After yet another exciting and unpredictable regular season, the National Hockey League playoffs began on Wednesday April 15. This year, we saw a wave of new teams reach the playoffs for the first time in years while historically successful franchises saw impressive postseason streaks come to an end. As we’ve learned in previous years, any team can get hot and make a run at the Stanley Cup. An eight seed is no different from a one seed when the puck drops in the playoffs. All 16 teams will be gunning for Lord Stanley’s prestigious cup—and none of them will be easily stopped.
One thing is certain: there will be a new champion this year, as the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings fell two points short of the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks also failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.
In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues tied for most points during the regular season. Both franchises hope that this is the year they make it past the opening rounds—something both teams have failed to do the past two seasons.
The Nashville Predators started the season looking unbeatable with goalie Pekka Rinne in net, but they’ve lost their last six games and proved that they are vulnerable.
The Chicago Blackhawks hope to make a run long enough for superstar Buffalo-native right wing Patrick Kane to return from injury. The Winnipeg Jets—formerly the historically abysmal Atlanta Thrashers—are also making a return to playoff hockey.
The Eastern Conference playoff race featured drama that came down to the final minutes of the season. The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins snuck in the final two spots, beating out a beaten down Boston Bruins squad.
New York hockey might have seen its best historical performance to date. The New York Rangers won the President’s Trophy with the best regular season record, while the New York Islanders clinched the five seed in their final year playing at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Detroit Red Wings return to the playoffs for an impressive 24th consecutive year behind the power of center Pavel Datsyuk and left wing Henrik Zetterberg. With goalie Carey Price in net, the Montreal Canadiens look to redeem themselves after a tough loss to the Rangers in last year’s conference finals.
For any hockey fan, this is the best time of the year––the stakes are at their highest and the pressure is indescribable. Games only last for two hours, but if your team is playing, that feels like an eternity. Fans will ride their team’s peaks and valleys game by game, and fans of the game will enjoy the beauty of the sport. Let the hard-hitting, beard growing and roughhousing begin.
With no clear-cut favorite this year, victory is any team’s for the taking.