2019 NHL Playoffs: 1st Round Matchups to Follow
The grueling 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs is about to get underway. It takes 16 wins in the playoffs to raise the Cup, but a lot can happen between now and mid-June. But we know the hits will be big and the beards will be long.
Nitrogen Sports Blog highlights the five most intriguing Stanley Cup Playoff matchups to follow in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the oldest rivalries in hockey will be renewed again. Last year these two squads faced off in a wild seven-game series in the playoffs. The Leafs took a gut punch after blowing a third-period lead in Game 7 of that series, so they will be looking for revenge this time around. The Leafs returned this year with some new personnel. The addition of John Tavares has taken some pressure off of the shoulders of star forward Auston Matthews. The duo makes Toronto that much more dangerous.
The Bruins are a physical and gritty team. The roster is filled with players who can move the puck and score but also willing to mix it up in the corners. Boston may be able to take advantage of the fact that Toronto’s offense seems to have slowed down a bit after a scalding hot start.
New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Islanders had unexpected success this year after losing former franchise player John Tavares to the Maple Leafs. Mathew Barzal was able to step up and lead the Isles offensively, but an improved defense is what made the Islanders successful this year. They literally went from worst to first in goals against. It definitely also helped the Islanders that they are being handled by Stanley Cup champion head coach Barry Trotz, whose experience could be the difference the Isles need in winning one of the most intriguing Stanley Cup Playoff matchups this year.
The Penguins aren’t as dominant as they used to in previous years. But it would be crazy to underestimate a team led by Sidney Crosby. The future Hall of Famer put up a 100-point season and showed he can still control games.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks
Last year the Golden Knights took the world by storm. They became the first expansion team to reach the championship round in modern sports history. These two teams have quickly built up an intense rivalry and this series could get chippy.
The last time they met a few fights broke out and 42 penalty minutes were handed out . Last year the Knights got the best of the Sharks on their way to the finals. The Sharks have been among the elite teams this season, especially after adding defenseman Erik Karlsson to their roster back in the offseason. But the Knights are looking especially dangerous since adding forward Mark Stone at the trade deadline before signing the forward to a staggering eight-year, $76 million deal last month, per Spotrac.com.
St. Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets took it the Blues this year. The Jets won three of the four meetings between the two teams in the regular season. However, all those games occurred before the calendar flipped to 2019. Since then, the Jets have added offensive and defensive depth at the trade deadline but slumped a little to close out the season.
The Blues, on the other hand, began the season slow and have been surging as of late. Forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn turned their early season struggles around. Their elevated play allowed the Blues to nearly steal the Central Division.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Lightning
The Lightning have been unstoppable this season. Nikita Kucherov just put up the most points by any NHL player since 1996. His 128 points blew away the field, but he’s hardly the only one doing well in Tampa. The Lightning are easily the best contender for the Stanley Cup with such a talented group of players that make things happen on the attack, on the blue line, and in between the pipes.
Steven Stamkos has been a net-filling staple for the Lightning and turned in another great year. The Bolts aren’t top heavy in the talent department either. Tampa Bay had nine players record at least 40 points this year. While the Blue Jackets have a pesky squad and bolstered their roster at the deadline, it will be tough to match the talent of the Lightning.
All Stanley Cup Playoff matchups this year are worthy of everyone’s attention. In this sports betting guide, Nitrogen Sports Blog discussed five that stand out when factoring recent history and combination of talent from teams involved.