NHL playoffs: A look at Flyers-Penguins and other first-round series

If the Flyers are to advance, goaltender Brian Elliott will have to stand tall despite heavy expected traffic from the Penguins.

Listed in bracket order . All times ET.


Pittsburgh vs. Flyers

Seeds: Pittsburgh, Metropolitan-2; Flyers, Metropolitan-3
Power play ranks: Pittsburgh 1st; Flyers 15th
Penalty kill ranks: Pittsburgh 17th; Flyers 29th

Pitt stops: The two-time defending champs are trying to become the first team to win three in a row since the Islanders won four from 1980 to 1983.  … Went 4-0 against the Flyers this season, winning two of those game in overtime. Pittsburgh scored five goals in each game. … Sidney Crosby has nine points (two goals) in four games against the Flyers this season. … Counting postseason, Phil Kessel has played in 763 consecutive games. Whew.

On the Fly: The last time these two met in the postseason was 2012. There were fights, coaches yelling at each other, and a statement made when Claude Giroux flattened Crosby six seconds into the Game 6 clincher for the Flyers. The Wells Fargo Center went nuts. … The Flyers were third in the NHL in fewest times shorthanded, something that will be critical against Pittsburgh’s dynamic power-play. … Goalie Brian Elliott started twice this season against the Pens. He’s 7-3-2 in 13 career games against the Fightin’ Crosbys with a .918 save percentage.

The pick: Pittsburgh is 18-2-1 at home since Jan. 7. Having trouble getting past that. Pittsburgh in 7.


Can the Flyers win a championship as underdogs as the Eagles did?

1 at Pittsburgh Weds., April 11 7 p.m. NBCSP
2 at Pittsburgh Friday, April 13 7 p.m. NBCSP
3 at Flyers Sunday, April 15 3 p.m. NBC
4 at Flyers Weds., April 18 7 p.m. NBCSP
5* at Pittsburgh Friday, April 20 TBD TBD
6* at Flyers Sunday, April 22 TBD TBD
7* at Pittsburgh Tuesday, April 24 TBD TBD

*If necessary.


Washington vs. Columbus

Seeds: Washington, 1-Metropolitan; Columbus, 2-wildcard
Power play ranks: Washington 7th; Columbus 25th
Penalty kill ranks: Washington 15th; Columbus 27th

Columbus Blue notes: Artemi Panarin, acquired in a trade with Chicago last summer, set the Columbus team record with 82 points (27-55). He was  the rookie of the year three years ago, when Shayne Gostisbehere was a finalist. … Went 13-3-1 from March 4 to April 3. … Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is 3-10 in 18 postseason appearances with a 3.63 goals against and an unsightly .887 save percentage.

Cap hits: Washington coach Barry Trotz has two goalies who could start for him this postseason. Philipp Grubauer was strong down the stretch and Bradon Holtby has the second highest save percentage in postseason history (.9318; Tim Thomas is first, .9326). … Just like the Caps this century, Trotz also hasn’t made it to a conference final. Real likable guy, however. … Alex Ovechkin has 90 points in 97 postseason games. He had 49 goals in the regular season, the fifth time in six years he’s led the NHL. But nobody will care about that if there’s another quick exit.

The pick: Hate the idea of the Caps possibly rotating goalies, but they should be OK here. Washington in 6.

1 at Washington Thursday, April 12 7:30 p.m. USA
2 at Washington Sunday, April 15 7:30 p.m. NBCSN
3 at Columbus Tuesday, April 17 7:30 p.m. NBCSN
4 at Columbus Thursday, April 19 7:30 p.m. USA
5* at Washington Saturday, April 21 TBD TBD
6* at Columbus Monday, April 23 TBD TBD
7* at Washington Weds., April 25 TBD TBD

*If necessary.


Tampa Bay vs. New Jersey

Seeds: Tampa Bay, Atlantic Division-1; New Jersey, wildcard-2
Power play ranks: Tampa Bay 3rd; New Jersey 10th
Penalty kill ranks: Tampa Bay 28th; New Jersey 8th

Lightning strikes: The Lightning scored more goals (290) than any team this decade, yet they managed just eight in three games against the Devils. All were one-goal losses, including one in a shootout. … Six guys had at least 20 goals and star Steven Stamkos set a career high with 59 assists. Nikita Kucherov (39-61) hit 100 points for the first time. … Andrei Vasilevskiy is the only goalie in the NHL to wear No. 88. He set the team record for shutouts this season with eight.

