It’s the best time of year – the NHL Playoffs are almost upon us!
1 – Boston Bruins
With a record-breaking 65 wins this season, the Bruins are the Stanley Cup favorites heading into playoffs. Their depth at forward is unmatched, the defensive core is one of the best in the NHL, and their goaltender led the league in almost every major statistical category this year. They may be the easy pick for the top of our last Power Rankings, but there’s just no way any other team could even make an argument for the top spot.
2 – Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina may be limping their way into the postseason a little, but only Boston had more wins this year. They won a very competitive division, let in the second-fewest number of goals this season, and will get a great first-round matchup against the Islanders. Unfortunately, Andrei Svechnikov will not be returning, and Carolina’s issue of not having any superstars on the roster may once again prove to be an issue in the playoffs. I expect them to get through the first round, but after that, anything could happen against either the Rangers or Devils.
3 – Colorado Avalanche
There may not be a team that’s been more banged up than the Avalanche this season, and yet they still have a chance to win the Central Division tonight. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan Mackinnon have been terrific for the defending champs, but the injury issues are still a concern. Recently, Gabe Landeskog was ruled out for the playoffs, and Cale Makar still has no timetable for a return. They’ve been successful without Landeskog all year, but this team may not be able to go the distance again if Makar doesn’t come back heathy for at least the start of the second round. That being said, with Mackinnon and Rantanten at the helm and the wealth of experience they gained last year, the Avs are still a top threat in the NHL Playoffs.
4 – Edmonton Oilers
Make no mistake about it, the Oilers are buzzing right now. Captain Connor McDavid will come into the playoffs on a sixteen-game point streak, while the team itself has won nine straight games. They couldn’t win the Pacific and will face a feisty Los Angeles team as a result, but something feels different right now in Edmonton. They’ve proven recently that they can get it done against the best teams in the league, but will that translate to multiple playoff series wins? Only time will tell. It’s also no guarantee that they will even get the opportunity, because this Kings team is better than the one that took the series to seven games last year.
5 – Toronto Maple Leafs
Once again, Toronto was one of the best teams in the NHL’s regular season. Unfortunately, they may have the toughest road to the Stanley Cup of any team in the bracket. With the additions of Ryan O’Reilly and Luke Schenn, they do feel like more of a playoff team than ever before. However, if they get through Tampa Bay in the first round, they’ll most likely have the Boston Bruins in the second. The Leafs are a fantastic team that could certainly give the Bs all they could handle, but nothing will come easy on this year’s quest to erase their playoff demons.
6 – Vegas Golden Knights
It’s a little tough to put the Western Conference’s top seed this far down in the Power Rankings, but here we are. Vegas does have a lot of depth at forward and a very competent defensive core. They’ll also be getting their captain Mark Stone back in the lineup. However, the big question mark in this lineup right now is at the goaltender position. They do have options, but none are necessarily threats to the other top teams in the West. We do think that they’ll get by the Jets without much trouble, but things will get very real for the Golden Knights after that.
7 – New Jersey Devils
The Devils are another really, really good team in the East. In fact, they ended the year just one point behind Carolina for the top spot in the Metroplitan Division. A possible issue with New Jersey, though, is their inexperience. The roster is young and many of their best players will be playing in the first playoff series of their careers. The organization hasn’t won a series since 2012, and going up against the Rangers isn’t an easy way to get it done. They’re an awesome team with a very bright future, but it might not be their time just yet.
8 – New York Rangers
Of the four three-seeds in the NHL playoffs, the Rangers are definitely under the most pressure to win. After making it to the conference finals last year, they’ve had another good season and made some huge acquisitions along the way. With Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko in the lineup, they’re very deep at forward, equally deep on the blue line, and have one of the best goalies in the league. They also play at Madison Square Garden. Like many teams in the East, though, the path to the Cup will not be an easy one. New York’s matchup with the Devils could be the closest of any in the first round.
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