The NHL’s playoff format has changed and one of the biggest updates is the fact that there is no more re-seeding. What we see in the current bracket is what we’ll get kind of like the NBA. Previously, the top remaining seed would square off with the lowest remaining seed.
So now that we know what to expect, let’s have a look at the Eastern Conference bracket and examine who has an easy draw, a tough draw and what potential matchup could spark an upset.
Easiest Draw: Philadelphia
The Flyers are playing with the house’s money. Remember, they fired head coach Peter Laviolette super-early after a horrible start. This is a team that had just four wins in their first 16 games. However, they find themselves in great shape for a long playoff run. It starts with a 50-50 shot against the New York Rangers in Round 1. They’re a beatable team. If they get beyond them, they’ll likely square off with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is a team they own. They beat the Pens four of five times this season and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury still has nightmares from the last time he faced the Flyers in the playoffs. He got bombed in 2012 as the Flyers scored 30 goals in their 4-2 series win. This is a good draw for the Flyers to make a run and surprise some NHL bettors.
Toughest Draw: New
We’re approaching the 20-year anniversary from Mark Messier’s guarantee when he guided the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup win in 54 years. However, it doesn’t look like the Rangers will be hoisting the mug this time around. It starts with a first-round matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers, which is manageable but far from easy. They’d be far more comfortable playing someone like Columbus. In Round 2, they’ll likely have to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is not a team they have great success against. They don’t really have the offense to compete with them. Lastly, they’ll probably have Boston waiting for them in the Eastern Conference final. The Bruins swept the season series with the Rangers, scoring 11 goals in those contests. It’s going to be tough sledding for the Rangers to have a long journey this postseason. They’ll need a lot of things to go right.
Matchup To Keep An
Eye Out For: Boston-Montreal
The Boston Bruins are hoping that the Tampa Bay Lightning can do them a favor in Round 1: beat the Montreal Canadiens. That’s because if there’s one team that can surprise the Bruins in a seven-game series – at least a surprise according to the NHL odds – it’s likely the Habs. The Bruins know they can handle Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York and even Tampa Bay. But Montreal? That’s another story. The Bruins have lost six of their last eight meetings with Montreal. Goaltender Tuukka Rask is just 3-10-3 against the Habs with a pedestrian .908 save percentage. The Bruins would rather avoid this matchup altogether.