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NHL Postseason Picture
The NHL’s second season gets underway on Saturday. Although the Blue Jackets’ four-year streak of postseason appearances was snapped, fans should enjoy 16 other teams battling it out for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Before the postseason officially begins, here’s a look at each series, plus some of the changes made for these playoffs in order to deal with the change of each division structure.
As opposed to years’ past where there would be Eastern and Western conferences, 2021 will see the East, Central, North, and West divisions all have their own postseason. Once the four teams from each division have a champion, the final four teams left standing will be re-seeded, and they will play two more best-of-seven series until we have a Stanley Cup champion.
No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins (37-16-3) vs. No. 4 New York Islanders (32-17-7): The Penguins managed to win home ice through the first two rounds, edging out the Capitals in the tie-breaker. That then sets them up against the Islanders, a team they beat six times in eight meetings this season and a team who has sputtered to just three wins in their last ten games.
No. 2 Washington Capitals (36-15-5) vs. No. 3 Boston Bruins (33-16-7): This is one of the closest series in terms of point totals, with just four points separating these teams heading into the postseason. If that wasn’t enough, both have split their season series at four-game apiece, the last of which a Capitals victory earlier this week that gave them a home-ice advantage for this series.
No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes (36-12-8) vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators (31-23-2): The Hurricanes managed to win the tough Central Division by a point over the Panthers, their first division title since 2006 when they won the Stanley Cup. They defeated the Predators in six out of eight meetings this year, but a Nashville team who won seven of their last 10 entering the postseason.
No. 2 Florida Panthers (37-14-5) vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning (36-17-3): In the battle for the Sunrise State, the Panthers and Lightning will face off in what looks to be one of the best postseason series of the first round. While the Panthers defeated them twice in the last week by a combined score of 9-1 and took five out of eight games this year, the Bolts are expected to activate injured forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs (35-14-7) vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens (24-21-11): Although this is one of the premier rivalries in hockey, this is the first time the Leafs and Habs have met in the playoffs since 1979. During the season, Toronto showed the clear edge by winning seven of nine games while a whopping 18 points separate the two Canadian rivals.
No. 2 Edmonton Oilers (35-18-2) vs. No. 3 Winnipeg Jets (30-23-3): Led by the league’s top point-scorer in Connor McDavid, the Oilers won their final three games and eight of their last ten as they host the Jets. Edmonton had a noticeable advantage during the regular season as well, winning seven out of nine against a Winnipeg team that only won three of their final ten games.
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche (39-13-4) vs. No. 4 St. Louis Blues (27-20-9): The Avalanche claimed the President’s Trophy on the final day of their regular season, clinching the league’s top record and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Now, they’ll look to beat a Blues team which they defeated five times in eight matchups but has won three straight games and a Stanley Cup just two years ago.
No. 2 Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2) vs. No. 3 Minnesota Wild (35-16-5): The league’s only 40-game winner, the Golden Knights, continue their impressive start of franchise history with yet another postseason appearance. However, they are matched up against the Wild, the only underdog who has won more games against their opponent during the regular season, taking down Vegas five times in eight matchups.
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