We all know the 2019 NHL Playoffs aren’t starting yet, and that’s to the delight of some fan bases, I’m sure. However, as we cross over the halfway point of the season, we’re going to take a look at who has put themselves in a position to contend for this year’s Cup, and how they might fare if the season were to end right meow. This is as of the morning of Monday, January 7th, 2019. Also, I created that bracket up there on Paint at my day job. Take it easy on me. Vamonos!

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres @ Tampa Bay Lightning

This would be a very entertaining series if it took place right now. Obviously, time will tell if the Sabres will be able to maintain their impressive play. On the other hand, we would need to witness an epic meltdown for Tampa to not make this year’s playoffs. Despite the strong showing of Buffalo early on this season, I give the Sabres a game, and maybe they earn an extra one. The Lightning win this one in five or six games.

Boston Bruins @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Classic. We, as fans, are never in for a dull time when these teams square up, and I get all warm inside imagining another Boston/Toronto playoff series. I think Boston has somewhat flown under the radar this season, but I suppose that could be the case for any team when compared to Toronto, who has done everything except stay off the radar. From the Nylander holdout, to snubbed All Stars, to injuries creeping in, the Leafs have no shortage of headlines. However, they have no shortage of talent either, and when you’re the toughest team to match-up with in the league, you win a lot of games. Toronto in 5. Easy. Maybe 4.

2019 NHL Playoffs

New York Islanders @ Washington Capitals

Lose your first overall pick and franchise building block… find yourself in a playoff position. That’s the case for New York. John Tavares left the Islanders to join the more promising Toronto Maple Leafs, but his former team hasn’t missed him much. New York currently sits 4th in the Metro, and only two games behind Washington, with one less game played. This picture could look a lot different later on, but for now, I have more faith in Washington. After all, they struggled to start the season, so they’re playing better as of late. This one goes six, maybe even seven, but the Caps take it. For now.

Columbus Blue Jackets @ Pittsburgh Penguins

Two teams who have been on a surge lately. Columbus is 7-2-1 in their last 10, while Pittsburgh is 8-2-0. This one would be a clash of styles, and a very tough one to predict if it started now. Columbus lost in Pittsburgh back in November, and they won’t play in Ohio until the end of February. They will then exchange a home and home on March 7th and 9th. There are some upcoming opportunities for key match-ups between these two teams. Both teams are T-2nd for penalty minutes per game, so special teams could make or break. Penguins in 7.

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks @ Calgary Flames

Love, love, LOVE the Flames this year. They play extremely well with each other, and that coaching staff has the boys making every minute of their ice time. The Ducks have played well leading up to the second half of the season as well, but I don’t think they have the chemistry to keep up with Calgary if they started a seven game series at this moment. The Flames are scoring from so many different places in their lineup at a high level of consistency. Opposing teams are finding it tough to match up. Calgary’s young core may slip a game or two, but they would take this series in no more than six games, I’m pretty sure of it.

San Jose Sharks @ Las Vegas Golden Knights

“Vegas was a fluke”. Now, here I sit, I’ll finally eat those words. Vegas has righted the ship this season after a flaky start, and they suddenly have the 2nd best record in the West. WHAT?! I hate to admit it, but Vegas might just always be relevant in the West. After all, it’s gotta be tough to prepare for an away game IN LAS VEGAS. Ok ok ok, consider my words chewed, swallowed, and digested. It doesn’t change how I see this series going. San Jose has had a fairly consistent season, and even now, they’re 6-2-2 in their last 10. Not too shabby. With Karlsson and Burns both logging over 24 minutes a game, the Sharks know their system and they run it well. San Jose wins this in 7.

Dallas Stars @ Winnipeg Jets

Dallas, not too bad for a team whose star players are playing like f***ing horses**t. At least according to their own CEO. Alright, for real though, playoffs or not, the Stars are not playing like they are capable of. Not to mention, the Jets are a tough team to draw if you don’t quite have your game at a high level on a consistent basis. Winnipeg has played, and continues to play, a brand of hockey that is the most unique in the league, in my opinion. They combine size with skill to make the big plays, but they are so disciplined in their basics, that it becomes difficult to exploit their defense. Stack some whiteout home games on top, and the Jets would make quick work of the current Dallas team. Jets in a sweep.

Colorado Avalanche @ Nashville Predators

‘Twould be a shame if these teams had to play each other this early on in the playoffs. They’re both elite clubs in the West with the ability to suffocate an opponent rather quickly. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy this exhilarating series if it does happen. It’s no question, Nashville has the depth to bury the back end of Colorado’s lineup. However, it’s also no question that the Avalanche top line would be the best line out there every time it takes the ice. I see this one flip flopping a little bit. Avs take a 1-0 series lead. The Preds take a 2-1 series lead. Avs tie it back up. However, I think Nashville could outlast Colorado right now, and I give Nashville the series in 6 or 7.

2019 NHL Playoffs

**Follow me on twitter for daily NHL content. The Puck Puck Pass podcast is available on Spotify and iTunes! You know that feeling when the zamboni has one perfect strip left that leads him to the doors? Yeah, me neither. I’d kill to see it just once**

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ZachMac

i've been wrong once

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