The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Wednesday, April 11 with three games, including one Eastern Conference matchup as the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins. The other three matchups in the Eastern Conference get underway on Thursday, April 12, as the New Jersey Devils visit the Tampa Bay Lightning; the Columbus Blue Jackets are at the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Boston Bruins. Let’s look at each of these best-of-seven game series and Stanley Cup Playoff picks.
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Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic No. 1) vs. New Jersey Devils (Wild Card No. 2)
The Lightning finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and they should have the edge in this series with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos leading the offense, while Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the top goaltenders in the league. What the Devils have is momentum, as they have been red-hot down the stretch led by Hart Trophy favorite Taylor Hall and goaltender Keith Kincaid. New Jersey also had a lot of success in the regular season against the Lightning, winning all three games. All three were one-goal decisions, with New Jersey winning by scores of 5-4 in a shootout, 4-3 and 2-1.
Tampa Bay -320, New Jersey +240
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The Lightning are loaded all over the ice and while the Devils are hot, I just can’t see them winning this series against a superior team. I will lay the price and take the Lightning.
Boston Bruins (Atlantic No. 2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Atlantic No. 3)
The Bruins completely blew it on Sunday night, as they lost at home to Florida which results in them playing Toronto instead of New Jersey. It also cost them the Atlantic Division and home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Boston could have all kinds of trouble against a very talented Toronto team. This could be a high scoring series, as the Bruins and Leafs were in the top five in goals per game at 3.3 per contest. Toronto won three of the four meetings this season against the Bruins. Toronto won by scores of 3-2 in overtime, 4-1 and 4-3, while the lone Boston win was by a score of 4-1.
Boston -160, Toronto +130
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I think the Leafs can match the Bruins on offense and in goal. I will take Boston to win this series at plus money.
Washington Capitals (Metro No. 1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (Wild Card No. 1)
The Capitals will try and finally shed their playoff choker label, as they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals have the edge in scoring led by Alexander Ovechkin, but the Blue Jackets may have the edge on defense and in goal. The Blue Jackets have been red-hot to end the season, but they did lose three of four this season to the Capitals. Washington won by scores of 4-3, 3-2 and 4-2, while the lone Columbus win was by a score of 5-1.
Washington -140, Columbus +110
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The price on this series makes taking Washington attractive, as despite their playoff struggles, the Capitals are a better team than Columbus.
Pittsburgh Penguins (Metro No. 2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Metro No. 3)
Fierce rivals will meet in the first round as the two-time defending champion Penguins take on the Flyers. This is not the same Pittsburgh team that won the Stanley Cup the last two years, as they don’t play nearly as well on defense. The Penguins still have a potent offense led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and they have Matt Murray in goal but they are simply awful 5-on-5. The Penguins win by dominating on the power play, as they are No. 1 in the league. The Flyers can score plenty of goals, but unless Brian Elliott shows he is a different goaltender than in the past, the Flyers don’t have an answer in goal. This should be a very high scoring series. The Penguins swept the four games in the regular season, winning by as score of 5-4 twice in overtime, 5-1 and 5-2.
Pittsburgh -240, Philadelphia +195
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I don’t think this is a sure series win for the Penguins, as they simply don’t play any defense. I don’t trust the Flyers, so I’ll pass on the series play, but I do think playing every game in this series to go over the total is worth doing.
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