With only a couple of games left, many first-round playoffs matches have been confirmed. Additionally, there is only one spot in the North up for grabs. Meaning, it will soon enough be time for fans to make their NHL Stanley Cup Brackets. Today, let’s look at the likelihood each team will make the conference finals.
1. Carolina Hurricanes
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Florida Panthers
4. Nashville Predators
The division-winning Hurricanes will face the Predators in their first series. Carolina has home-ice advantage and they have loved playing at home this season. They won 20 of 28 home contests which is an impressive feat, to say the least.
This already diminishes the chance the Nashville has success. Not to mention that the Canes are almost twenty points ahead in the division standings. Although regular-season success doesn’t necessarily carry over to the playoffs, it would be a shock if the Canes were upset by Nashville.
The battle of Florida will likely go the full distance of seven games. Therefore, assuming the Canes come off of an easier series, the early advantage could tip the scale so far in Carolina’s favor that the Lightning or Panthers are destined for defeat.
1. Boston Bruins
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. New York Islanders
4. Washington Capitals
The Bruins are set to face either the Caps or Pens in the first round. Although their record this season does not match up with the two, Boston brought in the most significant reinforcements while staying healthy. The Pen’s Jeff Carter does not bring the same spark to a team that the Bruin’s Taylor Hall can.
Meanwhile, the Caps have had so many injury problems of late. Despite their great amount of depth, they played without Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson yesterday. Additionally, Tom Wilson had a scary collision that may keep him out for a few early playoff games. These last-season injuries have the Caps doomed for a first-round exit.
Finally, the Islanders have a great defensive structure, but it is hard to rely on flawless goaltending all the time. They lost three straight to bottom-two teams in the division because the offense was simply non-existent. Something must change for them to have another magical playoff run.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Edmonton Oilers
3. Winnipeg Jets
4. Montreal Canadians/Vancouver Canucks/Calgary Flames
The last spot in the North is still up for grabs. Although not like the Flames or Canucks could steal a playoff spot from Montreal. Regardless, one of these teams will go up against the powerhouse Leafs. The chance for the four-spot to succeed is slim.
Therefore, the Leafs are poised to face the Oilers or Jets in the second round. Given the Jets’ recent struggles, it is likely the Oilers will face the Leafs.
The Leafs get the edge in this series and their ticket to the conference finals because they are more of a complete team. They have more depth. If the Oilers lost Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl to injury, it wouldn’t be a close series. The Leafs have enough depth that they can make due even if they encounter injuries.
1. Las Vegas Golden Knights
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Minnesota Wild
4. St. Louis Blues
The West is quite an interesting division. If the Blues or Wild played in a different division fans would be unsure of their chances at the playoffs. However, both cruised to a playoff spot thanks to significantly weaker teams below them in the West. However, their success is likely going to be short-lived as they will have to go up against a Stanley Cup contender in the first round.
As far as the top two teams go, it is such a toss-up. Both teams are similarly built and it is almost impossible to predict which team will make the conference final. But, because of the Knights’ greater success and experience in the playoffs, the edge goes to them.