Another NHL regular season is in the books, and that means it’s time for playoff hockey.
The first round games:
Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers
— NHL (@NHL) April 11, 2016
The Chicago Blackhawks come into the postseason as the defending champions after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in the finals last season. While the Blackhawks have a good chance to repeat—especially after winger Patrick Kane led the NHL in scoring—the Washington Capitals have a strong argument that they are the overall favorites. Washington clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with 120 points to lead the entire NHL, and goalie Braden Holtby nearly set the record for wins in a season.
So it’s the Capitals, right? Well, not so fast. In the past decade, only two teams—the ’12-’13 Blackhawks and the ’07-’08 Red Wings—have won the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same year. On top of that, the Capitals have some recent playoff disappointment to overcome. Last year the team gave up a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round to get knocked out.
If it’s not the Capitals, who could it be? The Rangers have an All-Star goalie in Henrik Lundqvist, but the team has slumped heading into the playoffs. The Stars finished with the most points in the Western Conference, but the team has not made a deep postseason run in years. The Panthers, Ducks, and Stars are division winners, but they may not have enough overall talent to win it all.
The Pittsburgh Penguins come in as the hottest team in the league after winning eight of their final 10 regular season games, but can they get through the Eastern Conference? The Penguins will try and answer that question on Wednesday when the team opens play against the New York Rangers.