NHL Playoff Preview Eastern Conference

Well the regular season warm-up is done, and the real NHL season begins, and all those sacrifices you made starting in October through Saturday got your teams right here, where you want them to be.  So put away your razors and get ready to grow yourself a killer Glenn Anderson playoff beard, you can even keep it if your team bows out early.  I usually go until the Cup is lifted, and being a big fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning, my beard will floweth long and mangy!

Eastern Conference:

(A1) Tampa Bay Lightning


(WC2) Columbus Blue Jackets

First let me make this clear as glass, Columbus is not your average eighth seed, this team is filled with young dynamic players up front, on the blue-line, and stellar goaltending by two-time Vezina Award winning backstop Sergei Bobrovsky. 

Looking at the regular season head to head match ups, Tampa treated Columbus like a red-headed step child, pounding them for a 17-3 goal differential. During the regular season the Lightning was fifth in Goals Against and first in Goals For.  Tampa also accomplished a feat that hasn’t happened in some time, three players with 40 goals plus this year with Steven Stamkos (45), Brayden Point (41), and Nikita Kucherov (41).  The last time a team had three 40 goal scorers in the same season was 1995-96 when the Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemieux (69), Jaromir Jagr (62), and Peter Nedved (45).

The Lightning are just the 19th team in league history with such potent goal scoring.  As for scoring 40 goals or more with more than three players the Edmonton Oilers dynasty shredded that record and own four of the five seasons of that scoring record. The list below is from the Hockey Central website, pretty impressive scoring huh? And none of the years below was the year Gretzky scored an NHL record 92 goals.




Edmonton Oilers, 1982-83. Wayne Gretzky, 71; Glenn   Anderson, 48; Mark Messier, 48; Jari Kurri, 45. 80GP.


Edmonton Oilers, 1983-84. Wayne Gretzky, 87; Glenn   Anderson, 54; Jari Kurri, 52; Paul Coffey, 40. 80GP.


Edmonton Oilers, 1984-85. Wayne Gretzky, 73; Jari Kurri,   71; Mike Krushelnyski, 43; Glenn Anderson, 42. 42GP.


Edmonton Oilers, 1985-86. Jari Kurri, 68; Glenn Anderson,   54; Wayne Gretzky, 52; Paul Coffey, 48. 80GP.


Calgary Flames, 1987-88. Joe Nieuwendyk, 51; Hakan Loob,   50; Mike Bullard, 48; Joe Mullen, 40. 80GP.


Columbus has plenty of young talent and to go along with Tampa, I feel the biggest hurdle C-Bus has to overcome as a team is the one in their heads.  I really like the future of the Jackets, even if Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin walk as UFA’s this July 1st.

Still, I predict Tampa with win this series, and win it rather easily, it’s not a knock on Columbus, but I feel they’re tuning out HC John Tortorella and after they get knocked out of the first round, he’s getting his walking papers.

Polka’s Prediction: Tampa Bay 4 -1


(A2) Boston Bruins


(A3) Toronto Maple Leafs

What we have here, may be the best series the first round of the playoffs as it provides two very hungry teams with top end talent at its finest.  Boston won three of the four head to head match-ups in the regular season, with David Pastrnak (81 points in 66 games) potted six goals out of 16 totals Bruins goals in these four games.  Pastrnak along with first time 100 point scorer Brad Marchand and the straw stirring the Bruins drink, Patrice Bergeron (79) points in 65 games are all throwback players full of grit and ability by the metric ton.  If Pastrnak and Bergeron played 79-80 games as Marchand did, we’d be looking at three 100 point players on the same team. 

