NHL preview: Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup?

The NHL regular season has ended and the dust has finally settled over the playoff picture in the National Hockey League. The playoffs start this Wednesday, but let’s take a look at the matchups that will make up the first round.

Eastern Conference

The New York Rangers, the winners of the Presidents’ Trophy, will take on the eighth seeded Pittsburgh Penguins who squeaked into the playoffs with a win on the final day of the season against the Buffalo Sabres (one of two NHL teams actively seeking to lose games). Rick Nash of the Rangers, who led the team in goal, looks to lead the Rangers back to the Finals, while the Penguins are missing Kris Letang who suffered a concussion in late March and has been ruled out for the playoffs. Prediction: Rangers in 6

The second seeded Montreal Canadiens will take on the red hot Ottawa Senators who are 23–4–4 in their last 31 games. With their top player out with concussion-like symptoms for the foreseeable future, this could be the first upset of the playoffs if the Senators can continue to keep the intensity, no easy task when you’ve essentially playing playoff hockey since mid-February. Prediction: Senators in 7

The Tampa Bay Lightning will take on the Detroit Red Wings who are in the playoffs for the 24th consecutive year (impressive, but not the longest streak in NHL history). The Lightning are trying to address some issues on the injury front with three of their top defenders questionable to return by game one. The Red Wings on the other side have two strong goalies in Petr Mazrek and Jimmy Howard, that coach Mike Babcock will have to choose between as the playoff starter. Prediction: Lightning in 6

In the final matchup of the Eastern Conference, Washington Capitals will take on New York Islanders. The Capitals have the star power of Ovechkin and Backstrom, and the Islanders have the All-Star in Jaroslav Halak who had a .914 save percentage playing in 59 games this season. Prediction: Capitals in 7

Western Conference

The Anaheim Ducks take the first seed in the West,and play the Winnipeg Jets, who are playing in the postseason for the first time since returning to the city. For the Ducks to make a deep playoff run and prevent dropping out in the first round again they will need to improve upon their power play or penalty kill. The Jets will be wanting to prove themselves in their first playoff appearance since 2007 when they were the Thrashers. Prediction: Ducks in 7

The second seeded St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the last week of the season to clinch the Central Division, and will play one of the hottest teams in the NHL in the Minnesota Wild. The Blues will look to avoid what has happened in the last two seasons by advancing past the first round. This series will come down to the goalies as the Wild have Devan Dubnyk who has been phenomenal since joining the Wild in January and the Blues will have to decide to go with the rookie with the hot hand in Jake Allen, or the goalie with playoff experience in Brian Elliott. Prediction: Blues in 6

The Chicago Blackhawks will play at least a couple games against the Nashville Predators without their top player, Patrick Kane who suffered a fractured clavicle that sidelined him for over a month. The Predators stumbled into the playoffs on a six-game losing streak, but still have home ice advantage over the Blackhawks. Even without their top player, Chicago has the tools in Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford to make it deep in the Western Conference. Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

In the last matchup in the West, the Calgary Flames who had the one of the most unconventional way of winning (which involved letting other teams score first), which might be difficult to do in the playoffs when defenses are stingier than normal. Their opponent, the Vancouver Canucks have to decide if they want to want to start Ryan Miller who has played in only one game since Feb. 10. Miller has the playoff experience, but Eddie Lack has done well since Miller’s injury and has more recent playing time. Prediction: Canucks in 7

Post Author: tucollegian

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