Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL First Round Playoff Predictions

The NHL First Round Playoff Games have arrived as Pickswise will be handing out daily winning NHL picks starting on Wednesday. With over a decade of combined winning experience, Pickswise is your number one NHL first round playoff resource to win. To kick off the first round playoff games, the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning from the Eastern Conference will go toe to toe. Enjoy these free NHL first round playoff predictions? Give @Pickswise a follow and get a first hand-look on his daily research.

Blue Jackets vs. Lightning First Round Playoff Predictions

Game 1: CBJ vs. TB
Line: Lightning -220
Pickswise Expert Picks: Tampa Bay Win!

The NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning are massive +180 favorites to win the Stanley Cup (no other team has better than +700 odds). But before they can look at the big picture, the Lightning must focus on an Eastern Conference first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets that begins on Wednesday night in Tampa Bay. Columbus is no pushover and it ended the regular season in impressive fashion, but the franchise has never won a single playoff series in its entire 18-year existence (0-4 in four appearances, 5-16 in total games).

Tampa Bay rolled to the Presidents’ Trophy with plenty of room to spare, compiling a 62-16-4 record for 128 points. The Lightning are a dominant 32-7-2 at home, which bodes especially well for their chances on Wednesday. They boast three players with at least 92 points: forward Nikita Kucherov (NHL-leading 128), captain Steven Stamkos, and fellow center Brayden Point. Columbus is 5-16 in its last 21 games in the conference quarterfinal round and 3-10 in its last 13 trips to Tampa Bay. The Lightning are 45-12 in their last 57 overall, 40-13 in their last 53 at home, 40-15 in their last 55 against opponents with winning records, and 6-0 in the last six meetings with the Blue Jackets. Take Tampa Bay with confidence.

Game 2: CBJ vs. TB
Line: Lightning -270
Pickswise Expert Picks: Tampa Bay Win!

Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets was without question the most shocking development of this entire NHL season. It wasn’t just that the Lightning are overwhelming favorites in this series–and will be in any down the road–after capturing the Presidents’ Trophy by a country mile with 128 points. It was all but over when they led 3-0 after one period at home on Wednesday…. Until it wasn’t. Tampa Bay got outscored 4-0 the rest of the way, including 3-0 in the third period, en route to an inexplicable 4-3 loss. With the urgency surely ramped up, there is surely no way this team will fall asleep again.

On paper, the Lightning are simply too good: Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos anchoring top lines…. Keep in mind that Columbus started last year’s playoffs strong, too, only to blow a 2-0 series lead against eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington. The Blue Jackets’ playoff success will probably be even more short-lived this time around. Columbus is 1-4 in its last five conference quarterfinal contests and 4-14 in its last 14 at Tampa Bay. The Lightning are 45-13 in their last 58 overall, 40-14 in their last 54 at home, and 6-1 in their last six head-to-head matchups with the Jackets. TAMPA BAY will likely roll–just like it should have in Game 1.

Game 3: TB vs. CBJ
Line: Lightning -135
Pickswise Expert Picks: Tampa Bay Win!

In last year’s first round, the Columbus Blue Jackets took two in a row on the road for a 2-0 lead going home against the Washington Capitals. The rest is history–in that the Capitals went on to win the Stanley Cup. It is by no means out of the question for lightning…literally…to strike twice. This time it is the Tampa Bay Lightning who have a chance to come back from a 2-0 deficit at the Blue Jackets’ hands and eventually win a championship. And that’s the way this team should be looking at it, too: as an opportunity.

The Lightning (128 points in the regular season) are too good to bow out listlessly in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Their stars have not produced at all through two postseason outings but they still should have won Game 1 without any trouble (led 3-0 after one period before collapsing). Don’t be surprised if what happened in 2017-18 creeps into Columbus’ mind during Game 3 on Sunday. Tampa Bay is 45-14 in its last 59 overall, 41-16 in its last 57 on the road, 44-10 in its last 54 against the Eastern Conference, and 6-1 in its last seven at Columbus. The Blue Jackets are 2-6 in their last eight head-to-head matchups with the Lighting. Picking TAMPA BAY over and over again in this series and expecting different results is not insane. It’s smart.

Game 4: TB vs. CBJ
Line: Lightning -135
Pickswise Expert Picks: Tampa Bay Win!

It would be nice if this was more about the team that is winning than the team that is losing. You know, all of the Masters headlines focus on Tiger Woods–not on Francesco Molinari going in the water on both 12 and 15. But that isn’t the case here. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ shocking 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series is all about the Tampa Bay Lightning. And why not? Tampa Bay was the best team in hockey during the regular season by a country mile, compiling the best record going away (128 points). The Lightning would be the first Presidents’ Trophy-winning team in league history to get swept in round one of the playoffs. Of course, it shouldn’t happen.

This squad is too talented and NHL points leader Nikita Kucherov will be back on Tuesday following a one-game suspension. Tampa Bay has also played somewhat well in spurts, such as in the first quarter of Game 1 and for most of Game 3. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 of 29 shots on Sunday. Tampa Bay is 48-16 in its last 64 overall, 41-17 in its last 58 on the road, 44-11 in its last 55 against the Eastern Conference, and 6-2 in its last seven at Columbus. The Blue Jackets are 7-16 in their last 23 conference quarterfinal contests and 2-5 in their last seven at home against teams with winning percentages over .600. THE LIGHTNING should finally excel on the rink with their season on the brink. 

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