Lightning open playoff series against the Blue Jackets

Stamkos: Lightning 'learned a lesson' after coughing up 3-goal lead

Against the spread: There's better value once again in the Lightning to cover -1.5. McElhinney had the worse numbers in the regular season but remember, the 'Canes relied on both as Mrazek started 40 games while McElhinney started 33.

If you need any proof of that fact, just take a look at what San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski did during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights. Will the Lightning be able to turn their game around and make this a series? "I think he's figured out a very, very good way, and he's a very good motivator".

But just as Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena home crowd prepared to celebrate, Columbus came roaring back into the Eastern Conference first round contest. The Rangers finished with a record of 53-22-7, leading the league in wins, ROW and goal differential (plus 60).

The Caps started Game 1 without a shot on goal for the first nine minutes of play. The Bruins and Leafs played each other to a Game 7 previous year, with the Bruins coming out on top. Past year the Bruins bested Toronto in the first round and that's where they'll meet up once again. Gourde tipped in a shot from the slot by Mikhail Sergachev at 17:50 for the three-goal advantage. Led by John Tavares' 47 goals and followed by Auston Matthews' 37, this team has no problem shooting the puck. "We're not focused on that", Stamkos said. The West is a crapshoot because you could make a case for six teams making it to the Finals, but I'll say that the Flames make it all the way for a rematch of 2004.

"I thought Andy was a big part of getting our engine going".

There is a lot of love going around for the Carolina Hurricanes and I'm just not buying into it.

NOTES: Ten of the Capitals' last 14 first-round games went to overtime. With Alex Ovechkin on the offense scoring 51 goals (first in the league) and possessing the deadliest slap shot in the league, there isn't much the Hurricanes (or any team for that matter) can do to stop it. Instead of playing their best defense, they attempted goal after goal with no luck. Oh, and then there is their all-star goaltender in Braden Holtby behind it all. Backstrom has four points already in this series.

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The last matchup in the East is the New York Islanders going head to head with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Capitals do have some work to do if they want to get past Carolina.

With his team controlling play for much of the third period, St. Louis' Patrick Maroon created a turnover with his effective forecheck and sent the puck to the slot for Bozak.

TOP PERFORMERS: Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning with 128 total points, scoring 41 goals and registering 87 assists. The annual simulation takes place just before the start of the playoffs and predicts who will take home Lord Stanley's mug, as well as a few smaller forecasts, like the Conn Smythe victor. New York Islanders will be covered in a separate article. Louis, the betting odds are right: This is the closest first-round playoff series. Nashville, on the other hand, has been a constant in the playoffs as of late. One of the biggest differences to the Hurricanes success this season has been the strong goaltending performances they have gotten out of Petr Mrazek (who the Hurricanes acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers) and Curtis McElhinney. This number has actually drifted a dime further in Washington's direction since opening despite metrics indicating this will be one of the tightest first-round matchups. I came, hit him with my butt. They made it 2-0 midway through the first period when Oshie drove past Justin Williams and Justin Faulk and lifted a backhander over Mrazek.

A Canadian NHL team has not lifted the Stanley Cup since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens last won the title. Along with players like Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Bryan Little there is no lack of skill. Their 96 points were three more than the last wild card team. For the Jets you'll see Connor Hellebuyck, while the Blues have rookie sensation and Calder Trophy hopeful, Jordan Binnington. Holtby has turned aside 52 of the first 57 shots he has faced in these playoffs.

Despite winning the Western Conference with relative ease, EA predicts the Calgary Flames will be knocked out by the underdog Colorado Avalanche in six games. He's become one of the best second-half goalies in the National Hockey League.

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