Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL postseason. The first round begins with five games Wednesday, including the Vegas Golden Knights, who reached the Cup Final last season, taking on the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round. The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals start their title defense Thursday.
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Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET; USA, SN360, TVAS, SUN, FS-O):The Lightning won the Presidents' Trophy this season and the Blue Jackets were the last of the 16 NHL teams to clinch a playoff berth. The Lightning have Nikita Kucherov, who led the League with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), and serious Cup aspirations this season after falling to the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final last season. The Blue Jackets are the only team in the NHL to have never won a series in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG+, ATTSN-PT): The last time the Islanders hosted a Game 1 of the playoff series was April 6, 1988, which was four months and one day before Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby's first birthday. Nassau Coliseum will be rocking when the Islanders, who finished second in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of Pittsburgh, take on Crosby and a Penguins team that is loaded with experience from its Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017. Of course, their attempt for a third straight title ended last year against the Capitals, who were coached by Barry Trotz, who is now Islanders coach, making for an intriguing subplot to this best-of-seven series.
St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS3, FS-MW): The Blues went from last place Jan. 2 to a playoff berth, finishing the regular season with a 30-10-5 run. The Jets, who were first in the Central until the final week of the season, are looking to at least get back to the Western Conference Final, where they lost to the Golden Knights last season. Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington will get his first taste of playoff action against an experienced Jets team. Look for the whiteout at Bell MTS Place.
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Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators (9:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN1, TVAS, FS-TN, FS-SW): The last time the Predators played a postseason game at Bridgestone Arena, they lost Game 7 to the Jets in the Western Conference Second Round last season. After winning the Central Division, they have hopes of getting back to the Cup Final, where they lost the Penguins in six games in 2017. The Stars, the first wild card into the playoffs from the West, are back in the postseason for the first time since 2016 and haven't gotten past the second round since 2008.
Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET: NBCSN, SN, TVAS2, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM):The Golden Knights stunned the hockey world by reaching the Cup Final last season, but it's hard to believe they will catch anyone by surprise this season, especially the Sharks, who were eliminated by Vegas in the second round last season. The Golden Knights, who were third in the Pacific Division, will have Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone this time around while the Sharks, who were second in the Pacific, will have Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton in the lineup.