North Division 2021 NHL Playoffs Preview/Predictions

Tomas Vessio
Head of NHL/Podcast Host

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Maple Leafs (1) vs. Canadiens (4)

Series Overview:

The original six battles we’ve been waiting for for decades have finally come to fruition in 2021. The Maple Leafs seem to be the favorite in this series, having won the North Division, but don’t count out the Montreal Canadiens after what they did last year as the 24th seed in the qualifying round last playoffs. The star power of Toronto with Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander overshadowed the solid players on Montreal but with shutdown defense and Carey Price in the cage, a goaltender series stealer could be in eyeline for Price and the Canadiens.

Record against each other:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs: 7-2-1
  • Montreal Canadiens : 3-6-1

In 10 matchups this season, the Maple Leafs had the edge with seven wins and dominating in most games, even in losses. Playoffs is usually a clean slate, but maybe regular season success can find its way into this series.

Schedule:

  • Game 1: at Toronto, Thursday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET 
  • Game 2: at Toronto, Saturday, May 22 at 7 p.m. ET 
  • Game 3: at Montreal, Monday, May 24 at TBD 
  • Game 4: at Montreal, Tuesday, May 25 at TBD 
  • Game 5*: at Toronto, Thursday, May 27 at TBD 
  • Game 6*: at Montreal, Saturday, May 29 at TBD
  • Game 7*: at Toronto, Monday, May 31 at TBD 

Wildcards:

Montreal Canadiens: Brenden Gallagher

Gallagher has been out for over a month now with a thumb injury but will be healthy for Game one of the first round series. Gallagher is the heart and soul of the Canadiens team and without him they lacked fire, intensity and leadership that they missed him extremely when he was out. Gallgher is going to be a pain in the ass for the Maple Leafs so he is in the spotlight for Montreal.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Jack Campbell and Fredrik Andersen

Jack Campbell will get the nod in Game 1, but does that mean hell handle it well? We will see. Both goaltenders are under the spotlight here because of the risks and rewards they both bring to the table. Campbell deserves to start after the season he had but Andersen has been the Maple Leafs goalie since 2017? Who do the trust more and who plays more games? Stay Tuned.

Final Thoughts:

This series has the potential to be grinded out or be short and sweet if one team (Maple Leafs) can take advantage of certain Canadiens weaknesses.

Prediction: Maple Leafs in 6

Oilers (2) vs Jets (3)

Series Overview:

A great, star-studded series in the North Division between players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Mark Shiefele, Blake Wheeler and Connor Hellebuyck makes for a good battle. It has the makings of a close matchup with different strengths and different weaknesses going head to head, but at the end of the day, the stars will be complete difference makers on either side.

Record against each other:

  • Edmonton Oilers: 7-2-0
  • Winnipeg Jets : 2-7-0

The season series wasn’t kind at all for the Jets as they dropped six straight losses after Feb. 15. The Jets are praying that the playoffs are a much different beast and they can rally some momentum and block the regular season out of their minds.

Schedule:

  • Game 1:Wednesday, May 19: Jets at Oilers, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Game 2: Friday, May 21: Jets at Oilers, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Game 3: Sunday, May 23: Oilers at Jets TBD
  • Game 4: Monday, May 24: Oilers at Jets TBD
  • Game 5:* Wednesday, May 26: Jets at Oilers TBD
  • Game 6:* Friday, May 28: Oilers at Jets TBD
  • Game 7:* Sunday, May 30: Jets at Oilers TBD

Wildcards:

Edmonton Oilers: Mike Smith

Maybe the second or third most important Edmonton Oiler this series, Mike Smith is very much under the spotlight in round one. His fabulous play this year has given the Oilers a legit goalie to lean on and they really hope it can continue into the playoffs or else they are screwed with puck stoppers.

Winnipeg Jets: Pierre Luc Dubois

If their big trade piece can get it together in round one, that’s just another big weapon to take care of for the Oilers. If he can’t, well this might be the worst NHL season he’ll play in his entire career. Dubois has to be a factor in this series to balance the scoring that McDavid will do on the other side if his teammates aren’t scoring on his side. He will be under the spotlight every shift on the ice.

Final Thoughts:

McDavid could puncture the Jets Defence every shift but the Jets could figure out Mike Smith but one seems more realistic than the other and that’s McDavid being dominating and taking over this series.

Prediction: Oilers in 6

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