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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1
By: Jake Ricker
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL Playoffs. This will be the first time the Bolts will face the Jackets in the Playoffs. The Bolts are by far the favorites to win this matchup, but as it is the playoffs, it will be a tough matchup none the less. Let’s take a closer look at the Bolts and their opponent for round 1.
The Bolts and the Jackets faced off three times in the regular season, and the Bolts won all three of them by a score of 8-2, 4-0, and 5-1. The Bolts dominated the Jackets in the regular season outscoring the Jackets 17-3! The Bolts also held the Jackets to 0 power play goals whereas they went 6 for 11 on the man advantage. But, an Important note to look at is that the Bolts did not play the Jackets before the trade deadline. At the deadline, the Jackets added multiple pieces such as Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. So This should be very different games then we saw in the regular season.
While Victor Hedman is a go for Game 1, the Bolts will be without Anton Stralman but is nearing a return. As for the Jackets, they will be without Adam McQuaid as he did not travel with the team for games 1 and 2.
Both teams have lots of depth on the team and some great stars on their top 6. However, it is without a doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning have the advantage here. With not 1, not 2 but 2 40 goal scorers, the Bolts will be ready to go and be looking to score multiple goals just like they did in the regular season,
The Bolts also have the advantage here as they have multiple number 1 defensemen in Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh, who is having one of his best years. Jon Rutta who is the Bolts 7th D man has also been very solid for the Bolts since coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks. Rutta is still looking for his first point as a Bolt but will definitely be a big help for the Bolts with Anton Stralman out for Game 1.
While Sergei Bobrovsky is one of the top goaltenders in the NHL, there is no comparison to Andrei Vasilevskiy who is just plain amazing. Vasy finished the season with 39 wins a GAA of 2.40 and an Sv% of .925. Bobrovsky has struggled in the playoffs and will need to play like his regular season self if he wants a shot at stopping the top scoring offense in the NHL
Starting with the power play the Bolts have a clear advantage with the power play as the Bolts finished at 28.2% which was good enough for best in the league. As for the Jackets they struggled with just 15.4% which ranked them 28th in the league. That will need to get better as the Bolts have scored a few goals shortened and own the best penalty kill in the NHL. Speaking of the penalty kill the Bolts remain on the top but were tied with one other team, which was the Blue Jackets. Both finished with 85% and will look to continue this success.
Just play your game and keep your foot on the gas. The Bolts are the best team in the league for a reason. They are the clear winner on paper, and now they just need to execute.
Blue Jackets Key
The Bolts have taken tons and tons of penalties if they do it again make them pay. Oh…. and don’t let Stamkos, Kucherov, or Point get open.
Projected Lines Heading Into Game 1
Palat – Stamkos – Johnson
Gourde – Point – Kucherov
Killorn – Cirelli – Miller
Erne – Paquette – Joseph
Hedman – Girardi
McDonagh – Cernak
Sergachev – Rutta
(Coburn Healthy Scratch)
Vasilevskiy (Confirmed Starter)
Panarin – Dubois – Atkinson
Dzingel – Duchene – Anderson
Texier – Foligno – Bjorkstrand
Dubinsky – Jenner – Nash
Werenski – Jones
Nutivaara – Savard
Harrington – Kukan
Bobrovsky (Confirmed Starter)
Be sure to follow us on Twitter for live updates of tonight’s game @bay_bolts!