The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs might be the best action in all of pro sports. Every single year the first round is a bloodbath – regardless of how the regular season shook down, there always seems to be an upset of incredible proportions in the first round of the NHL playoffs, and this year is as advertised.
Home ice advantage is important, no doubt, but no team can be taken for granted in the NHL. This week, we asked which first round series featuring top seeds against wildcard teams is the most likely to result in an upset victory.
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Can the Jets win without Morrissey?
The Winnipeg Jets won the poll in a landslide. They pummeled the Vegas Golden Knights in the series opener despite narrowly sneaking into the playoffs after Game 81 of their season, and are giving Vegas all they’ve got. Last night, they came back from a 4-1 deficit to send Game 3 to double overtime, and despite the Golden Knights winning it to take a 2-1 series lead, this has all the makings of a long, tough series.
However, the Jets suffered arguably their most impactful injury loss among skaters with top defender Josh Morrissey exiting the game after just 1:14 of ice time. Outside of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, Morrissey is the Jets’ most important player and his injury could spell disaster for the Jets.
Without Morrissey, the Jets’ chances of upsetting the Golden Knights take a massive tumble.
Champs fight back against Seattle
The Seattle Kraken surprised the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche with a big 3-1 victory in Game 1 of the series, but the Avalanche fought back to even the series and take a split into the two game set in Seattle.
The Avalanche are simply too good to count out, and despite the Kraken’s well built roster that has proven to be a handful for every team this season, it would be a massive surprise to see them defeat the Avalanche in the first round.
Other than playing without their captain Gabriel Landeskog, the biggest weak spot on Colorado’s roster right now is their goaltending. Alexandar Georgiev was phenomenal in the regular season, but playoff hockey is a different animal. Can he play to that same level now that the pressure is at its peak?
Time will tell.
Panthers may be outmatched
Matthew Tkachuk says the Florida Panthers are not going to go away easy, and he has been playing incredible hockey in the first round. But, the Boston Bruins are a team unlike any the NHL has ever seen.
They’re without David Krejci, their top goalie in Linus Ullmark is playing hurt, and they’re still dominating.
The Panthers fought like hell to make the playoffs so they’re already playing at their peak level. The Bruins clinched ages ago and are now starting to find their stride. They can only get better, and the Panthers are in tough to pull off another three victories against the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
Islanders have been sneaky good
In recent years, the Carolina Hurricanes have been a popular pick to go all the way, and this year is more of the same. The New York Islanders were barely a playoff team this year, but they are proving to be a difficult out.
They might be down 2-1 in the series, but they have absolutely dominated possession stats and scoring chances at 5v5, all series long. They are generating a ton of high quality scoring chances but, as has been the problem this entire season, the Islanders are struggling to convert.
If they start getting some puck luck, they could explode against the Hurricanes and we could see a huge upset. This series offers the best chance at an upset, at least so far among the wildcard teams.