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NHL News and Thoughts: Round One, Smashville, and a Tough Matchup for the Capitals

An incredible round one of the playoffs have come to an end and there’s a lot to talk about.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Forty-two games later, 18 of which went into overtime, the first round of the playoffs has come to an end. The 18 games that went past regulation are the most games in a single round to ever go to overtime.

The first round lived up to every bit of the hype surrounding it.

There were two sweeps, and if you predicted the Nashville Predators to have one of them, you’re lying.

In the East, the Toronto Maple Leafs gave the top-seeded Washington Capitals an incredible battle, forcing five of six games to overtime. Every game in that series was decided by a single goal.

With the Leafs now eliminated, my pipe dream of seeing Connor McDavid vs. Auston Matthews in the finals is now dead. But I suppose there might be a couple more opportunities for that in the future.

Here’s a rundown of the highlights from round one.

The Blackhawks are Bad

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so maybe they’re not actually bad, but the Nashville Predators took care of business as they swept the West’s number one seed in the first round.

Nashville held Chicago to three goals over the four-game series, including shutouts in games one and two. Woof.

Viktor Arvidsson, who had a wonderful breakout season for the Preds, had a great series, as did the likes of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Ryan Ellis. You could also describe Pekka Rinne’s round-one 0.70 goals against average and .976 save percentage as “pretty acceptable”.

Next, Nashville will take on the St. Louis Blues who are fresh off of a 4-1 series win over the Minnesota Wild.

Related to that series, Hurricanes captain Eric Staal took a scary fall into the boards in Game 5. He was diagnosed with a concussion after being taken to the hospital, but was released later that night. Best wishes to Staal for a full recovery.

The Caps Stay Alive

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

An unbeLeafable series (I’m sorry) between the Leafs and Caps ended like most expected - with the Capitals advancing, but it likely didn’t happen how you expected.

Five games went to overtime, with the Caps winning three of them, and every game ended with either team within a goal of each other.

Toronto put up an incredible fight and if a couple of overtime bounces had gone their way, we’re looking at both number-one seeds no longer playing.

Auston Matthews was fantastic and the supporting cast was there, but it just wasn’t enough to take down a truly dominant Washington roster.

The Capitals just have too many weapons in every area. Even with just three points from Alex Ovechkin, all of them goals, in the series, they were still able to firepower their way into round two. Braden Holtby struggled early in the series but was able to bounce back. He played a great Game 6 to clinch the series.

T.J. Oshie was marvelous, netting three goals and seven points in round one. With his contract expiring this offseason, it would definitely be a shame to see him leave D.C. and join another team in the Metropolitan Division. Perhaps a team that is young and expected to make a playoff push next season.

Wouldn’t that just be a shame...

Now, the Caps have to deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in round two. Ovechkin vs. Crosby might not be as attractive as it once was, but it’s fair to assume that the better player’s team will win that series. Never bet against a healthy Sidney Crosby.

Second Round Matchups

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The second round will be a lot of fun.

Headlining the matchups is Crosby’s Pens vs. Ovie’s Caps, but beyond that, there are a lot of great matchups in store.

The Predators are on top of the world right now and they will assuredly be a huge handful for the Blues in round two, the Rangers and Senators are both coming off 4-2 series wins, and my most highly anticipated series is the Ducks vs. the Oilers.

The Oilers are built off of speed and the Ducks are built off of a big, physical power game.

You’re talking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl vs. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Their differing styles are intriguing, and both Cam Talbot and John Gibson have been great in the postseason.

Going into the postseason, it looked like Washington’s Stanley Cup to lose, and it still is the case, but they’re going to have a tough time with Pittsburgh.

The Penguins are deep, talented, and they still have the best player on the planet in Sidney Crosby. Beyond him, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have both been phenomenal, and still lesser known players in Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel have been scoring goals at a high rate.

Marc-Andre Fleury was good against Columbus and they’ll need him to continue that run without Matt Murray.

The second round starts on Wednesday with Nashville vs. St. Louis at 8:00 pm EST, followed by Edmonton vs. Anaheim at 10:30 pm EST. The Eastern Conference games start on Thursday.