DETROIT >> Breakdown and predictions of the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Tampa Bay vs. Detroit
The Wings stumbled their way into the playoffs, going 8-10-3 down the stretch. They also lost the season series with Tampa Bay, 1-2-1, but did blank the highest-scoring offense (3.16 goals per game average) in the last meeting. Both teams are starting goalies who have no playoff experience. If the Wings can win on the road, they’ll get a team that’s struggled away from home in the Lightning (18-16-7).
Pick: Detroit in seven.
Montreal vs. Ottawa
Ottawa put together quite a run to reach the playoffs due in large part to goalie Andrew Hammond, who went 20-1-2 since taking over as the starter, and Mark Stone, who had seven goals over the last six games. The Senators have also won the past three meetings with Montreal by a combined score of 13-5. Montreal’s Carey Price led the NHL in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933), but has struggled against Ottawa in two games.
Pick: Montreal in six.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh
This could be a quick series given the direction these teams are going. The Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy with 113 points and outscored Pittsburgh 16-7 in going 3-0-1 in the season series. The Penguins went 4-9-2 in their last 15 games.
Pick: New York Rangers in five.
Washington vs. New York Islanders
This series features two of the league’s top point producers – the Islanders’ John Tavares (86) and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (81). Ovechkin led the league with 53 goals. The Capitals have ridden Braden Holtby all season, as he appeared in 73 of the 82 regular season games.
Pick: Washington in five.
St. Louis vs. Minnesota
The Blues won the Central Division and have to face the hottest team in the league since Jan. 15. The Wild are 28-9-3 since Devan Dubnyk took over in goal. St. Louis has had little success in the playoffs the last two seasons, winning the first two games in each series before dropping the next four.
Pick: Minnesota in seven.
Nashville vs. Chicago
Both teams did a remarkable job staying in playoff contention despite losing key members for a good length of time. Chicago’s Patrick Kane missed the final 21 games of the season with a broken clavicle, while Nashville’s Pekka Rinne missed close to a month with a sprained knee. Kane has been cleared to return.
Pick: Chicago in six.
Anaheim vs. Winnipeg
This series will come down to goaltending like most do in the playoffs and both teams don’t have a clear-cut No. 1. Over the last 18 games, the Ducks have split starts pretty evenly between Frederik Andersen (10) and John Gibson (eight). The Jets’ Michael Hutchinson replaced Ondrej Pavelec, who then replaced Hutchinson the last month of the season. Pavelec didn’t allow a goal in three starts last week.
Pick: Anaheim in seven.
Vancouver vs. Calgary
An interesting stat from this series: The past three times these teams have met in the playoffs the winner has gone on to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Vancouver hasn’t won a playoff round since 2011, while Calgary, which hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2009, last won a round in 2004.
Pick: Calgary in seven.
Detroit over Tampa Bay, 7 games
Montreal over Ottawa, 6 games
New York Rangers over Pittsburgh, 5 games
Washington over New York Islanders, 5 games
Minnesota over St. Louis, 7 games
Chicago over Nashville, 6 games
Anaheim over Winnipeg, 7 games
Calgary over Vancouver, 7 games
Montreal over Detroit, 6 games
New York Rangers over Washington, 6 games
Chicago over Minnesota, 6 games
Anaheim over Calgary, 5 games
Montreal over New York Rangers, 6 games
Chicago over Anaheim, 7 games
Chicago over Montreal, 6 games