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2018 Stanley Cup Playoff Picture

Ashley Mowle, Reporter

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Round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starts this Wednesday, April 11th. Here are some things to watch for in each matchup:

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: It’s the battle of Pennsylvania. Last time these two teams faced each other in the playoffs was in the 2012, and the Flyers won the series in six games. This series was also a bloodbath, everyone was fighting, and a combined total of 309 penalty minutes over six games were acquired from both teams. This season Philly has Hart Memorial Trophy (given to league MVP for the regular season) candidate Claude Giroux. They also have one of the deepest offensive teams in the league. However, the Flyer’s young defensive core may hurt them due to lack of experience. Pittsburgh on the other hand is stacked with all-stars, such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins: Both original six teams, this series will prove to be interesting. Both teams are really good, with Boston holding a record of 50-20-12 and Toronto holding a record of 49-26-7. This match-up is fairly even, but in the end, only one team can move on to the next round.

San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks: This match-up of two California teams will be unique. The Sharks have one of their deepest teams in a while and they look to continue their season. However, they will be playing the Ducks, a team that is young, fast, and physical.

Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche: The Preds are this year’s President Trophy winners (given to the team with the most points in regular season), and they are working hard to get the cup. The last team to win the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup were the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2012-13 season. The Avs, however, look to try and upset the conference leader. Bouncing back from a 48 point season last year to a 95 point season this year, it is an accomplishment even making it to the playoffs. Colorado has Hart candidate Nathan Mackinnon who has had a career high in points (97), goals (39), and assist (58). The Avs also have the youngest team in the league with an average age of 25.6.

Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: The big talk around this game is the goaltending in Washington. Both Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer are good goalies and could pose a threat against any opponent. Which one they choose to play will be revealed later. Additionally, a trade before the start of the season between Chicago and Columbus in which the Blue Jackets acquired Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad, proved to be huge for Columbus. Panarin had the largest point season (82) in Blue Jacket history with 27 goals and 55 assist.

L.A. Kings vs Vegas Golden Knights: The “Medieval Times Match-up” is the name that has been given to this series. The Golden Knights surprised the world with their Cinderella inaugural season, and they hope to continue it into the playoffs. Vegas redefined what it means to be an expansion team. Start of season odds of winning the cup had Vegas at 200-1. No one could have expected that they would win their division. Other achievements include most wins by an expansion team in their inaugural season (broke on February 1st after their 34th win) and most points by an expansion team in their inaugural season (broke on February 21st after receiving their 84th point). On the King’s side, goaltender Jonathan Quick is up for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the best goaltender in the league. Additionally, this season has been a bounce back year for Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. Finally, Drew Doughty is a good, experienced player that will be beneficial for the Kings.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils: This match-up could be interesting. Although Tampa won the Eastern Conference, the Devils won each time these teams faced each other this season (3-0 record). Additionally, Hart candidate Taylor Hall will add some leverage to the Devils. However, Tampa Bay all-stars, such as Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy will keep this playoff series close.

Minnesota Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets: This Central Division match-up could be interesting. The Wild will struggle on defense as their first defensive line pair is injured. This comes at unfortunate timing considering that the Jets have one of the best offenses in the league.

Playoffs this year look to be exciting. Start growing your beards and may the best team win.

(Thank you to John Mowle for sitting down and talking with me about the playoff picture.)

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