NHL Playoffs: Who’s in the First Round?

The First Round of the NHL Playoffs takes to the ice, but who is facing who and what do we know about their performance in the current season and past experiences in the Playoffs?

If you’re still puzzled about the Playoff format, make sure to check out our blog here: Ready for the NHL Playoffs?

If you’re coming from that blog already, let’s dive into the Head to Head below…

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers (1 – 4)

Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (88) is defended by Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) behind the net during third period NHL hockey action, in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The pressure is on for the Bruins. They delivered an exceptional performance in the Regular Season (65 – 12 – 5) and 135 points, their best all-time record.

But the fear of repeating the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2018/19 nightmare, lingers in the background.

Now they need to continue their performance in the Playoffs with a tidy First Round win against the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers too have a lot to prove in this round. They managed to rally for their final push to clinch the Second Wildcard seed in the Eastern Conference despite a topsy turvy season with Paul Maurice as coach. They enter the Playoffs with a 42 – 32 – 8 record.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning (3 – 4)

Toronto Maple Leafs centre William Nylander (88) celebrates his game winning overtime goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in NHL action in Toronto on Thursday, November 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

There’s a lot riding on this one for the Toronto Maple Leafs (50 – 21 – 11). It’s their seventh consecutive playoff appearance but will they’ve not won one since 2004. Not only that, it’s their First-Round re-match against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After last year’s Lightning upset, Leafs are hoping that recent acquisition Ryan O’Reilly, will help tip the seven in their favour.

Lightning (46 – 30 – 6) won’t be struck out so easily though. While they’ve had a strange journey to the Playoffs, the three-time Stanley Cup Champions will be looking for the best time to strike.

Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Islanders (4 – 0)

March 26, 2019 – Washington, DC, UNITED STATES – Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) looks on during a stoppage in play as the Carolina Hurricanes play the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on March 26, 2019. The Capitals lead the Metropolitan Division and can clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff position tonight. (Credit Image: © Alex Edelman/ZUMA Wire)

While the Carolina Hurricanes (52 – 21 – 9) maybe be the Metro Champions for the Third straight year, that won’t make up for lacking Andrei Svechnikov. The New York Islanders will be no a pushover either.

Standing in the way of the Canes’ making another deep playoff run is a team with one of the best goaltenders in the NHL right now; Ilya Sorokin and the recently acquired Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks.

Likewise, the Islanders have back-to-back post-season experience reaching the Conference Finals between 2020 and 2022. Canes are no slouches though. They’ve been in back-to-back Playoffs right up to last season.

New Jersey Devils vs New York Rangers (16 – 18)

New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) makes a save during second period NHL hockey action against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The bitter rivalry between the New Jersey Devils (52-22-8) and New York Rangers (47-22-13) boils over once again, 13 years after their last Playoff showdown.

The 2011/12 season was a huge one for the Devils despite being knocked out by the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. It would also be their last time making it to the Post-Season.  

Rangers come stacked with Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, picked up before the tradeline and they’ll be looking to get beyond the Conference Finals last season.

Western Conference

Vegas Golden Knights vs Winnipeg Jets (4 – 1)

2J4F5AJ Calgary, Canada. 14th Apr 2022. Vegas Golden Knights’ Evgenii Dadonov, centre, celebrates his goal with teammates Nicolas Roy, left, and William Karlsson during second period NHL hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Thursday, April 14, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh Credit: The Canadian Press/Alamy Live News

Vegas Golden Knights (51-22-9) are back in the Post-Season Playoffs after missing it for the first time in their six-season history last year.

With that bounce back, it all appears to be looking up for the Knights. While they mark their fourth division title and No:1 seed in the Western Conference, they also await the debut of Jack Eichel and the possible return of their Captain, Mark Stone.

Facing them are the Winnipeg Jets (46-33-3), a team that skated on very thin ice to clinch and hold the final Wildcard seed.   

Jets’ personal best in the past few seasons has been the Conference Semi-Finals. With the support of stopper Connor Hellebuyck at the back, will the Jets stop the Knights in their tracks?

Going into the Playoffs, Hellebuyck has a GAA of 0.920 with 1807 saves with 4 shutouts in 64 games.

Edmonton Oilers vs Los Angeles Kings (15 – 28)

The anticipation of Edmonton Oilers (50-23-9) doing great things in the Playoffs is unmistakable.

They skate into their matchup against the Los Angeles Kings (47-25-10) with a trio of players each with 100+ points this season.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the first three to do this since the 1995/96 Pittsburgh Penguins. McDavid has drawn particular praise for his impressive records this season too.

Kings will not be giving in so easily though. While the might of the Oilers is all apparent, they did push them to seven games last year in the First Round.

More broadly, the Kings have played the most Playoff games against the Oilers, 43 to be exact, but trail the Oilers 15 – 28.

Oilers do that have a challenger though. Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo has recently joined the Kings in the recent trades and he’s already recorded 2.13 GAA, 0.921 Save percentage of 258 saves and one shutout.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Seattle Kraken

2J6G1DF Seattle Kraken goaltender Chris Driedger (60) and Yanni Gourde (37) clear the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period of NHL action in Winnipeg on Sunday May 1, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

The Colorado Avalanche (51-24-7) are entering the Playoffs with very little said or heard about them, despite them being the defending champions.

The Avs’ core which works it’s way through last season’s Playoffs, remains largely intact despite Gabriel Landeskog being out with an injury. Alexandar Georgiev has also stepped in at goal.  

Another surprise is seeing the Seattle Kraken (46-28-8) make it to the Playoffs for the first time since their franchise was created.

Kraken have the sixth best offense in the League so far with 13 double-digit scorers including the likes of Jared McCann, Matty Beniers and Daniel Sprong, to name a few.

A lot of eyes will be watching how far the Kraken will get.

Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild (4 – 2)

W087YK Dallas Stars Jamie Benn waits for the faceoff against the St. Louis in the first period at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on January 8, 2019. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Dallas Stars (47-21-14) had been riding high until their six straight losses by the close of the season, allowing Colorado Avalanche to take the Top Seed on the final day.

The Stars have their sights on the Cup and some serious 70-point stars among them to help them get there including Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Jake Oettinger and the rising star Jason Robertson.

The Wild have made it to the Playoffs but do they deserve to be there? Kirill Kaprizov is the Wild’s talisman and he’s back from injury just in time.

Posted on: 17 Apr 2023