Devil delights: Taylor Hall put himself into the MVP conversation by posting 57 points over the final 40 games as the Devils snuck into the postseason for the first time since 2012. Hall’s 93 points were 41 more than any other Devil.  … Rookie Nico Hischier played all 82 games and had 52 points. He was taken first overall in 2017. The Flyers took Nolan Patrick No. 2. (Patrick had just 30 points this season, but he’s been a force the last two months or so.). … Goalie Keith Kinkaid will make his playoff debut. He closed the season 7-0-1, which included a 2-1 win over Tampa.

The pick: Don’t think the Devils have enough to win, but they’ll make the Lightning work. Tampa Bay in 5.

1 at Tampa Bay Thursday, April 12 7 p.m. NHLN
2 at Tampa Bay Saturday, April 14 3 p.m. NBC
3 at New Jersey Monday, April 16 7:30 p.m. CNBC
4 at New Jersey Weds., April 18 7:30 p.m. GOLF
5* at Tampa Bay Saturday, April 21 TBD TBD
6* at New Jersey Monday, April 23 TBD TBD
7* at Tampa Bay Weds., April 25 TBD TBD

*If necessary.


Boston vs. Toronto

Seeds: Boston, Atlantic-2; Toronto, Atlantic-3
Power play ranks: Boston 4th; Toronto 2nd
Penalty kill ranks: Boston 3rd; Toronto 11th

Boston bits: Goaltender Tuukka Rask was a member of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup championship team, but he did not play in the postseason as Tim Thomas made all 25 starts.  … The Bruins’ top line – David Pastrnak (35), Brad Marchand (34), and Patrice Bergeron (30) – all had 30 goals. … Defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who stepped right out of college into the playoffs last season, will be counted on again for heavy minutes. He averaged 26:12 last postseason despite being 19 years old.

Leaf droppings: They registered their first 100-point season since 2004, when they lost to the Flyers in a dramatic second-round series. … Went 3-1 against the Bruins and hit on 5 of 15 power plays. … Frederik Andersen set the team record with 38 wins and was 2-1 against Boston. … James van Riemsdyk (remember him?) led the Leafs with a career-best 36 goals. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. JVR was dealt by the Flyers to Toronto in 2012 for Luke Schenn (yikes).

The pick: Boston fumbled away the chance to be the conference’s No. 1 seed and now it will pay for it. Even if the Bruins win the series, it won’t be easy. Toronto in 7.

1 at Boston Thursday, April 12 7 p.m. NBCSN
2 at Boston Saturday,  April 14 8 p.m. NBC
3 at Toronto Monday, April 16 7 p.m. NBCSN
4 at Toronto Thursday, April 19 7 p.m. NBCSN
5* at Boston Saturday, April 21 TBD TBD
6* at Toronto Monday, April 23 TBD TBD
7* at Boston Wednesday, April 25 TBD TBD

*If necessary.



Western Conference

Nashville vs. Colorado

Seeds: Nashville, Central-1; Colorado, wildcard-2
Power play ranks: Nashville 12th; Colorado 8th
Penalty kill ranks: Nashville 6th; Colorado 4th

Av updates: The Avalanche beat the Blues on the final full day of the season to claim the last postseason spot. … Colorado had 22 wins and 48 points last season. The Avalanche won 43 games and notched 95 points this season. … Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, had 97 points, easily a career high. He had 37 last season despite playing in all 82 games. I’d still take Claude Giroux over him (and Anze Kopitar/Taylor Hall) if I had an MVP vote.

Nash notes: Peter Laviolette’s club rebounded from losing the Cup Finals to Pittsburgh by posting the best season in franchise history (117 points) and winning the Presidents’  Cup as the NHL’s top team. … Arguably the league’s deepest roster. Leading scorer Filip Forsberg (64 points) isn’t in the top-50 league-wide in scoring.  … Goalie Pekka Rinne is in line to win his first Vezina, even though he stumbled  toward season’s end. Rinne posted a 1.96 GAA and .930 save percentage in last year’s postseason.

The pick: The Avalanche played 11 rookies this year and are the NHL’s youngest team. Their time might be coming, but not yet. Nashville in 5.

1 at Nashville Thursday, April 12 9:30 p.m. NBCSN
2 at Nashville Saturday, April 14 3 p.m. NBC
3 at Colorado Monday, April 16 10 p.m. NBCSN
4 at Colorado Weds., April 18 10 p.m. NBCSN
5* at Nashville Friday, April 20 TBD TBD
6* at Colorado Sunday, April 22 TBD TBD
7* at Nashville Tuesday, April 24 TBD TBD

*If necessary.


