This article is part of our From the Press Box series.
The playoffs begin this week, and I'm not going to dwell on a detailed playoff preview (you'll find that elsewhere on our site). However, I will include a brief set of first-round predictions and my thoughts on how to prepare for playoff pools.
Panthers vs. Islanders
The Panthers have been the superior team all season and will look to impose their defensive structure over the Isles. Jaroslav Halak has already been ruled out for the series leaving, Thomas Greiss to shoulder the load in goal for New York. The Panthers win this one in five games.
Lightning vs. Wings
Tampa suffered a huge loss with Stamkos going down with blood-clot issues that will likely cause him to miss the playoffs altogether. Ironically, that has afforded holdout-prone Jonathan Drouin the chance to make his case as a top-six forward in Tampa. Meanwhile, the Wings enter the postseason with the knowledge that this is Pavel Datsyuk's swan song. The Lightning's speed and edge in goaltending causes me to call it for Tampa in six games.
Capitals vs. Flyers
Philadelphia played the Caps tough during regular season, but coach Barry Trotz will have his team focused on attention to the defensive detail that supports the most dynamic offense in the Eastern Conference. The Caps have too much of everything for the Flyers and should dispose of them in five games.
Pens vs. Rangers
The Pens rely on offense and the Rangers lean on defensive strength. I believe the axiom that good defense