Max Domi and Ryan Reaves laugh it up at Maple Leafs practice
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Predicting the results in Round 1 of the 2024 NHL Playoff bracket

Published April 20, 2024 at 12:32

After a long 82-game wait, the best time of the year is finally upon us, as the 2023-24 Stanley Cup Playoffs finally begin today. This season came right down to the wire with many of the final matchups not being decided until the final few days of the season, including the Leafs/Bruins series, which was decided just 4 days prior to the start of the playoffs.

The matchups are now officially locked in for both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. In the East, it's the Florida Panthers taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Boston Bruins, of course, meeting the Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers lining up with the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes squaring off with the New York Islanders. In the West, it's the Dallas Stars against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Winnipeg Jets taking on the Colorado Avalanche, the Vancouver Canucks slotted in against the Nashville Predators and the Los Angeles Kings locking horns with the Edmonton Oilers. Here's a look at the round 1 bracket:


Predicting the first round of these playoffs is not going to be easy. There are more than a few perceived mismatches that may become trap series, such as the Hurricanes and Islanders, or the Canucks and Predators. Why? Because if Ilya Sorokin or Juuse Saros really gets hot, it's going to be tough to beat a hot goalie in 4 of 7 games. At any rate, let's dive in, starting in the West.

Dallas vs. Vegas:

Call me crazy, but I see Dallas coming out on top here. Even with the additions of Noah Hanifin, Tomas Hertl and Anthony Mantha, the Vegas Golden Knights might not have enough firepower to topple the red hot Dallas Stars, who finished their season on an 8-2-0 run. The Stars finished 2nd overall this season, just one point behind the New York Rangers. I like Dallas in 6.

Winnipeg vs. Colorado:

Listen. Connor Hellebuyck aside, the Avs have too much firepower here. Nathan MacKinnon played out of his mind this season and good luck to the Jets trying to game plan for Cale Makar, who is an enigma when it comes to predicting how he'll look to generate his looks from the back end. Avs in 5. I don't think this series is close.

Vancouver vs. Nashville:

As much as I'd love to see Saros turn it on and shock the hockey world, dispatching of the Canucks seems like too tall a task for the Preds. Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, the list goes on. There are too many guys to try to contain in Vancouver, and for that reason, I have the Canucks in 5. I do think the Preds will take one of the first two games in Vancouver, though.

Los Angeles vs. Edmonton:

Last year, the Kings and Oilers played their hearts out in Round 1. The Oilers took the series 4-2, and have only gotten better. However, the Kings have also improved this season, which makes this series perhaps the most intriguing one in the West. I think this is the only series that probably goes 7 games in the Western Conference, but I see Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman propelling the Oilers to victory in Game 7.

As far as the East goes, I am predicting two upsets. There are some very interesting matchups, and after taking the time to evaluate a bit, here's what I came away with.

Florida vs. Tampa Bay:

Yes, I know Florida is a very good hockey team, but I think the Tampa Bay Lightning are still a very dangerous team. They're not all that far removed from back-to-back Stanley Cups, and still have most of the core from those two championship teams on the current roster. Nikita Kucherov has been impossible to stop all year long and I think that translate to the playoffs. Betting against Florida is a good way to lose money, but I'm still saying Tampa in 7. I just have a feeling.

Boston vs. Toronto:

The Bruins have been the Leafs' kryptonite for longer than I've been alive, but there's just something about this Leafs team. Brad Treliving was very methodical last summer when he put his stamp on the team by adding "snot" and tenacity in the form of Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and Ryan Reaves. I do think that all 3 players are going to play well against Boston and take some of the pressure off of the "Core 4" in Toronto. I expect Auston Matthews to have a chip on his shoulder after missing the 70-goal mark by 1 and if they receive the type of goaltending they got from Ilya Samsonov when he came back from his hiatus, I don't think the Bruins will have the same answers that they've had for the Leafs in the past. Hey - the Buds have to get through the Bruins eventually, right? Why not this season? Leafs in 6.

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals:

The Capitals will always have the Alex Ovechkin X-factor to consider, but with the soon-to-be all-time goalscoring leader getting up there in age, I don't think he has it in him to drag the Capitals past the regular season champs. The Rangers were an absolute force this season and I expect that to continue in the playoffs. Rangers in 4. This one is going to be a slaughter.

Carolina vs. New York Islanders:

How cool would it be for Patrick Roy to step in behind the bench mid-season, lead the Islanders all the way to the playoffs and then go on a long run? It would be a fun story, but I don't think it's this year's story. The Carolina Hurricanes are one of the deepest teams in the National Hockey League. They're 4 lines deep, have 3 excellent D pairs and very strong goaltending. They might be the closest thing to a perfectly structured team that you'll find in the East and after adding Jake Guentzel at the deadline, I just think the Canes are too much for the Isles. I do think the Islanders will steal a game or 2, but I ultimately think Carolina skates away with this one, even if Sorokin plays to the level we've all come to expect. I'm on the fence with Canes in 5 or Canes in 6, but I'll go with Canes in 5 here.

To summarize, I've got Stars in 6, Avs in 5, Canucks in 5, Oilers in 7, Lightning in 7, Leafs in 6, Rangers in 4 and Canes in 5, setting up a Round 2 that stacks up like this:

Dallas vs. Colorado
Vancouver vs. Edmonton

Tampa vs. Toronto
New York Rangers vs. Carolina

Who do you think is the most likely Wild Card team to pull off a potential upset in the first round? Let us know in the poll below!
April 20   |   428 answers
Predicting the results in Round 1 of the 2024 NHL Playoff bracket

Which Wild Card team do you think has the best opportunity to pull off the upset in Round 1 of the 2023-24 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Tampa Bay16939.5 %
Nashville6014 %
Vegas16438.3 %
Washington358.2 %
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