Article by: Zach Henley
This season has been a wild ride full of ups and downs, and after 82 games, the playoffs are here. From new records to droughts ending, several teams have made a strong push for the Stanley Cup this season, and here are five things to look for heading into the first round.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning had one of the best seasons in recent history on their way to the one seed in the Eastern Conference. The team compiled 62 wins to go with 16 outright losses and four overtime losses. With their 62 wins, they tied the 1995 Detroit Red Wings for the most wins a single season. The Lightning had +103 goal differential, being the highest total since the 1995 Red Wings as well. Star center Steve Stamkos leads the team with 45 goals, along with 98 points and led the team to back-to-back top seeds. Tampa Bay looks to go far like last season and make the Stanley Cup final as they are favorites to win the championship.
A lot of new faces
In this year’s postseason affair, several new teams have made the journey to becoming champions. In the Western Conference, The Blues, Stars, and Flames all made the postseason after failing to do so last year. In the Eastern Conference, the Islanders and Hurricanes both made the postseason as well. Perhaps one of the biggest changes are the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina made the postseason for the first time in nearly ten years. Some of the biggest teams to make their way back to the playoffs are the Lightning, Capitals, Penguins, Knights, and Predators.
Will the West prevail this year?
Over the past four seasons, the Eastern Conference has won the Stanley Cup, with Pittsburgh winning three and Washington winning last year. Since 2015, the West has not been the same in the playoffs. The games are not as intriguing, and the West just isn't a powerhouse anymore. In the East, the rivalries have gotten more bitter, the teams have improved, and the games are exciting and there is just a totally different atmosphere overall. The most exciting team in the West right now are the Las Vegas Golden Knights and this is because they're new and a fresh team with nothing to prove as of now. Will this be the year the West takes over the league again? Only time will tell.
The biggest rivalry this postseason
Perhaps the biggest rivalry and most interesting game in the playoffs come from the Eastern Conference. The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs square off just as they did last year. Both still the same seeds, one team is looking for the same result, as the other is looking for redemption. In last year’s affair, the Bruins came away victorious and led the Leafs determined for revenge. In game 1 of the series last year, a forward received a three-game suspension for the Leafs, and that ultimately cost the team the series. This series will surely have all NHL fans on the edge of their seats.
Will Washington repeat?
After winning their first Stanley cup, the Capitals are back in the playoffs looking to repeat as champions. The Ovechkin led team won the Metropolitan division and is going against the new faced Carolina Hurricanes. With the same roster as last season, the Caps go into the first round full of confidence and focus as they could potentially face two of the three same teams as last year. Their biggest challenge will come from the Lightning, who are the hottest team in the league. With the same roster and a load of experience, will the Capitals shock the world and repeat as champions?
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