Winnipeg vs. Minnesota

Seeds: Winnipeg, Central-2; Minnesota, Central-3
Power play ranks: Winnipeg 5th; Minnesota t-17th
Penalty kill ranks: Winnipeg 9th; Minnesota 13th

Jet setting: They posted 52 wins and 114 points, easily the most in franchise history, which began in Atlanta in 1999-00. … Been to the playoffs just twice, in 2007 and 2015, when they were swept in the opening round each time. So, yes, they’ve never won a playoff game. … Connor Hellebuyck (44-11-9) broke Tom Barrasso’s 1992-93 record for most wins by an American goalie. He was 3-1 against Minnesota (1-1 against the Flyers).

Wild things: They lost defenseman Ryan Suter to a fractured ankle on March 31. Suter was leading the Wild in ice time at nearly 27 minutes per. Jared Spurgeon (24:33 per) hasn’t played since mid-March because of a hamstring injury, but he’s expected back soon. … Eric Staal tied Marian’ Gaborik’s team record with 42 goals. It’s the first time he’s hit 40 since 2008-09.

The pick: Jets sniper Patrik Laine had 20 power-play goals. He’s 19 years old. Winnipeg in 7.

1 at Winnipeg Weds., April 11 7 p.m. CNBC
2 at Winnipeg Friday, April 13 7:30 p.m. USA
3 at Minnesota Sunday, April 15 7 p.m. USA
4 at Minnesota Tuesday, April 17 8 p.m. CNBC
5* at Winnipeg Friday, April 20 TBD TBD
6* at Minnesota Sunday, April 22 TBD TBD
7* at Winnipeg Wednesday, April 25 TBD TBD

*If necessary.


Vegas vs. Los Angeles

Seeds: Vegas, Pacific-1; Los Angeles, wildcard-1
Power play ranks: Vegas 11th; Los Angeles t-17th
Penalty kill ranks:  Vegas 10th; Los Angeles 1st

Vegas, baby: The Golden Knights are the first professional expansion team in modern history to win its division. What general manager George McPhee has done is remarkable.  … William Karlsson, who was the 27th pick (out of 30) in the expansion draft, had 43 goals and was plus-49. He came into the year with 21 goals in 204 career games. … Marc-Andre Fleury, who helped the Penguins win three Cups, including the last two, had a career-high .927 save percentage.

King crowns: Anze Kopitar (92 points) is another who can make an argument for MVP consideration. His defensive metrics are strong, he led all forwards in ice time, and became the first L.A. King since that Gretzky fellow to notch 90 points in a season. Of course, Gretzky had 130 points in 1993-94. … Jeff Carter had 13 goals in 20 games after missing 55 games with an ankle injury caused by a skate cut. … This will be head coach John Stevens’ first playoffs since bringing the Flyers in 2009.

The pick: Great thing about the NHL’s playoffs is the upsets. L.A. in 7


1 at Vegas Weds., April 11 10 p.m. NBCSN
2 at Vegas Friday, April 13 10 p.m. NBCSN
3 at Los Angeles Sunday, April 15 10:30 p.m. NBCSN
4 at Los Angeles Tuesday, April 17 10:30 p.m. NBCSN
5* at Vegas Thursday, April 19 10 p.m. NBCSN
6* at Los Angeles Saturday, April 21 TBD TBD
7* at Vegas Monday, April 23 TBD TBD

*If necessary.



Anaheim vs. San Jose

Seeds: Anaheim, Pacific-2; San Jose, Pacific-3
Power play ranks: Anaheim 22nd; San Jose 16th
Penalty kill ranks: Anaheim 5th; San Jose 2nd

Duck soup: Rickard Rakell closed with 12 goals in the final 19 games and had career bests of 34 goals and 35 assists. Rakell, 24, played in his first All-Star Game this year. … Anaheim had won five consecutive Pacific Division titles before Vegas came along with its historic season.

Shark bait: “Just happy to still be playing meaningful hockey and getting some wins,” said goalie Ryan Miller, 37. Miller’s teams haven’t won a playoff series since 2007, when he helped Buffalo get to the East finals. … Squandered any chance at having home ice by finishing the season 1-4-1. … Joe Thornton (knee) hasn’t played since January and will miss at least Game 1. But he could be back at some point in this series.

The pick: The Ducks enter the playoffs on a 10-1-1 roll. Anaheim in 7.

1 at Anaheim Thursday, April 12 10:30p.m. USA
2 at Anaheim Saturday, April 14 10:30 p.m. NBCSN
3 at San Jose Monday, April 16 10:30 p.m. CNBC
4 at San Jose Wednesday, April 18 10:30 p.m. GOLF
5* at Anaheim Friday, April 20 TBD TBD
6* at San Jose Sunday, April 22 TBD TBD
7* at Anaheim Tuesday, April 24 TBD TBD

*If necessary.