Sport NHL playoffs 2018: Predictions, odds for Lightning vs. Devils first-round series

20:45  10 april  2018
20:45  10 april  2018 Source:   sportingnews.com

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NHL playoffs 2018 : Predictions , odds for Lightning vs . Devils first - round series . Sporting News - 09 Apr 2018 Evan Sporer: Weird to think about the Devils playing in a postseason in what should be an up-tempo, fast-paced series , but then again, it's 2018 .

Seven teams that failed to make the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs qualified in 2018, matching the largest year-over-year change in NHL history. Two of those teams meet in what should be a high-energy, high-scoring first-round series between the Lightning and Devils.

In hindsight, it's difficult to fathom Tampa finished last season on the outside looking in after watching them skate circles around opponents most of this year. Steven Stamkos' return and a Hart Trophy-worthy performance from Nikita Kucherov give the Bolts the NHL's most potent offense, their best tool in an attempt to chase down a Stanley Cup for the first time since 2003.

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NHL playoff first - round matchups, schedule, broadcast details and playoff pool cheat sheet. National Post - 09 Apr 2018 The 2018 NHL Playoffs begin Wednesday on three fronts, with the defending Pittsburgh Penguins NHL playoffs 2018 : Hall, Devils end long droughts, clinch postseason berth.

Scores. Standings. NHL playoffs 2018 : Predictions , odds for Lightning vs . Devils first - round series . Sporting News. NHL playoffs 2018 : Hall, Devils end long droughts, clinch postseason berth.

MORE: Complete bracket, schedule for 2018 NHL playoffs

This is also the first taste of the playoffs for Taylor Hall, who's neck-and-neck with Kucherov for MVP honors. Without him, Devils don't sniff the final playoff spot, ending their streak of five consecutive misses.

Sporting News' NHL experts Brandon Schlager, Evan Sporer and Jim Cerny make their series predictions below.

SN STAFF PREDICTIONS

EAST: Lightning-Devils | Bruins-Maple Leafs | Capitals-Blue Jackets | Penguins-Flyers

WEST: Predators-Avalanche | Jets-Wild | Golden Knights-Kings | Ducks-Sharks

a man wearing a red hat: Taylor Hall and Steven Stamkos © (Getty Images) Taylor Hall and Steven Stamkos

Tampa Bay Lightning (-300) vs. New Jersey Devils (+220): Schedule, picks, predictions

Game 1: April 12 at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.

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Everything to know about the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils before their first - round series in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs .

Game 2: April 14 at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m.

Game 3: April 16 at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.

Game 4: April 18 at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.

*Game 5: April 21 at Tampa Bay, TBD

*Game 6: April 23 at New Jersey, TBD

*Game 7: April 25 at Tampa Bay, TBD

(All times Eastern; * If necessary)

Regular season meetings: NJ, 5-4 OT (10/17); NJ, 4-3 (2/17); NJ, 2-1 (3/24)

Brandon Schlager: The Lightning were my preseason Eastern Conference champions, so I'm sticking to that. Tampa may have lost out on the Presidents' Trophy, but showed all season no team can match its scoring power. After patching up a few deficiencies at the trade deadline, they're a well-rounded force to be reckoned with. One thing that gives me pause: The Devils had the Lightning's number in the regular season, sweeping the series. The Bolts took their foot off the pedal in the second half of the season and Andrei Vasilevskiy came back to Earth, so it's not so far-fetched to think the Devils can steal a game or two. In the end, Tampa's talent is too much for a green New Jersey team that needs more seasoning beyond Hall.

NHL playoffs 2018: Today's scores, schedule, live updates

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Everything to know about the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils before their first - round series in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs .

Tampa Bay Lightning (A1) vs . New Jersey Devils (WC2). Game. Date. NHL playoffs 2018 : Predictions , odds for Jets vs . Wild first - round series | NHL . LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply.

Lightning in 6 games

Evan Sporer: Weird to think about the Devils playing in a postseason in what should be an up-tempo, fast-paced series, but then again, it's 2018. The new New Jersey Devils are certainly dramatically different in terms of style than the last time they were in the playoffs in 2012. That being said, the Devils are going up against a team that was ahead of the curve on this north-south, transition style game. Too many question marks on the New Jersey side of the ice, specially in goal, where if Cory Schneider was on top of his game, it would make for an interesting series. The Devils took major strides this season, but the Lightning roll three lines and added Ryan McDonagh at the trade deadline. Not bad!

Lightning in 5 games

Jim Cerny: The Lightning captured the Eastern Conference regular season championship — clinching on the season's final day when the Bruins lost to the Panthers — but they did not manage a single victory against the Devils, losing all three head-to-head meetings. Hmm. Add to the mix that the Devils were one of the NHL's best teams down the stretch (10-3-1), have a legit Hart Trophy candidate in Taylor Hall leading the way, are amped for their first playoff series in six years and you could make the case for New Jersey pulling a major first-round upset. Except, that upset is not happening. The Lightning have the deepest and most talented group of forwards in the entire league — especially with the return of Steven Stamkos — a more formidable defense since the addition of Ryan McDonagh to the second pair behind Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman and a talented, if underappreciated, goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Lightning in 5 games

NHL Mixed Bag: Capitals combat history, circumstance entering pivotal Game 3 .
The Capitals have been the better team in their first-round series against the Blue Jackets, yet trail 0-2. They now face a razor-thin margin for error or else risk elimination. Historically, NHL teams leading 2-0 in a series have advanced 87 percent of the time (per Hockey Reference). Only five teams in the history of major professional sports have climbed out of an 0-3 hole to win a series. As we’ve seen, there’s a reason for that.

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