The NHL playoffs are some of the most exciting playoffs in all of sports. Something about them is just different than every other sport. While the regular season does not end until April 10, we are officially in playoff mode.
The seeding works differently in the NHL than it does in other sports. There are two divisions in each conference, and three teams from each division are guaranteed a spot. The division leader with more points will play the wild-card team with the least amount of points and the wild-card team with the most amount of points will play the other division leader. The second and third seeds in each division will play each other.
If the playoffs started today this is what they would look like.
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The season series between these two teams is split with two wins apiece. The Capitals have, by far, been the best team in the regular season in the entire NHL, but they have been known to collapse in the playoffs. The Capitals are still in search of their first trip to the Conference Finals since the 1997-1998 season. The Flyers do not yet have their playoff spot completely locked up. They need to finish well, down the stretch, if they want to extend their season.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders
The Lightning currently have the tiebreaker over the Florida Panthers for the Atlantic Division crown. The Lightning are the defending Eastern Conference Champions and have shown no real signs of slowing down. The season series between these two is knotted up at one win each, with the rubber match set to be played April 4. The Islanders have a two point lead over the Flyers for the top wild-card spot but still need to play well to finish the season if they want to keep that spot.
Florida Panthers vs. Boston Bruins
The second and third seeds in the Atlantic Division have played each other four times this year, with Boston taking three of the four wins. As mentioned above, the Panthers are still in contention for the Atlantic Division crown with the Lightning. Boston currently holds a one-point lead over the Red Wings for the final playoff spot from the Atlantic Division. The Bruins face off against the Red Wings on April 7 at Boston. That game could be the deciding factor on who will grab the third and final playoff spot from the Atlantic Division.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
If people had to pick one series that excites them the most in the first round, this one would probably take the cake. These two teams have been two of the best in the last decade and have faced off several times over the years. On the season, the Penguins have taken victories in three of the four games played between the two teams. Neither of these teams have officially clinched their playoff spot but, barring a catastrophic collapse, they will face each other. Get your popcorn ready for this one.
Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild
Dallas is currently the top team in the West and the Wild are currently the final wild card and are likely to stay there. The Stars have quietly been one of the best teams in the NHL but have not gotten attention due to the dominance of the Capitals in the Eastern Conference. The Stars have had major success against the Wild, winning four of the five games the teams have played. Dallas is neck and neck with the St. Louis Blues for the top spot in the West, a battle that the Wild would likely want the Blues to win.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators
The Ducks are another team that has constantly had success in the regular season. Last year the Predators had their first postseason berth in the last three seasons. The Predators have defeated the Ducks twice in three attempts this season. The Ducks currently hold a one-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the top team in the Pacific Division. The Predators have a four-point lead over the Wild for the top wild card spot and will have to battle to keep that spot.
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
The Los Angeles Kings have been one of the sole reasons the NHL playoffs have been so memorable over the past few years. The team is unbeatable in elimination games. Taking on their fellow Californians, the Kings trail the season series by a game, with the Sharks winning three and the Kings winning two. If this matchup holds, the Sharks need to get rid of them as quickly as possible because, if the series reaches a seventh game, the Sharks might as well just pack their bags.
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blues have the short end of the stick on the tiebreaker with Dallas for the top seed in the Western Conference. Adding to that, they would have to the play the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The season series between the two is tied at two games apiece; however, the Blackhawks might have a huge disadvantage depending on how long Duncan Keith is suspended. That would be a huge blow to the Blackhawks, to be missing a team leader for any amount of time in the postseason. As of right now. the Blues are not worried about the Blackhawks, as they’re aiming for the Central Division Championship.