Time to enjoy some hockey with zero emotional investment!
The NHL’s annual tournament to determine a champion gets underway tonight with two games in each Conference, starting with a couple great matchups,
CAROLINA HURRICANES vs BOSTON BRUINS- 4PM PST- PNC ARENA, RALIEGH, NC
While the Bruins are no ordinary Wild Card team, they certainly haven’t shown well against the Canes this season, dropping all three meetings by a combined score of 16-1. If there’s a glimmer of hope for the Bruins, it’s that Carolina will not have Frederik Andersen in goal tonight, and will have to start Antti Raanta instead. Raanta’s been good this year, but the Canes rode the play of Andersen to first in the Metropolitan.
The Bruins will go with Linus Ullmark, who as a former member of the Sabres, has no previous playoff experience (obviously). The Bruins still have the ability to overwhelm teams with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but with a team that can play defence like Carolina they will need more from the rest of their lineup if they wanna get out of this one alive.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS vs TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING- 4:30PM PST- SCOTIABANK ARENA- TORONTO, ON
Two intriguing storylines here, as the Lightning begin their attempt to be the first team to win three straight Cups since the New York Islanders run of four in a row back in the early 80’s. And then there’s the Leafs, desperately hoping that the changes they’ve made this past season will give them a different result than another crushing first round exit.
This is the best Leafs team ever, in terms of what they accomplished in the regular season, but none of that matters if they can’t go on a run of any significance. The pressure is on, and failure is not an option this time.
Fortunately, this is a Tampa team that’s good, but maybe not as good as they were the past two seasons, and if the Leafs can get a solid round out of Jack Campbell, the offensive leadership they need from Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and keep the likes of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov at bay, they might just pull this off. And with the Leafs dressing Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, the potential for fireworks is there.
MINNESOTA WILD vs ST LOUIS BLUES- 6:30PM PST- XCEL ENERGY CENTER, ST PAUL, MN
Forget the other ones, this might be the game to watch tonight. Two really evenly matched teams, and yet the Blues have just owned the Wild of late. There’s a ton of expectations in Minny this spring after a solid regular season, and Dean Evason’s crew are ready to go to war against Craig Berube’s Blues squad.
The difference in the series could come down to goaltending. Minnesota has Marc Andre Fleury in the crease tonight, while the Blues are starting Ville Husso, in his first ever playoff game, as he’s gotten the nod over Jordan Billington. Keep an eye on how quick the Blues are to give Billington a shot should they fall behind.
EDMONTON OILERS vs LOS ANGELES KINGS- 7PM PST, ROGERS PLACE, EDMONTON, AB
The Oilers are looking, much like the Leafs, to erase recent playoff frustration, but can Mike Smith really be the goaltender to lead them into a Cup run? Sure, he’s been great this season, and the Oilers have been on a tear since hiring Jay Woodcroft in February. The Kings might be a good opponent for them, but they’ll likely need more than just Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to take down this LA squad.