NHL 1st round picks

By: Eric Cohen

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I love this time of year. The best part of the NHL season is the 1st round where 8 different playoff match ups take place. Unlike the NBA anything can happen in round 1 as we have seen quite a few 8 seeds and wild card teams succeed over the last few seasons. In fact last year Nashville as a Wild Card team upset the top seeded Blackhawks in a first round sweep and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Here are my 1st round picks.

West:

Colorado vs Nashville: What an amazing turn around for the Avs. From one of the worst NHL teams to the biggest season turn around in the history of the NHL making the playoffs by beating St.Louis on the final game. Unfortunately for the Avs they draw Nashville. The Predators are the best team in the NHL despite not having much super star talent up front. They have an incredible blue line and Pekka Rinne had a Vezna caliber season. Nashville swept Colorado in the regular season and the same result is very likely. Pick: Nashville in 4

 
MInnesota vs Winnipeg: Losing Ryan Suter is a huge loss for the Wild. Minnesota struggles to score and will be with out their best defenseman for the playoffs. Winnipeg is incredibly balanced up front with a ton of offensive talent. A very good young goalie and a hungry team to win their first series since moving back to Winnipeg this probably won't be very competitive. Winnipeg in 5


San Jose vs Anaheim: The 2 series featuring Pacific Division teams are both tough to call. The difference in this series will be heathy. Anaheim need John Gibson to be healthy and play as he is far superior to veteran Ryan Miller. The Ducks dealt with so many injuries this season and if Gibson is good they will only be missing Cam Fowler who is still a big loss but at least the rest of the team is good to go. San Jose will be with out Joe Thornton who was having a huge season until his injury. The Sharks were great after acquiring Evander Kane but struggled in the final weeks to lose home ice to Anaheim. That could be the difference. Anaheim in 7

 
Los Angels vs Vegas: Tough series here. What's strange about the Golden Knights is even though they are an expansion team they are a veteran team with tons of playoff experience from other teams. Vegas had the most incredible season in the NHL along with Colorado. To win the division is an amazing accomplishment. The Kings are a team filled with Stanley Cup experience but come in with key injuries on their blue line. Vegas also dealt with injuries down the stretch but the difference in this series might be LA's stars, Carter, Kopitar and Doughty who all have won Cups in the past. Pick: LA in 6


East:


Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia: These 2 teams do not like each other. They have played very entertaining playoff series in the past that have featured very high scoring games. If this is another offensive display the Flyers simply do not have enough fire power to match Pittsburgh. The Penguins swept the Flyers in the regular season and I don't see the 2-time defending champions being threatened in this series. Pick: Pittsburgh in 5
 

Columbus vs Washington: The Capitals won the Metro with smoke and mirrors. Braden Holtby had a tough season and will not start this series for Washington. Alex Ovechkin was great with 49 goals but the team doesn't have too much depth up front. Columbus was a sleeper pick at the beginning of the year but were terrible for a few moths before picking it up at the end of the season to make the playoffs. I really like what I saw from the Jackets down the stretch and they are healthy for this series. Pick Columbus in 6
 

Maple Leafs vs Bruins: No one will forget what happened in 2013 when Toronto blew a 4-1 lead to Boston in the final 11 minutes of game 7. The Leafs now have a chance to exercise those demons in a big way. Toronto is very deep up front with 4 lines that can score. They might have the deepest core of forwards in hockey. Freddy Andersen struggled down the stretch but is rested for the playoffs. Toronto's weakness is definitely on defense which the Bruins will try to exploit. Boston has great star power and very good young forwards. The Bruins peaked too early though and struggled down the stretch losing games that would have allowed them to win the division and avoid Toronto in round 1. The Leafs are in better current form. Pick Toronto in 6
 

New Jersey vs Tampa Bay: You can put the Devils in the surprise category with the Avs and Golden Knights. After winning the lottery last year the Devils qualified for the playoffs one year later thanks to Taylor Hall and Keith Kinkaid not Cory Schneider. Surprisingly New Jersey swept Tampa in the regular season. Don't expect that to happen but the Devils should be competitive. The Lightning hope Steven Stamkos is good to go. They have a ton of fire power but were also inconsistent down the stretch. In the end Tampa just has too much talent. Pick Tampa in 5

Enjoy the playoffs!!!