The first round of the Stanley Cup Finals did not disappoint! I am loving the trend of “upsets” and besides the Bruins (sorry Boston fans) I can root for any and all of the remaining teams. I feel like it’s been so long since the playoffs have been this wide open and let me tell you something, I am totally here for it.
If you listened to me on the Dr. Hockey Podcast you know I wasn’t “sold” on Tampa Bay winning this year, and boy do I love being right! With Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman out it wasn’t difficult for the Blue Jackets offense to figure out Vasilevskiy, and Tampa couldn’t find a way to out play their opponent.
It took me a few days to complete but I finally ranked all 8 first round match ups, and it was a lot harder to do than I originally thought. Going into round one I had an idea of what match ups would be my favorite but even I was surprised when I saw my final rankings.
#8. Boston Bruins | Toronto Maple Leafs
To start this was one of only two series that I was really rooting for one team to eliminate their opponent. I had really high hopes for Toronto, and they were so close, but once again they were eliminated in game seven at the hands of the Boston Bruins. It hurt to see Marchand skate to the second round and I’m hoping the Blue Jackets can do what Toronto couldn’t.
#7. Nashville Predators | Dallas Stars
I really wanted to see the core of this Nashville Predators team win the Stanley Cup. It saddened me to see them eliminated in the first round but how do you expect to win when your power play goes 0-15? (insert all the eye roll emojis)
#6. Calgary Flames | Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche looked good in the first round… really good. While I think Mike Smith and Philipp Grubauer were pretty even throughout the series, it was the top players that made the difference. The Avalanche’s top line notched 9 goals and tallied 21 points, and extinguished the Flames in five games.
#5. New York Islanders | Pittsburgh Penguins
Anytime I see Sidney Crosby on the wrong end of a handshake line it’s a good day. I have no problem rooting for the Islanders in the post season (as long as they aren’t playing the Devils) and this sweep was everything! At the conclusion of series the Penguins organization released a statement saying “Crosby and Malkin are the only two players that are untouchable.” Is their reign finally over? *fingers crossed*
#4. San Jose Sharks | Vegas Golden Knights
Definitely the most controversial of all the match ups, agree? This was the series I was the most indifferent towards. Don’t get me wrong I love Erik Karlsson but it didn’t matter to me who advanced to the second round. The NHL officially apologized to the Golden Knights after a crucial call led to their elimination. Personally, I disagreed with the call however, the Golden Knights simply can’t allow four goals in five minutes. #SorryNotSorry
#3. Tampa Bay Lightning | Columbus Blue Jackets
Oh Tampa.. I’m not sure what else there is to say. This has to go down as the biggest disappointment in recent NHL history. Clearly Columbus got hot at the right time and there was no stopping John Tortorella’s team.
#2. Winnipeg Jets | St. Louis Blues
The series that destroyed my bracket. For those of you who don’t know I had Winnipeg v. Toronto in the final and Blake Wheeler raising the Stanley Cup. You would think I would be upset about the the way this series ended… but not really. I love a good underdog story and if we can remember at one point St. Louis was down in the cellar (along with my Devils) and players were getting into fisticuffs at practice. After a coaching change and the emergence of rookie, Jordan Binnington, here they are in round 2. I always loved Alex Pietrangelo and have no problem rooting for him and his team.
#1. Washington Capitals | Carolina Hurricanes
Honestly, when I sat down and really thought about it, I was even surprised I ranked this match up as number 1. However, Carolina kept pushing and surprised a lot of people by eliminating the defending Stanley Cup Champions. I love that Carolina fans have a reason to celebrate after 9 years and how fitting is it that Mr. Game 7… Justin Williams… set up the series winning goal. It was a story with the perfect ending, unless you’re a Washington fan of course.