The OTF Staff Predicts the 2019 Playoffs

@OldTakesExposed, are you out there?

The playoffs begin tomorrow—the final season, the race to sixteen wins, the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The On the Forecheck staff is back with another year of playoff predictions, to go with our extremely correct 2018 ones (don’t click this link, just trust us)!

We’ll start, as is tradition, in the East.

The Eastern Conference:

(Blue = higher seed; red = lower seed.)

Musa believes in the Blue Jackets, Carson believes in the Maple Leafs, and Kate is rocking the perfect combination of wholesome, heartwarming upset (the Carolina Hurricanes win a playoff series!) with miserable, foreboding upset (the Pittsburgh Penguins win a playoff series).

The Western Conference:

(Blue = higher seed; red = lower seed.)

Yep, we’re still all homers here. Also, Hayley and Ticker are the only ones who believe in the Winnipeg Jets. Who would have guessed just a few months ago that this is how the Blues would look?

We’ll pause for a brief Q&A before continuing to the Finals picks, where you can find out which three staff members hate joy.

Which series interests you the most? Which will be a blow-out or possibly a sweep?

Kate: Blue Jackets–Lightning has all kinds of narrative and pressure. The Lightning have to keep being the best, and the Jackets have to make it worth their while. As for the potential sweep...I’m betting the Sharks’ skaters put up enough of a fight to make up for their goaltending. If not? Yikes.

George: CGY–COL could be a fun, high-scoring series. That’s two teams that have been strong offensively this year. I think Columbus might be wishing in two weeks that they hadn’t gone all out for the reward of getting rolled by TB in the first round.

Rachel: Vegas–San Jose. Also, seeing the Lightning sweep CBJ would be excellent.

Chris: Blues–Jets, to me, is must-watch. Whichever team survives will be just a carcass of the one that went in. Avs’ goaltending has been good as of late, but they could still easily lose a couple of 7-3 games. They might get outscored by 10-plus goals in this series, if they’re not swept, too.

Eric: Canes–Caps. Two different, but really good teams. Don’t think CBJ has much of a chance against TBL.

Musa: Leafs–Bruins, which could also be a blowout. Do the Leafs have the Right Stuff? Or are they going to hit the playoff wall again?

Hayley: Blues–Jets, this might be the biggest match-up in the West, despite neither team taking the division. This is going to be war. This is the type of match-up that blood feuds are rooted in. The sad part is, whoever wins will probably limp into the second round and be taken out in 6 games or less.

[Ed.: “Sad”?]

Tucker: Maple Leafs–Bruins is sure to be electric for the second year in a row. Hopefully Kadri doesn’t do anything dumb this time, but that may be a tough ask. Either way, I expect a hard-fought series that goes the full 7 games. Caps–Canes, on the other hand, I expect to be wrapped up in 4 games. The Capitals are just too talented and too mean for Carolina to hang with them.

Bobby: Blue Jackets–Lightning. After going all-in at the deadline, there isn’t a flaw in the Blue Jackets forwards group. Jones and Werenski are going to play 25+ minutes a night, and their second pairing is okay. It all comes down to Sergei Bobrovsky. Infamously bad in the playoffs, he has been lightning hot (sorry not sorry). How close this series is boils down to which Bobrovsky shows up to play.

Carson: The Jets–Blues series has the most interest for Preds fans, as it will produce our potential second round opponent, but I’m personally more intrigued by the Avalanche–Flames series. Colorado gave Nashville all they could handle last year, so I’m interested to see how the Avs’ young core will play with a year of playoff experience under their belt. As for blowouts, Caps–Canes and Lightning–Jackets are both equally possible sweeps.

Laura: Penguins versus Isles interests me. I want to see what a playoff-inexperienced team with a SC coach can do against the Pens. For me Tampa–CBJ is the most likely to be a sweep.

What’s your biggest upset prediction and why did you pick it?

Kate: The Avalanche have goaltending right now, and their shooting’s warmed back up too. The Flames do not have goaltending right now.

Rachel: Caps are upset by the Canes in the first round. Winning the first round is just the start for the soon-to-be-dominant Hurricanes franchise.

Chris: Bruins over Bolts in round two, because curses exist. In all four major sports, the most recent team to tie or set regular-season victory records failed to win their respective championships that year.

Eric: Flames–Avs. Not sold on the Flames and Grubauer is hot. Could be a surprise.

Musa: Lightning–Jackets. Jackets have more talent than they have been playing up to, and Bob can even up the scales. Maybe Torts adds in a little old school muck-it-up as well.

George: The MacKinnon line could blow open that series for Colorado. In the East...with Pittsburgh’s recent playoff history, does picking the higher-seeded Isles over Pens count as an upset?

Laura: Is the Isles technically an upset? It seems like it would be. I am really rooting for these guys both for Trotz and for a “So There!” to Tavares.

Hayley: Isles–Penguins. There is something oddly satisfying about the thought of a team coached by Barry Trotz sending the Penguins packing back to back years.

Tucker: Upsets are for the birds.

Bobby: I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Blues. Not just picking them to win the first round, but march all the way to the Finals—with a rookie goaltender—certainly is bold. However, they look like a complete team right now.

Carson: Leafs–Bruins, because Brad Marchand is the worst and John Tavares is a very good hockey player. When in doubt, pick the team with the best player.

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for...:

Conference and Cup Finals

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Most of the OTF staff is once again predicting the Preds to make the Stanley Cup Final, though there’s a little more variety this time and a lot more people are picking the Lightning to win it all. Musa is doubling down on the narrative here and adding a bold Conn Smythe pick to really make things intriguing.

We’ll leave you with some HOT TAKES to warm your mornings.

Playoff Hot Takes

Kate: I hate joy and I’m sorry. (You have no idea how close I came to picking the Stars in the first round. The scorchiest of takes.)

George: Arvy sets the franchise record in points per game in the playoffs, and Pekka notches two shutouts.

Rachel: St. Louis takes out Winnipeg in the first round. But who of us wouldn’t love to see CBJ knock out Tampa Bay in the first round?

Chris: Pressure creates diamonds, and it bursts pipes. Sorry, Tampa, but anything less than 16 wins is a failure.

Eric: A first-round exit leads to some surprising summer changes in Toronto.

Musa: Goalies matter. Looking at you, Flames. And Sharks.

Hayley: Nashville Predators’ power play ignites and carries them to Stanley Cup glory.

Carson: The distance between Winnipeg and St Louis is over twice that of the distance from Dallas to Music City. Nashville dispatches Dallas quickly, and after having to travel back and forth between Missouri and Manitoba, the exhausted winner of the Jets–Blues series gets beaten in less than 6 games.

Tucker: Get ready for round 2 of Vegas vs. Washington this year. Vegas will prevail this time around.

Bobby: At least three coaches for playoff teams will be searching for jobs when their seasons are done.

Laura: Juuse Saros will get some planned starts at some point.