NHL playoffs bracket 2019: Eastern Conference series picks, breakdowns, Stanley Cup predictions

first_imgIt’s now time for the greatest postseason tournament in all of professional sports — the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. While we all start off thinking one team is a sure-fire pick to win it all, one bounce or post or bad bounce can alter a team’s destiny. Is this the year the Tampa Bay Lightning finally get over the hump after making deep playoff runs — including a Stanley Cup Final in 2015 — three of the last four years? Or is the Carolina Hurricanes, and their “bunch of jerks” the Cinderella story of this year’s postseason? (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/13/da/mat-barzal-islanders-040519-getty-ftrjpeg_vksuxcfv33gx1go6h10pka4rk.jpg?t=-209646383&w=500&quality=80 Washington Capitals (M1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (WC1)The backstoryThe Capitals finally broke through last year and clinched the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup and Alex Ovechkin and company are hungry to go back-to-back. They face long-time division foe Carolina for the first time in playoffs history.X-factorQuick reminder: Braden Holtby was not the Capitals’ starting netminder when they began the postseason in 2018. Holtby stepped in for a struggling Philipp Grubauer and carried the team all the way to the end. This time it’s his show and if he can pull off what he did last year, the Caps may very well win again.The big number24.  That’s how many ‘Storm Surges’ the Canes put together during the regular season. Will we see No. 25 in the postseason? There are no guarantees the Canes will even win a game in this matchup, but we can all hope to see a playoff version real soon.ExpertWashington Capitals Carolina HurricanesJackie SpiegelWinner in 6 Winner in 7Sammi Silber MORE: Capitals vs. Hurricanes series schedule, TV info, breakdown Sammi SilberWinner in 7 Stanley Cup Final picksExpertEastern ConferenceWestern ConferenceStanley CupConn Smythe winnerJackie SpiegelTB over WSH in 5SJS over STL in 6SJS over TB in 6 Joe PavelskiBrandon SchlagerTB over PIT in 6NSH over SJS in 7TB over NSH in 6 Steven StamkosSteve KournianosTB over NYI in 5NSH over VGK in 6TB over NSH in 5Andrei VasilevskiyDave McCarthyTB over WSH in 7VGK over WPG in 7TB over VGK in 6Steven StamkosMike MurphyTB over WSH in 7CGY over STL in 5TB over CGY in 6Brayden PointMurray PamTB over WSH in 6CGY over STL in 6TB over CGY in 6Brayden PointLyle RichardsonTB over WSH in 6CGY over STL in 6TB over CGY in 6Nikita KucherovSammi SilberTB over WSH in 7WPG over CGY in 5WPG over TB in 6Blake Wheeler Winner in 7Dave McCarthyWinner in 5 Winner in 6Steve KournianosWinner in 7 NHL playoffs 2019: Eastern Conference predictionsTampa Bay Lightning (A1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (WC2)The backstoryThe Lightning are poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup, and they definitely have the firepower and defensive core to do that. Standing in their way in the first round is the Columbus Blue Jackets who are led by the last man to lead the Bolts to a Cup way back in 2004 — John Tortorella.X-factorColumbus’ entire postseason rides on its netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky . If the two-time Vezina Trophy winner can finally put his postseason demons behind him (5-14, 3.49 GAA and .891 save percentage in 24 appearances) then this series may be a little tighter than everyone is expecting. The big number62. That’s how many wins the Lightning got in the regular season. Jon Cooper’s squad tied the 1996 Detroit Red Wings for the NHL record; however, Detroit didn’t win the Cup and all eyes will be on Tampa Bay to see if they can get over the hump.ExpertTampa Bay LightningColumbus Blue JacketsJackie SpiegelWinner in 4 Brandon SchlagerWinner in 6 Murray PamWinner in 6 (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/e8/f6/david-pastrnak-101318-getty-ftrjpg_iihx6s97178s1ujaa0k9css1d.jpg?t=1871607198&w=500&quality=80 Murray PamWinner in 7 How it will all end is still to be determined but Sporting News’ NHL experts predict the Eastern Conference playoffs and who will take a lap with Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.MORE SN STAFF PICKS:Western Conference | Stanley CupNHL playoffs bracket 2019 Brandon Schlager Lyle RichardsonWinner in 4 New York Islanders (M2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (M3)The backstoryNo one expected the Islanders in the playoffs this year, especially as the second seed in the Metropolitan Division, but here we are. Reminder to everyone, never doubt a team with Barry Trotz at the helm.X-factorNassau Coliseum. The ‘Old Barn’ hasn’t seen an Islanders team with home-ice advantage since 1988 and it’ll definitely be loud in the Coliseum due to its low roof and strong acoustics. This could very well help push this surprising Isles team past the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins.The big number Winner in 7Steve Kournianos Winner in 7Murray Pam Boston Bruins (A2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (A3)The backstoryWell, here we are again. A little deja vu, would you say? Last season these two Original Six teams met up in the Eastern Conference’ s first round with Boston winning in seven games. However, this is not last season’s Maple Leafs. This team now has pure firepower netting 29 more goals this season than Boston, while averaging 3.49 goals-per-game (fourth-best in the NHL). The likes of John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner will have a tough task facing Tuukka Rask, who already has one Stanley Cup under his belt. Also, obviously, never count out Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. X-factorDavid Pastrnak picked up right where he left off when he returned following hand surgery in mid-March. After missing 16 games the winger netted 15 points (seven goals, six assists) in 10 games. If he can replicate his numbers (20 points in 12 games) from last season’s playoff run, with 13 points coming in that seven-game series with Toronto, it’ll be hard for the Maple Leafs to counter.The big numberThis series could come down to special teams and the biggest number is 79.9, which is how effective, or not, the Maple Leafs penalty kill was during the regular season. Not a great stat when you’re heading into a match-up with the NHL’s third-best power play (25.9).  Toronto will need to clamp down on penalties if they want to keep the Bruins game-changing power-play off the ice.ExpertBoston BruinsToronto Maple Leafs Jackie Spiegel Sammi SilberWinner in 6 Winner in 6Dave McCarthyWinner in 7 MORE: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets series schedule, TV info, breakdown Winner in 6Mike Murphy Mike MurphyWinner in 5 Mike MurphyWinner in 6 Mike MurphyWinner in 6 Murray PamWinner in 5 Dave McCarthy (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/d0/13/stamkos-kucherov-lightning-040519-getty-ftrjpeg_1o91i0orpfq1n15zl7s9azyo9h.jpg?t=-209555367&w=500&quality=80 Brandon SchlagerWinner in 5 Lyle RichardsonWinner in 6 https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/c9/2c/nhl-2019-stanley-cup-bracket-040919-getty-ftrjpeg_otg5tapy0lmt1wkkk7n9od9es.jpg?t=-19489807&w=500&quality=80 16 — which stands for how ineffective the Islanders were on the power play during the regular season. Not a good number when you’re facing the firepower of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and company.ExpertNew York Islanders Pittsburgh Penguins Jackie SpiegelWinner in 7 Steve Kournianos MORE: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series schedule, TV info, breakdown Lyle RichardsonWinner in 5 Sammi SilberWinner in 5 Winner in 7Brandon Schlager Winner in 7Lyle Richardson (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/25/e0/braden-holtby-washington-capitals-040519-getty-ftrjpeg_saskpql584fk198l8pi2lb13x.jpg?t=-209832383&w=500&quality=80 Steve KournianosWinner in 6 Winner in 7MORE: Islanders vs. Penguins series schedule, TV info, breakdown Dave McCarthyWinner in 5last_img read more