The NHL has completed its exhibition play and will drop the puck on the Qualifying Round tomorrow at 12:00 PM Eastern Time. All the action will get started as the New York Rangers face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now, let’s dive in to each series and make a prediction!
Eastern Conference Qualifying Round Predictions
New York Rangers versus Carolina Hurricanes
NYR vs CAR: The first series on the NHL docket is also one of the most intriguing and hardest to pick. Neither team has announced a starting goaltender and it looks like each team’s top offensive defenseman could be out for game 1. Carolina will be without Dougie Hamilton tomorrow and Tony DeAngelo is a game-time decision for the Rangers.
OUTLOOK: New York has the edge in firepower thanks to Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. On defense, the Hurricanes play a better overall system but without Dougie Hamilton it will be a big hit. In goal, the Rangers hold a huge edge no matter if they start Henrik Lundqvist or Igor Shesterkin.
PREDICTION: NYR in 3 games
Pittsburgh Penguins versus Montreal Canadiens
PIT vs MTL: The series is one that if the Canadiens pull off the upset, critics of the 24 team Return to Play plan will point to. Simply put, there is no way in Gordie Howe’s name the Penguins should lose this series.
OUTLOOK: If Carey Price stands on his head, the Canadiens who are the lesser team up front and on defense, deserves a medal. The firepower of the Penguins with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin alone, should quell any concerns of Pittsburgh’s goalie concerns.
PREDICTION: Penguins in 3 games
New York Islanders versus the Florida Panthers
NYI vs. FLA: The Islanders are the favorite here, but there is a goalie on the Panthers that may have some thoughts on that. The Islanders will need to execute their defensive scheme to a tee in order to get past Florida.
OUTLOOK: While the Islanders overall defense is a huge plus, Mathew Barzal isn’t going to be enough for an Isles team that struggles to score. In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky should make that job even tougher. This will allow the more creative Panthers forwards get the job done. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Mike Hoffman will give them the edge.
PREDICTION: Panthers in 4 games
Toronto Maple Leafs versus Columbus Blue Jackets
TOR vs. CBJ: For me this is the hardest series to pick. It’s basically the Leafs high powered offense against John Tortorella’s aggressive forechecking Blue Jackets. This is bound to be one of the nastiest series in the qualifiers as well.
OUTLOOK: The question here is simple, can Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Morgan Rielly score consistently over Tort’s lunchpail gang? Columbus has nothing but 200′ foot players up and down the lineup led by Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson which is why this is hard to pick. The X-Factor in this series will be goaltending and that’s what will decide it.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs in 5 games