Saturday, 6 April 2019

Brackets Are Set

The dust has settled. The games have been played. The brackets are set. The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Wednesday night, and the sixteen teams that qualified for the playoffs now know who each will be playing in the opening round on their path to the Stanley Cup.

There is some intrigue as the Winnipeg Jets fell out of first-place in the Central Division and find themselves looking up at Nashville for the second season in a row. The difference, however, is they will face a much superior opponent this season in the opening round, matching up with St. Louis as opposed to Minnesota last season. Nashville, who defeated Chicago to secure first-place in the division, will now get the pleasure of dealing with the Dallas Stars, a team that seemingly no one really wants to play thanks Ben Bishop's recent renaissance in the crease. Both of those series will start on Wednesday.

The Columbus Blue Jackets grabbed the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference, setting them up for a series with the Tampa Bay Lightning that I'm not entirely sure they wanted. That being said, if there was ever a time for the Blue Jackets to live up to their potential, this would be the series to do so. Bobrovsky, Panarin, Duchene, and Dzingel will need to each have a big series to match the potency of Vasilevskiy, Kucherov, Stamkos, and Point, but Tampa Bay's depth may be the difference in this series.

Officially, if there was a sweep in the first round, the first team who could do it based on games and schedule is the aforementioned Tampa Bay Lightning as they will play Game Four against Columbus in the Ohio city on Tuesday, April 16 at 7pm. The deepest this round will go into April is Wednesday, April 24 as both the Washington-Carolina and Nashville-Dallas series would conclude their respective Game Sevens on that night.

In the Eastern Conference, both the Boston-Toronto and New York Islanders-Pittsburgh series will be played every second night while the Winnipeg-St. Louis, Calgary-Colorado, and San Jose-Vegas series will all fit their schedules into 12-day formats. Without any long distances to be traveled by any team, it seems these first-round series will completed efficiently.

In knowing the schedule, that also means that the HBIC Playoff Pool will return this weekend! I'll post the rules and spreadsheet tomorrow, but there will be a new wrinkle to this year's pool after it took a one-year hiatus in needing something to spice up the competition. I believe I have found said spice, so look for that tomorrow!

The playoffs are back, and it feel so good!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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