The NHL playoffs are near. Numerous teams have clinched their playoff birth this past week. So, which NHL teams should fans expect to have the most playoff success?
First Round Exits
Central: Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers
The Predators currently hold the last playoff spot in the Central and are the only team not to clinch yet. They are simply not going to match up well against the teams above them. They have played better as the season progressed, but they do not have enough talent to put up a fight.
The Panthers have had a spectacular season from guys like Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they are likely to face the Canes or Lightning in the first round. The Lightning has a great amount of depth and superstar talent and the Canes have an elite defense and an offense that rivals all other 30 teams.
East: Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders
The Last two playoffs have been a tough experience for an aging Pens roster. Core talents like Evgeni Malkin have failed to stay healthy. Their recent playoff series have been underwhelming, to say the least. The Penguins were swept by the Islanders in the first round of the 2019 playoffs. A year later, the Pens lost their first series in an expanded playoff to the Canadians. They were upset in a best-of-five.
The Islanders are set to enter their third consecutive playoffs. However, their season series against a team like the Capitals have not been great. They have managed to win two against Washington. Similarly, the Isles have not played well against the Penguins. Either rival will pose a tough threat for Trotz’s Islanders.
North: Montreal Canadians, Winnipeg Jets
The Canadians have had a rollercoaster of a season. They got off to a promising start, and shortly after relieved coach Claude Julien of his coaching duties. However, the struggles of the Flames, Canucks, and Senators led Montreal to stay in contention. Nevertheless, the Canadians would face the Leafs or Oilers who are both in a better position to win now.
The Jets should be in panic mode right now. They dropped six straight games. Yet, the Oilers were the only team to move ahead of them in the North standings. The likelihood that the Jets miss the playoff is slim. But, don’t expect them to make it far in the playoffs given their lousy stretch. The Jets’ top-six especially Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers need to help the team get back on track.
West: Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues
The Wild have had a great season and their fans are deserving of an exciting playoff. However, the Wild will go up against one of the superpowers of the league, the Colorado Avalanche and the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The Blues have had an underwhelming season. Fortunately, they are still in a good position to contend since the West has some of the weaker teams. It would be a shock if they could surpass the Knights or Avs. Sure, they have a great amount of leadership and experience, but their performance has not been great this season.
The playoffs are taking shape as the regular season comes to a close. Are there any teams that could sneak into the playoffs, or are the teams holding the spots now competing for Lord Stanley in a few weeks? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.