Courtesy SportsClubStats.com and its trusty supercomputer, here’s a list of the NHL’s five most likely first-round playoff matchups.
Detroit-Nashville (87.4% probability)
We touched on this yesterday. Two Stanley Cup contenders, only one will move on to the second round. And let’s throw another wrinkle in there. On the list of teams Ryan Suter could leave the Predators to sign with this summer, the Red Wings are right at the top. Nashville and Detroit meet for the sixth and final time in the regular season Friday at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings lead the series 3-2-0.
Pittsburgh-Philadelphia (80.3% probability)
The Penguins still have an outside shot at catching the Rangers for first in the Eastern Conference, but last night’s loss to the Islanders made it even more likely they’ll finish as the No. 4 seed and take on the No. 5 Flyers in another Battle of Pennsylvania. Long story short, this really needs to happen. The last time these two teams met, March 18 in Philly, the Flyers won 3-2 in overtime. They also play twice more down the stretch, including the last game of the season on Apr. 7.
New Jersey-Florida (80.3% probability)
Not exactly the battle of the titans here. New Jersey and Florida have just 31 regulation/OT victories each, one fewer than Tampa Bay and the same number as Buffalo, Winnipeg and Carolina. The Panthers’ total goal differential is minus-19 and they play in a weak division. And if the Devils weren’t so good in the shootout (12-4), they’d be fighting for their playoff lives. And if they play each other in the first round, one of them has to advance to the second.
Ottawa-Boston (67.5% probability)
The B’s have dominated the season series, winning four of five versus the Sens. The final meeting goes next Thursday in Ottawa. And while it’s tough to like the Senators’ chances against the defending champs, if there’s one team with nothing to lose, it’s Ottawa. At the very least, we’d probably get to see some entertaining hockey.
NY Rangers-Buffalo (45.1% probability)
Can you say potential upset? Nobody wants to play the rejuvenated Sabres – 14-2-3 since Feb. 19 – right now. Last week they rolled into MSG and smoked the Rangers, 4-1. And while Buffalo’s been on fire, New York’s been little more than average.