Toronto is no pushover though, they also have talents on all the shelves and none of them are close to 30 years old.  John Tavares and Nazem Kadri are 28 years old each and long-time Shark Patrick Marleau is a ripe old 39 years old.  Just pray Marleau doesn’t get hot, he’s a pure streak player and when he’s on, he scores plenty. Then we have Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner who is still getting his legs back and the Leafs leading scorer and one of my favorite players to watch in Mitchell Marner (94).  Marner is the old man of that trio at 22 years old, and throw in Defenseman Morgan Rielly who is 24, but led all defenseman in this series with an eye-popping 72 points this season. That surely will garner him so Norris Trophy consideration. The Leafs also had ten different players reach double digits in goals while the Bruins had only seven.

In the nets, Boston split goalie duties between Tukka Rask (46 games) and Jaroslav Halak (40 games) in the pipes.  I’m guessing Rask will get the start, but will be on a short leash, while he started more games, Halak had a better GAA – (2.34) and Save % - (.922).

As for Toronto, its Freddy Anderson all the way unless there’s an injury or he flat out leaks like a sieve, like some goalies I knew in the Grand Rapids Advanced League.  Garrett Sparks serves as Fred’s back up, getting 20 starts this year.

Polka’s Prediction: Toronto in Seven


(M1) Washington Capitals


(WC1) Carolina Hurricanes

The Defending Champs are playing host to the young upstart Carolina Hurricanes, who are making their first trip to the dance in the last decade. It’s really too bad they couldn’t bring Eric Staal back into the fold, as a past Cup winner with the Hurricanes.  Washington had better make their shots count once taken, Carolina was 6th in the NHL in Goals Against, while the Caps were 5th in Goals for, we call that the “rub” or “push”.  Where the difference in this series will take place is in the head, Washington finally knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup, and I do not see them letting the foot off the Carolina throat at all.

The Caps have all the necessary parts healthy and ready to go in defense of their title, and a few nice surprises on Jakub Vrana (24g, 23a, 47pts) and Brett Connolly (22g, 24a, 46 pts) and nine game winning goals between them, with Vrana potting four and Connolly depositing five game winners.

As happy as I am for the Hurricanes, I do not see them even picking up a win in this series, but the foundation for future Cup runs is being laid right now, regardless if they get a win or not.  Carolina has one of the deepest farm systems in the NHL and those cupboards will be over flowing into Carolina soon.  Hockey News has Carolina rated as the #5 farm system and the Charlotte Checkers are one of the AHL’s best teams this year, but that’s the future, right here in the now, Washington shows Carolina the meaning of Storm Surge.

At least the NHL has someone in charge of his team in Washington who knows what he’s doing (see article photo).

Polka’s Prediction: Washington sweeps 4-0


(M3) Pittsburgh Penguins


(M2) New York Islanders

First, let me apologize to the New York Islanders, I honestly didn’t think you’d sniff the playoffs for another decade, and boy let me tell you, Crow tastes better with Barbeque sauce!  Lesson I learned, never underestimate the power of the Trotz side. 

After losing their first franchise player since Pat Lafontaine in Free Agency, HC Barry Trotz, washed his hands and brought the boys together and turned them into men. 

While Calder Trophy winner Matthew Barzal fell 23 points short of his rookie year, he’s in the playoffs this time around, and scoring is down all around on the Islanders, but they are first in the NHL in Goals against, another byproduct of the Barry Trotz system.

To me this series is the new, young, and fresh Islander legs against the older, many more playoff mile legs of the recent three-time Stanley Cup Champions, and do the Pens have one more run in those legs?

Pittsburgh is sixth in goals for and 14th in goals against, so it’s again like the other series, Strength vs. Strength, and I’m leaning the Penguins way in this series.  Yeah, what a shock, but they’re healthy for once and if any team in the 2019 Playoffs knows when to put the foot on the gas, it’s this very potent Penguins offense.  The regular season series was deadlocked at 2-2, and I’m expecting this series to go seven games, and the Pens come out on top. The difference, experience.

Polka’s Prediction: Penguins in seven

If you ever want an honest fact filled fantasy opinion feel free to reach out @PolkaPat

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