We’ve done it. Through a tricky situation, we made it through a second season with a few minor interruptions and one MAJOR interruption amongst Vancouver. We are into the playoffs!
- 16 Teams
- Across 4 Divisions
- 4 total rounds to net a winner, but...
- First 2 rounds being played INTER division means the best way to proceed is to select the 4 winners—one from Central Division, one from East Division, one from North Division and one from West Division.
Central Division Winner: Florida Panthers
That’s right, I’m not going with a repeat with the Lightning. I’m going with the hot hand with a hot tandem of goalies in net. Between Sergei Bobrovsky, Spencer Knight and Chris Driedger, the Panthers won their last six consecutive games. The following players all had at least five points across the last two weeks, and are rolling into the playoffs hot: MacKenzie Weegar, Alex Wennberg, Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair, Gustav Forsling, and Sam Bennett.
Sleeper possibility: The Predators have found a groove with a deep lineup and could turn some heads.
East Division Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins
A strong, well-seasoned veteran team just added two-time Stanley Cup winner Jeff Carter to the mix. Oh and Jeff Carter immediately steps in and has his first career 4-goal game. Tristan Jarry has won his last four consecutive starts, allowing 1 goal or fewer in two of those starts. On offense, Kris Letang has found his stride again, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel have been clicking as always, but to me the X-factors will be Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker—who have been firing shots and crashing the net night in and out in preparation for playoff hockey.
Sleeper Possibility: Boston Bruins added former MVP Taylor Hall and know the playoff formula quite well.
North Division Winner: Toronto Maple Leafs
I’m sure you’ve heard it, if EVER there was a season built for the Maple Leafs to go deep, it’s this season where they can avoid the Bruins and other deterrents and instead get to face some familiar foes who they went up against all season and finished 35-13-7 with a goal differential of +41. As with any season, Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and John Tavares have been great. And who knows, maybe the leadership of Joe Thornton gives them the needed edge come playoff time.
Sleeper Possibility: The Edmonton Oilers with two of the best players in the NHL finally figure out the playoff formula (much like the Capitals struggling for years).
West Division Winner: Vegas Golden Knights
This is by far the most fun to look at. You have former Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis, Vegas (who made it to the Western Conference finals two of the last three years) and perhaps one of the top 3 teams in the league Colorado Avalanche all fighting for this one. Oh, and I think Minnesota could be one of the quietest contenders of all of the teams—they are hot and have some electric goal-scoring capabilities. At the end of the day though, I have to trust in the team who plays playoff hockey all season long: Vegas.
Sleeper Possibility: Minnesota Wild have the pieces to really halt and disrupt some team’s hopes.
Furthermore: Give me Vegas winning the WHOLE thing.