2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview

The NHL concluded its regular season on Sunday evening, and with that, the playoffs are set to commence in a few days. The pack this year is a mixed bag of perennial contenders and eager underdogs, and all the matchups are projected to be evenly matched and intense alike.

Heading into the first round, the most highly anticipated matchup is the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins, who are looking to capture their third straight Stanley Cup, are facing off against their cross-state rivals for the first time since 2012.

The Penguins have a clear advantage in terms of firepower up front and experience, however the Flyers are led by Hart Trophy candidate Claude Giroux and will undoubtedly put up a strong fight.

Elsewhere in the East, the Columbus Blue Jackets, in the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history, will be taking on the Washington Capitals. Both teams have a large amount to prove, as the Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series in their existence, and the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin have weight on their shoulders to make a deep run.

Whoever survives that series will have a tough road ahead of them, as the Pittsburgh Penguins will likely be awaiting them in Round One.

The New Jersey Devils, in the playoffs for the first time since their Stanley Cup Final loss in 2012, will have to make their way through the difficult Atlantic Division, including the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, in their run.

On the other side of North America, the playing field does not get any easier. Three of the top five teams in the league, the Nashville Predators, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Winnipeg Jets, are all based in the Western Conference.

The Predators are facing the Avalanche, who barely squeaked into the playoffs, in Round One, and should not face much difficulty. The Jets should fly past the Wild as well.

The Golden Knights, however, are facing the Los Angeles Kings, who have won two championships since 2012. The Golden Knights are playing with house money, though, since they are a first-year expansion team this season. They have shattered records thus far, and show no signs of stopping. The playoffs are a completely different animal, but Vegas has continued to prove people wrong and it should be an interesting ride for them in the postseason.

The San Jose Sharks will be facing the Anaheim Ducks in a battle for California in the other Western matchup.

Overall, this year’s NHL playoffs are slated to be a good one. The Predators, Bruins, and Lightning stand as the favorites for now, but as has been seen time and time again, anything can happen.

Kevin Kopf can be reached at kevin.kopf@student.shu.edu.