First round playoff predictions

Who doesn't like a good playoff prediction blog? I don't have a crystal ball or the ability to see into the future so this is my best educated guess as to who will advance to the second round and who won't. But then again, even the professionals who get paid big $$ to make these predictions are in the same boat, so whether it's me or, say, Craig Button who makes the predictions, we're both in the same boat. Neither of us can predict the future, these are simply our best guesses. We'll see who's right.
San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers
San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers / Leila Devlin/GettyImages
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This is a tough one because both teams have a lot of injuries between the two of them - see for yourself here and here.

Let me introduce you to a cardinal rule of predictions here - ABAT - Always Bet Against Toronto.

This year is no different. The Leafs have generated a lot of buzz but as you've seen for yourself they are limping into the playoffs more than Boston is - they're missing more guys than Boston and they're missing higher profile players than Boston is - William Nylander I'm looking in your direction.

But it's not just Toronto's health. They're fundamentally flawed in the way the team is built - they give a huge portion of their cap to four forwards - Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander. That's $46.653 million to next year's cap - and remember this is out of an $87.3 million salary cap (based on next season's cap, not this past season's). That's literally half the cap going to four forwards, which leaves table scraps for building the rest of the roster, give or take a Morgan Reilly or two - hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, right?

Combine this with the fact that TO will be facing the best goalie tandem in the NHL - Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark - both of whom are capable of standing on their heads and stealing games for the Bruins - means the Leafs are facing a big threat to their big four, one which IMO they will be unable to overcome due to the lack of depth they are forced to build their team with.

Sorry, Toronto, I'm picking you for another first round exit. Better hope you face another overcooked Tampa Bay squad in the playoffs next year. Even if they do find success they'll never be able to keep the team together until they get rid of at least one of their high-priced players.

My winner - Bruins win 4-2


Many are picking Florida to go to the Finals this year (again...). I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I do know this - they should be able to get out of the first round for sure.

Tampa Bay has the flashier players in Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Steve Stamkos, and Viktor Hedman, but the problem is once you get past those four plus Branden Hagel, the points drop off fairly significantly. It also doesn't help that Tampa has been absolutely horrid defensively. I counted 12 players who finished in the - column in +/-, and that includes veterans who really should know better in Point, Stamkos, Nicholas Paul, the injured Mikhail Sergachev, Tanner Jeanot, Matt Dumba, Calvin De Haan, and Tyler Motte.

Compare this with Florida, who only has five minus players on their entire roster, and you can see it's no wonder Tampa Bay has now been demoted from a Cup contender to a playoff contender and that's it. Their window to win is slamming shut. They did great in the prime of their team, but that's clearly over now.

In goaltending it's a similar story. The 35-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky has defied Father Time - likely because he's playing on a great team - putting up near-elite numbers for the Panthers going into the playoffs. Almost surreal that the Panthers couldn't give this guy away if they wanted to within the last few years. If he plays the way he did in last year's playoffs the Panthers are in good hands between the pipes.

Can't say the same for Tampa Bay. At one time one of the NHL's best goalies, Andrei Vasilevsky hasn't been elite for about three seasons now, and going into the playoffs was barely average. Oh, and he's making $9.5 million a season to be average with a nice NMC attached for the next four seasons after this one. Have fun with that, Tampa.

My winner - Panthers win 4-1