When the NHL announced its twenty-four team playoff format, it left us with some very unusual matchups. Teams that before the pause, were locks for playoff hockey like Pittsburgh and Edmonton, were suddenly taking on struggling teams like Montreal and Chicago in a best of five, just to make it to the first round. The consensus amongst NHL fans seems to be that this format gives bad teams who don’t deserve a chance a chance. I agree, and this is great for Bruins fans, as not only does it provide us with entertainment while we wait for the Bruins seeding to be confirmed, but it might mean teams like Pittsburgh and Toronto could be gone before round one. Here is my take on all eight series’, and who Bruins fans should root for.
#12 Montreal Canadiens vs. #5 Pittsburgh Penguins
The Habs are the Bruins fiercest rival, and Bruins fans would never root for them, but the Bruins and Penguins have a history of bad blood as well. Most Bruins fans dislike both teams, so what we should look for here is what result will bring the most suffering for both franchises. If you’ve read the Habs equivalent of SCOC, you would see that the commenters desperately want to lose this series. A 12.5% chance at Alexis Lafreniere is better for them than the 3.6% chance at the Cup that MoneyPuck.com gives them. Pittsburgh is clearly in it to win it, with the deadline acquisitions of Jason Zucker, and Veteran Patrick Marleau joining for a run at a Stanley Cup that has eluded him. Penguins fans would be disappointed in losing to Montreal, and it would be a huge failure for a team in Win now mode.
Root for: Montreal (It won’t feel right)
Prediction: Pittsburgh in 3
#11 New York Rangers vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes
This is another difficult series to pick. The Bruins and Rangers are two original six teams, who have battled with each other for decades. However, the Bruins and Hurricanes have a recent history, with the two teams meeting in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. As you would expect, Brad Marchand has rivals on both teams, getting into a scrap with former Bruins prospect Ryan Lindgren, and his famous C gesture towards Hurricanes captain Justin Williams. I lean towards rooting for the Rangers here, as they have one of the deepest prospect pools in the league, with Kakko, Shesterkin, Fox, Miller, and Kravtsov. If they were to lose and the ping pong balls bounced their way, they would be loaded for the foreseeable future.
Root for: New York
Prediction: New York in 4
#10 Florida Panthers vs. #7 New York Islanders
For me, the Islanders are the team to root for in this series. Besides Mathew Barzal, there aren’t any players on the Islanders who really scare me. Besides Barzal, they have a bunch of good players, like JG Pageau, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson, but no one who really can change a game. The Islanders seem to have been overachieving since the culture-changing summer of 2018. Meanwhile, the Panthers have guys that for whatever reason play really well against the Bruins. Mike Hoffman terrorized the Bruins in the 2017 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Sasha Barkov is a quality Center, and the scariest forward of all is Noel Acciari.
Root for: New York
Prediction: Florida in 5
#9 Columbus Blue Jackets vs. #8 Toronto Maple Leafs
Root for: Columbus. This needs no explanation.
Prediction: Toronto in 5
#12 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Edmonton Oilers
The Bruins have history with both these teams, and similar to the Montreal-Pittsburgh series, I think Bruins fans should root for the Blackhawks, as winning the lottery would most benefit Chicago, although Edmonton getting another first overall pick would be terrifying.
Root for: Chicago (And against Edmonton in the lottery)
Prediction: Chicago in 5
#11 Arizona Coyotes vs. #6 Nashville Predators
This is the only series I would say I’m neutral on, as I don’t have strong feelings about either team. Arizona winning a couple rounds would be cool, but I’ve always liked the Predators for whatever reason. I wouldn’t be upset if either team won, but if I had to pick I would say Arizona, as Nashville has a stronger team, and is more likely to make a run.
Root for: Nashville
Prediction: Nashville in 4
#10 Minnesota Wild vs. #7 Vancouver Canucks
It sounds like the NHL will not be allowing Kirill Kaprizov to play in this years playoffs. This is devastating for the Wild, as they’ve waited years for Kaprizov to come to North America, after lighting up the KHL. The acquisition of Tyler Toffoli should tip this series in Vancouver’s favor, and that is who you should root for. Minnesota is who I would like to see win the second draft lottery, as they could use another true future star to go alongside Kaprizov. Vancouver adding Lafreniere would mean another talented young player alongside Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.
Root for: Vancouver
Prediction: Vancouver in 3
#9 Winnipeg Jets vs. #8 Calgary Flames
I’m rooting for Calgary, hoping that we will somehow get a Battle of Alberta in the bubble. The Jets winning Lafreniere would also be cool with me personally.
Root for: Calgary
Prediction: Calgary in 5
The Qualifying round will be a can’t miss experience, and I can’t wait for it to begin. Getting to watch other teams fight for their playoff lives, while watching meaningful Bruins hockey where they can’t be eliminated, should be an awesome experience. Only three days until training camp!