author: konstantin kharitonov | sports editor
Get ready to panic every single day until the playoffs end
A quick look at the NHL’s playoff picture
Hockey season has ended, and the playoffs are finally starting. Get ready to have your stress levels rise even more and have your favourite team completely crush your dreams!
The match-ups are the Calgary Flames, who pulled a 50–win season out of nowhere, face off against the Colorado Avalanche, the Nashville Predators against the Dallas Stars, the Winnipeg Jets against the St Louis Blues, who were in last place in the league at one point this year, the San Jose Sharks vs the Vegas Golden Knights, the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders vs the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Columbus Blue Jackets taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Carolina Hurricanes vs the Washington Capitals.
The playoffs usually have a few storylines going into the first round, but this year, we have almost every single kind of sports fantasy you can think of. You have the team that everyone thought will be bad but turned out to be very good in the Islanders, who saw their best player John Tavares leave as a free agent, just completely go on a tear and finish second in their division. A young upstart team rocket up to the top of the standings in the Calgary Flames, a loaded team with huge expectations in the 60-win Lightning.
The Carolina Hurricanes have finally made it after 10 years of missing, embracing post-victory celebrations called the storm surge, which has brought the crowd back to Hurricanes games. Another team that has been intriguing is the Columbus Blue Jackets, who traded away almost all their draft picks to load up and go for it this season since their two biggest stars, the Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, are looking toward unrestricted free agency. All of that loading up has bought them a date with the best team in the league in the Lightning. If you are a fan of hockey, it is definitely a great time to plug in.
Personally, my favourite first round match up has to the Sharks-Vegas series. These two teams are absolutely loaded with talent that can score seven goals a game yet have some defensive issues that will make for some very fun hockey. The Knights don’t particularly have the deepest defensive core and goaltender Mark-Andre Fleury is unlikely to repeat the run he had last year, and the Sharks, who might have the strongest defensive core but have two goalies in Martin Jones and Aaron Dell who cannot stop a beachball this season. Its likely that this series becomes a war, with 7-6 games with fisticuffs galore.
If I had to do my predictions for series winners, I would have to say the Lightning, Bruins, Hurricanes, and Penguins win their series in the east. In the west, I have to go with the Flames, Stars, Golden Knights, and Blues. Its most likely wrong but hey, your bracket doesn’t look that good either.