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The Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates with his team after he beats Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton to score the final goal in the shootout at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. The Lightning won, 2-1, in the shootout. (Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

There are few perfect things in this world:  good friends, cold beer and playoff hockey. 

The upcoming NHL postseason will certainly not change that. 

April brings the best two and a half months for any hockey fan. The matchups are official, and the madness is about to begin. 

The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all of sports. The National Hockey League is deeper than ever. 

Will any teams make another miracle turnaround like Nashville in 2017? Will Tampa Bay complete the greatest season in hockey history? Will the Capitals repeat? Or will one of the six playoff teams that have never won hoist the cup in June? 

You can either watch and find out or take Hot Take Jake’s word for it. 

 

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING vs. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

The saddest part about this matchup is how much Columbus bought in to be a contender. 

The Blue Jackets have traded away five of their six picks in the first three rounds of the next two drafts. All this to match up against (so far) the best hockey team to ever skate on ice, Tampa Bay. Well, Columbus fans, there’s always next year. 4-1, Tampa Bay.

 

BOSTON BRUINS vs.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

A rivalry for the ages. A repeat of last year’s first round. A series that went to seven games.

Let’s focus on the biggest differences from then until now. 

Boston came into the postseason the hottest team in the league, being led by David Pastrnak. This year they come into the playoffs lukewarm but not nearly as frigid as Toronto. 

The Leafs have made many personal changes that upgraded their team, being John Tavares and Jake Muzzin, but Boston always has the upper hand. Mike Babcock can rally his troops, and the Maple Leafs will be able to change the narrative and finally knock out the Bruins. 4-3, Toronto.

 

WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. CAROLINA HURRICANES

Do not let the defending Stanley Cup Champions fool you; the Capitals are the epitome of choking in the playoffs. 

In no world should any human being believe the Washington Capitals are a surefire win. Carolina is coming into the playoffs for the first time in six years. They would really be the underdog team to root for, except their post home victory “Storm Surge” celebration makes you never want to watch hockey again. 4-2, Washington.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS vs. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Since John Tavares’ double OT winner sent the Islanders to the second round in 2016, the Penguins have won two Stanley Cups. Granted, this is not the Islanders team of years past, but it is the Penguins team of years past. 

The tandem of Anders Lee and Matt Barzal have a combined 113 points and plus-15 goal differential, compared to Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel’s 176 points and plus-31 differential.

In Crosby We Trust. 4-3, Pittsburgh.

 

CALGARY FLAMES vs.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

Calgary has been trying to get it together the last five years, and now under coach Bill Peters, they seem to be clicking. Finishing a top the Western Conference with 107 points, they look to win their first cup in 30 years. 

Colorado making the playoffs can only mean one thing:  Nathan MacKinnon is more valuable than Taylor Hall. After getting robbed of the Hart trophy last season, MacKinnon proved again that he should be considered one of the best players under 24 in the NHL. However, the depth on the Flames will melt the Avalanche. 4-1, Calgary.

 

SAN JOSE SHARKS vs.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

The San Jose Sharks have arguably the best roster in hockey. 

The Vegas Golden Knights have a ragtag team of gritty, hardworking players who caught some “house always wins” luck last season. Although, Vegas is not a team who will back down from a fight. 

San Jose’s duel wield offense packs too big of a punch. With a d-core of Braun/Burns, Dillon/Karlson and Ryan/Vlasic, I cannot see a lackluster Vegas offense perform better. 4-1, San Jose.

 

NASHVILLE PREDATORS vs. DALLAS STARS

Surprisingly enough, the NHL’s “key factor stats” heavily favor the Dallas Stars. Contrary, if you actually watch hockey, you would know that Nashville is the better team. 

They won the Western Conference in 2017, won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2018, added a few more pieces in 2019 and eased the pressure off. Dallas straddles into town with the top-heaviest scoring in the league. Not to mention, the Stars’ best defenseman wouldn’t even see ice time if he played for the Preds. 

Dallas better take their horse to the old town road because Nashville’s gonna ride ‘til you can’t no more. 4-1, Nashville.

 

WINNIPEG JETS vs.

ST. LOUIS BLUES

These teams tied in points. 

Winnipeg had more regulation victories, so they claimed home ice advantage. Bell MTS Place can be a very tough environment to go into and win. 

Be that as it may, St. Louis fought back from last place in January to one win away from winning the Central Division. The Jets come crashing into the postseason with a losing record in their last 10 games. The Blues sit at 8-1-1 in their last 10. 

The hotter goalie always wins. The hotter team always wins. 4-2, St. Louis.

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