Detroit — The NHL heavyweights came to play.
There was a sense heading into the first round of the NHL playoffs that the teams that competed in the round-robin — those were the top four seeds in each conference — would have a measure of difficulty heading in the first-round.
The round-robin games, generally speaking, didn’t have the same energy or pace that the qualifying-round series had. The intensity was different.
So, it was assumed those top seeds were going to still be a step slower heading into this past round.
But, no need to worry. Those top-seeded teams knew what time it was, and what they were doing.
Six of the eight top seeds advanced into the second round, with only Washington in the East and St. Louis in the West being eliminated.
In fact, four of the series lasted only five games. None needed the maximum of seven games.
So what does that mean for this particular round?
You have six teams that have been excellent throughout the regular season and these playoffs, and two red-hot teams in the New York Islanders (East) and Vancouver (West) who are playing as good as anyone.
Here is the preview of the four series:
(1) Philadelphia vs. (7) New York Islanders
►Records: Philadelphia 41-21-7, .645 point percentage; N.Y. Islanders 35-23-10, .588.
►Playoffs: Philadelphia — Round robin, 3-0-0, 1st round – d. Montreal in 6 games. N.Y. Islanders — Play-in round d. Florida in 4 games, 1st round d. Washington in 6 games.
►Storylines: Philadelphia has looked among the best teams in this playoff tournament. The Flyers are getting scoring from a variety of sources, and young G Carter Hart outplayed Montreal’s Carey Price in first-round.
More: Friday’s NHL playoffs: Flyers head into 2nd round of East playoffs with Game 6 win
The Islanders never let Washington get going in pulling off the minor upset. The Islanders’ defensive structure, their deep lineup, and the play of G Semyon Varlamov has made this team extremely dangerous.
►Key player: Islanders C Mathew Barzal. With 7 points in 9 games, Barzal has been good in these playoffs but there’s another gear that he’s yet to reach. If Barzal does, it might be enough to nudge the Islanders further.
►Prediction: N.Y. Islanders in 6.
(2) Tampa Bay vs. (4) Boston
►Records: Tampa Bay 43-21-6, .657; Boston 44-14-12, .714.
►Playoffs: Tampa — Round robin, 2-1-0, 1st round: d. Columbus in 5 games. Boston — Round robin, 0-3-0, 1st round – d. Carolina in 5 games.
►Storylines: These were the top two teams in the East during the regular season, and only Boston’s lackluster round-robin shuffled the eventual seedings. So, now you have these teams meeting in Round 2. There’s very little separating these two teams, which are deep in every position.
►Key player: Boston G Jaroslav Halak. Halak is good enough to take a team deep in the playoffs, but with G Tuukka Rask opting out, the Bruins are in trouble if Halak somehow falters or gets hurt.
►Prediction: Boston in 7.
(1) Vegas vs. (7) Vancouver
►Records: Vegas 39-24-8, .606; Vancouver 36-27-6, .565.
►Playoffs: Vegas — Round robin, 3-0-0, 1st round: d. Chicago in 5 games. Vancouver — Qualifying: d. Minnesota in 4, 1st round: d. St. Louis in 6.
►Storylines: Vegas continued to look like the class of the West in dismantling Chicago. The Golden Knights’ best players have been leading the way, with G Robin Lehner particularly effective.
Vancouver has become the story of these playoffs for the way the Canucks are coming of age. A young, deep lineup was too much for Stanley Cup champion St. Louis.
►Key player: Vancouver D Quinn Hughes. Hughes might be the best player in this tournament thus far. It’s up to Vegas to contain Hughes, somehow.
More: ‘Incredible to watch’: Quinn Hughes making teams that passed on him, including Red Wings, regret it (subscription required)
►Prediction: Vegas in 7.
(2) Colorado vs. (3) Dallas
►Records: Colorado 42-20-8, .657, Dallas 37-24-8, .594.
►Playoffs: Colorado — round robin, 2-0-1, 1st round: d. Arizona in 5 games. Dallas — round robin, 1-2-0, 1st round: d. Calgary in 6 games.
►Storylines: Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon is showing the hockey world he truly is, while C Nazem Kadri has become a force in this tournament, adding to the Avalanche’s effectiveness.
Dallas appeared headed to a Game 7 against Calgary, trailing 3-0, before erupting for 7 unanswered goals and a series victory. This series matches the Stars’ physicality and size and Colorado’s speed and skill.
►Key player: Dallas C Tyler Seguin. With only 3 points (all assists) in 8 games, Seguin has been missing in action. If Dallas has any chance in this series, Seguin has to produce much more offense.
►Prediction: Colorado in 5.