The NHL playoff field has been determined. The playoffs begin on Wednesday. What a fun time to be a hockey fan, right? Usually, we are only a Penguins themed website. This year, we are going to take an abbreviated look at all 16 teams in the tournament this season.
No. 1 Seed: Tampa Bay Lightning (113 PTS): The Lightning were the best team in the Eastern Conference this season and were led by MVP candidate Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. They started off so hot that even with a semi-regression, they finished with 113 points and the number one seed. They have the star power to do some major damage in the playoffs and Vasilevskiy has proven that he can succeed in the playoffs.
No. 2 Seed: Boston Bruins (112 PTS): This is a team not many will want to see. The Bruins have gotten awesome seasons out of their big guys like Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask and it led them to within a Sunday night makeup game of taking the East’s first seed. Unfortunately, they fell short and draw a tough match up with the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one. If Boston gets hot, steer clear as they quickly may become the favorite.
No. 3 Seed: Washington Capitals (105 PTS): The pressure is really off of Washington this year. They aren’t the clear cut favorite. They come in with Alex Ovechkin scoring like he always has. They may have a bit of a goalie controversy on their hands which will make or break the playoff run. Don’t count the Capitals out. Their second round shortcomings over the years is a good joke, but eventually Ovechkin will breakthrough.
No. 4 Seed: Toronto Maple Leafs (105 PTS): This young team matured big time after a seven game series with the Capitals last year that they almost pulled off. They will be led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Frederik Andersen has seen a career year turn into a high playoff seed for this Toronto team that will only get better with age. They might be two years away from becoming one of the premier teams in the NHL, but they could make some noise in this playoff season.
No. 5 Seed: Pittsburgh Penguins (100 PTS): Is a three-peat possible for the Penguins? Maybe. They still have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel. Goaltender Matt Murray has never lost a playoff series and they will have Kris Letang after not having him last season. If they play their cards right, who’s to say the star-studded Penguins can’t do it again?
No. 6 Seed: Philadelphia Flyers (98 PTS): Claude Giroux had a renaissance season scoring 103 points and again becoming one of the finer players in the league. They have some questions in goal as Brian Elliott recovers from injury. Petr Mrazek will be the starter for the time-being and he isn’t the most consistent goalie out there so he can be lit up. The Flyers clearly have question marks but they can inflict some damage if Giroux and his supporting cast find their stride.
No. 7 Seed: Columbus Blue Jackets (97 PTS): A pesky team, the Blue Jackets are absolutely a playoff built roster. They’ve got veterans like Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, and Seth Jones. They have young guns like Pierre-Luc Dubois and Zach Werenski to complement them. They are a physical team that has the capability to score and can also shut an offense down with the goaltending. They are one of the league’s hottest teams as the regular season ended. Those type of streaks heading to the playoffs can make for an interesting sleeper team in the elimination tournament.
No. 8 Seed: New Jersey Devils (97 PTS): Here is a team that can cause match up problems. Taylor Hall reeked havoc on the league this year and carried the Devils as far as any other player in the league. Keith Kinkaid has become a starter on this team as he’s backstopped the Devils to the playoffs after overtaking and injured and then struggling Cory Schneider. They probably don’t have the star power or the physicality to hang with the rest of the East, but stranger things have happened.
No. 1 Seed: Nashville Predators (117 PTS): Here is a team that should be absolutely feared. They came two games short of a Stanley Cup last year and after leading the NHL this year, they seem destined to steamroll everyone on their way back. Led by P.K. Subban, Pekka Rinne, and a plethora of depth, can anyone stop the Predators? Time will tell but they’re a team to certainly not bet against.
No. 2 Seed: Winnipeg Jets (114 PTS): You can’t help but get excited for the future of Patrik Laine. The sniper scored 44 goals in his second season after 36 last season. He had help from multiple players this season including Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele among others. They also saw Connor Hellebuyck emerge over Steve Mason after Mason signed a deal to become the Jets starter. That flopped. The Jets are a scary team and shouldn’t be considered a pushover.
No. 3 Seed: Vegas Golden Knights (109 PTS): What a story the Golden Knights are? The expansion franchise obliterated the expansion records and head into the playoffs as a three seed. William Karlsson exploded into a 40+ goal scorer, Marc-Andre Fleury spearheaded the franchise, and a lot of the other smaller pieces are pushing forward to try and shock the hockey world even further. Will they really do it? Time will tell.
No. 4 Seed: Anaheim Ducks (101 PTS): The perennial playoff team. The Ducks make it every year by just having superb depth and solid goaltending from the young John Gibson. They have tremendous center depth but it never seems to translate to playoff success as they have yet to win a cup with the trio they have. They’ll hang around but the top three seem so good that these guys will again fall short of the big prize.
No. 5 Seed: Minnesota Wild (101 PTS): Not many teams make the playoffs without one of their biggest stars for the early portion of the year. Zach Parise came back and jolted life back into the team. However, just before the playoffs, Ryan Suter got hurt and will miss the entire playoffs. The Wild aren’t going to win by losing a shutdown defenseman and that is especially true in the playoffs. Don’t expect a long run from these guys.
No. 6 Seed: San Jose Sharks (100 PTS): It’s getting quite interesting. Despite this team getting older by the day, the Sharks always find a way to quietly sneak in. Joe Thornton keeps doing things like he is a young spring chicken. Martin Jones always does enough to keep them in games. The Sharks are going to continue to do Sharks things and win some games. Maybe they’ll win just enough. Or, maybe, they’ll bow out early. The playoffs are fickle.
No. 7 Seed: Los Angeles Kings (98 PTS): The Kings had themselves a season. They had 98 points and still finished seventh. They are a deep team and have a goaltender who’s been through the ringer of getting to the Stanley Cup before. Jonathan Quick is just as good as he once was and he is incredibly ready to try and make some noise and get the Kings back to that promised land. They can do it, too. They’re the sleepers in the West.
No. 8 Seed: Colorado Avalanche (92 PTS): If Vegas is the best story, the Avalanche are right behind. Colorado went from worst team in the league to sneaking into the playoffs. After trading Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators, you could’ve written them off. Nathan MacKinnon had other plans as he carried this team and potentially bought himself an MVP in the process. The Avalanche added some pieces for the future and still made the playoffs. MacKinnon has been so good that it may not matter because he could steal a series or two himself.
The stage is set and the playoff begin Wednesday. It’ll be a fun playoff season as the match ups are great. The Stanley Cup winner will be determined in early to mid June and the NHL will be better for it.