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NHL Qualifying Round Picks

Analyzing each matchup, and predicting which team in each series will advance.

Eastern Conference:

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

9. Columbus Blue Jackets

Season Series: 1-1

You can wipe out the seeding here since the Leafs and Jackets had the exact same amount of points in the same amount of games in the regular season. I know most people are going with Toronto in this one, but I really think you need to dive a little deeper than their star players. The Blue Jackets have two really good goalies in Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, so if one is struggling, the other can just take over. And honestly, players like Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are going to be more influential in a series like this than those like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Winner: Blue Jackets

6. Carolina Hurricanes

11. New York Rangers

Season Series: 4-0 NYR

I try not to buy into the season series too much, but this one is significant. A lot of this series depends on the Rangers goaltending though. Henrik Lundqvist won three of the four games against the Hurricanes this season, but we don't really know if he will be starting. Lundqvist, Alexander Georgiev, and Igor Shshterkin all could start, with Georgiev most likely the favorite. Another thing to note, in three of those four games, Carolina heavily outshot the Rangers, so it wasn't like they were outplayed. In addition, the Canes will have Dougie Hamilton back from injury. This is very tight, but I am leaning towards Carolina.

Winner: Hurricanes

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

12. Montreal Canadiens

Season Series: 2-1 PIT

This is most definitely the most lopsided of all the qualifying round series'. It would take a miracle for Montreal to pull this one off, and because they have Carey Price in net, that miracle has a chance, but it is very slim. Pittsburgh is just too good to lose this series. And this break might have helped the Penguins more than any other team. They get Jake Guentzel back which is huge, and all of their veteran players are completely rested. It will be interesting to see who they have in net (I think it should be Jarry, although Murray does have a ton of playoff experience). Montreal is just hoping for Alexis Lafreniere.

Winner: Penguins

7. New York Islanders

10. Florida Panthers

Season Series: 3-0 NYI

The biggest factor in this series will be which Sergei Bobrovsky are we going to see? Are we going to see the Vezina Trophy winner who was able to sweep the NHL's best regular season team in the first round last season? Or are we going to see the goalie that has largely underwhelmed this season? Florida no doubt has more high end talent and potential, but the Isles are a well coached, team first group that knows how to play in the playoffs. This should be a really good series, that most likely will go the full five games.

Winner: Islanders

Western Conference:

8. Calgary Flames

9. Winnipeg Jets

Season Series: 1-0 WPG

This should be a really good series, as should be expected in the eight versus nine series. I honestly don't see Calgary winning this though, and that's pretty much squarely because of Connor Hellebuyck. He's one of the best goalies in the league, and gives Winnipeg a significant edge over the David Rittich of the Flames. The Jets do have a weaker defense than Calgary, but I give the edge at the forward position to Winnipeg as well.

Winner: Jets

6. Nashville Predators

11. Arizona Coyotes

Season Series: 1-1

This really is more of a tough series to predict than you would think. In my opinion, neither of these teams are really Cup contenders. The only reason the Preds are the higher seed is because they won three straight games before the break, and the Coyotes lost two straight. The only thing that really sets either of these teams apart is Darcy Kuemper. He and the Yotes gave up the third fewest goals in the NHL, and in this return, I think Nashville is just not going to be able to score on him.

Winner: Coyotes

5. Edmonton Oilers

12. Chicago Blackhawks

Season Series: 2-1 CHI

Another tough series because of how different these teams are. Chicago has all the playoff experience, and Edmonton has two of the games young best players. It is tough betting against the Blackhawks in the postseason, but let's be honest here, they were not going to make the playoffs, and just aren't the same team they used to be. Edmonton is skilled and quick, and Chicago won't be able to keep up. Connor McDavid and Leon Draistaitl should carry the Oilers past the Hawks.

Winner: Oilers

7. Vancouver Canucks

10. Minnesota Wild

Season Series: 2-1 MIN

This is the one series in the West that I really have no doubts about. Vancouver is far and away the better team. The Canucks have two strong forward lines, a good defense, and a goalie in Jacob Markstrom who has played well this year. On the other side, Minnesota really doesn't have much to boast about. In addition they are going to have to choose between Alex Stalock and Devan Dubnyk (who has been abysmal this year) in net.

Winner: Canucks

Let us know who you think is going to win in the comments below!

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