NEW JERSEY DEVILS @ TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING- 7:00 PM EDT/ 4:00 PDT (SN)
The best team in the East against a serious underdog as the Devils head down to Florida to take on one of the Cup favorites tonight in Tampa. The Lightning are an imposing force to begin with, but they got some good news heading into Game 1 tonight:
One more offensive weapon for Keith Kincaid to deal with. Yes, Keith Kincaid. Cory Schneider is the backup tonight, having lost the starting role after battling through some injury issues this season. And before you completely write off the Devils, keep in mind they swept the Lightning in their season series, and while it would be the biggest upset of the 1st round if they could pull it off, they’re probably going to give the Lightning a game. It will be interesting to watch Taylor Hall tonight, as he continues on in this season of redemption after being exiled from Oilers Island.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS @ BOSTON BRUINS 7:00 EDT/ 4:00 PDT (CBC)
The Leafs look to put the disappointment not just of last year’s first round exit behind them, but also of the epic 3rd period collapse in Game 7 of their series against the Bruins in 2013. As we’ve seen this year, this Leafs squad is far better than either of these incarnations, and this is a pretty even matchup on paper. Keeping their composure against a team like the Bruins is going to be key, and capitalizing on the PP will benefit their chances greatly. For the Bruins, they’re going to want to test Frederik Andersen early and often, and exploit a somewhat suspect Leafs D. This series may end up coming down to which team can get the most out of their youth, something they both have in spades.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS @ WASHINGTON CAPITALS 7:30 EDT/ 4:30 PDT (SN360)
The annual ‘Are the Caps going to collapse in the post-season’ watch is on again, and they’ve got a legit goaltending controversy to add to the fun. Philipp Grubauer gets the start tonight over Braden Holtby, and while it’s causing a stir over whether or not Grubauer is ready for this, it’s got to be a good feeling for the Caps knowing they have Holtby as plan B. That being said, for the Caps and their fans, the pressure to get past the 2nd round as Alexander Ovechkin gets older is growing exponentially, and they’re going to want to send a message against a very good Columbus team that this time it’s going to be different. The problem is: will anyone believe them? This should be a fun one to watch, as Columbus is a team that kind of slipped under the radar as a fun watch, with guys like Artemi Panerin, Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
COLORADO AVALANCHE @ NASHVILLE PREDATORS 9:30 EDT/ 6:30 PDT (SN)
The best team in the West versus last year’s cellar dwellar. I give full credit to Jared Bednar’s club, going from being historically bad to making the dance this season, but they are going to get slaughtered here. The Preds are looking to get back to the Finals, and they’re going to win this one easily. The only way this one ends badly is if they don’t take the Avs seriously, and even as good as they are, you can’t sleep on this Colorado team. They can burn you, and the advantage of the altitude and the issues it can bring could come back to haunt the Preds.
SAN JOSE SHARKS @ ANAHEIM DUCKS 10:30 EDT/ 7:30 PDT (SN360)
Another pretty even matchup, but one where a key injury to the Ducks might give the upper hand to the Sharks. Anaheim will be without John Gibson, and instead will turn to Ryan Miller to start the series. Gibson was hurt on April 1st, and while former Canuck Miller has performed well in the backup role this season, the Sharks could feast on him. The Ducks are also without Cam Fowler, a huge loss on the backline. The Sharks have their own glaring omission from the lineup in Joe Thornton, but hearing that he may be back as early as Game 2 is going to be a huge boost for a team that is feeling their window to win a Cup starting to close.