NHL playoffs 2018: First-round predictions – USA TODAY

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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Jimmy Hascup and Kevin Allen look at some dark horses that could make some noise this postseason, but ultimately it’s hard to bet against Nashville. USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have reached the playoffs two times since its move to Winnipeg in 2011.(Photo: James Carey Lauder, USA TODAY Sports)

The first round of the NHL playoffs begins Wednesday with the Minnesota Wild at the Winnipeg Jets (CNBC) and the Philadelphia Flyers visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins (NBCSN) at 7 p.m. ET. 

USA TODAY Sports’ NHL staff takes a stab at first-round predictions.

(1) NASHVILLE PREDATORS VS. (WC2) COLORADO AVALANCHE

Kevin Allen: Predators in 5. The Predators have too much depth, too much talent and learned too much last season to be upset in the first round.

Jimmy Hascup: Predators in 5. The Avalanche aren’t quite ready for prime time.

Mike Brehm: Predators in 5. Nashville has better goaltending and defense. Nathan MacKinnon was a -6 vs. the Predators this season.

Jace Evans: Predators in 5. Colorado’s turnaround was one of the best stories in the NHL this year, and while it has some top-end offensive stars, Nashville’s strong defense should be able to keep those players in check. 

(2) WINNIPEG JETS VS. (3) MINNESOTA WILD

Allen: Jets in 6. Defenseman Ryan Suter’s absence (broken leg) will make it doubly difficult for the Wild to slow down the Jets’ high-powered offense.

Hascup: Jets in 6. The Jets’ offense will overwhelm the Ryan Suter-less Wild defense.

Brehm: Jets in 5. The Wild will be hard-pressed to contain Winnipeg’s speed with Ryan Suter out and Jared Spurgeon’s status in doubt.

Evans: Jets in 4. Winnipeg is probably best known for its offense, but record-setting American goalie (44 wins) Connor Hellebuyck is

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