers have been a feel-good story in recent days: storming back from a particularly unimpressive bulk of the season to clinch a spot on (essentially) the final day of the year. Still a formidable yet seemingly forgotten bunch up front, with a South Florida product tearing up the blueline in Gostisbehere. A lot to like. That said, a reborn and confident Washington in five.
NY Rangers - Pittsburgh: Whatever; let them pound each other into protomatter. Despite the best efforts of King Henrik it'll be Pittsburgh in seven with many casualties.
Minnesota - Dallas: Riiiiiight. Dallas in four.
Chicago - St. Louis: A classic Norris Division gem right here. Seems to be lots of love for the Blues but I'm ultimately calling it Chicago in six. They're still the 'Hawks and getting healthy.
Nashville - Anaheim: Just not seeing the Ducks ending anywhere but on top in a physical series. Plus, Pirri. Anaheim in five.
San Jose - Los Angeles: My
coin toss keen sense of insight says the Sharks will prevail. Plus, DeBoer. San Jose in seven.
NY Islanders - Florida: Maybe the Islanders have the legs to keep up with the Cats, and maybe they don't. We really don't know, and that's why we keep on watching the games. New York has a fearsome top-line, featuring John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, but not much very threatening past that. Thomas Greiss will steal a game from the Panthers, but just one. Panthers in five.
Detroit - Tampa Bay: I have a special place in my heart for the Detroit Red Wings. Aside from the Panthers making the playoffs this season, my second biggest wish was that these entitled Red Wings' fans would have to taste one season of no playoffs. That'll have to wait another year (or 25), but we will see. As to this season - depleted Tampa Bay will struggle, but eventually come away with the series. Lightning in six.
Philadelphia - Washington: A mismatch. Caps in four.
NY Rangers - Pittsburgh: The Rangers peaked at the wrong time, and have seemingly run out of gas. The Pittsburgh Penguins are enjoying a renaissance diametrically opposed to the Rangers slump, and have torn up the NHL for the last three weeks. Despite this, I'll go against the grain and take the Rangers in seven.
Minnesota - Dallas: The biggest mismatch in the West. The Wild wouldn't even be in the postseason if they resided a little closer to the Atlantic Ocean. Plus, the Stars have Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and Patrick Sharp. Dallas in five.
Chicago - St. Louis: Probably the best series in play, in terms of raw talent on either side of the center line. I'm just glad that one takes care of the other. No one should have to face both of these teams. Blues in seven.
Nashville - Anaheim: Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler should lead this bunch of Ducks all the way to the WCF. Ducks in five.
San Jose - Los Angeles: My daughter loves the Sharks, so hopefully she doesn't hold it against me when I say Kings in six.
NY Islanders - Florida: Florida in 6. And I will take this opportunity to say: thanks to Todd for referring to us as "mighty." Don't think much else needs to be said on this one. The Cats sport plenty of playoff experience on the roster, and are seething at the Isles seemingly purposely losing to play them. The Islanders have more key injuries. Done.
Tampa Bay - Detroit: Tampa in 7. Due to their injury depleted line up this will not be easy for the Bolts. Nonetheless, Ben Bishop will take this series, while Detroit's goaltending woes will cost them.
Washington - Philadelphia: Philadelphia Flyers in 7. This is not so much due to the Caps playoff history as it is the Flyers playing hard for the spirit of Ed Snider. That kind of emotion will get them a series, and it doesn't hurt that they have been hot down the stretch.
NY Rangers - Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh in 5. The Rangers are too beat up and aged to compete with a super-freaky-hot Penguins team with a possibly returning Malkin.
Minnesota - Dallas: Dallas in 6. I don't know what the Wild's issues are. The information that seems to bleed through is that its a bad locker room and uncoachable bunch. Dallas is too good, although the goalies worry me.
Chicago - St. Louis: St. Louis in 7. This is not your Blackhawks of 2015, and St. Louis is a team on a final mission. I sort of think of this years Blues as the Louden Swain of the NHL, they will not be stopped.
Nashville - Anaheim: Nashville in 7. Nashville is due. Overdue.
San Jose - Los Angeles: Kings in 7. The difference here will be Quick. Quick is going to beat San Jose, while San Jose's goalies......they're not Quick.
Join in on the festivities and post your selections in the comment section. We'll check back and see who did the best after the first round is over. We'll also have an overall winner for the entire playoffs, so if you are interested in being the LBC champ, make sure to get your picks in for every round. The scoring system is three points (up from two last year) for each series-winner and one bonus point for getting the amount of games it takes correct. So, that's a total of 32 potential points on the line in round one.