Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Sports | By Brett Lawson

NHL Playoff Format Unkind to Top Clubs

NHL Playoff Format Unkind to Top Clubs

The Penguins' first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers could be one of the biggest tests the Penguins will face throughout the playoffs. But then the Washington Capitals, finally avenge numerous playoff series defeats and gut wrenching game sevens, and knock the Pens out in the second round. And just like in 2016, Philly surprised everyone by making the playoffs. Will Vegas be the first expansion team to win a championship in its first season? The frequently injured Letang is healthy this go-round, quarterbacking the NHL's best power play. But on the back of Nathan MacKinnon, who put up by far the best season of his career with 39 goals and 58 assists, the Avalanche finished fourth in the Central Division. It won't be an easy route for them, but they have a team that could surprise a lot of hockey fans. The Penguins go three lines deep as well as any team in the National Hockey League - good luck to all the third pairs that'll be stuck with Kessel this spring. The members of the Devils have a combined 590 playoff games. Who will come out on top?

Just a few more smiles and it could have been a playoff year.

Despite those numbers, no one is talking about the Jets having a team that could win it all.

However, the Knights have been pedestrian down the stretch, dropping seven of their final 13 games of the year. At the defensive end of the ice, they have been below average as they come in ranked 20th in goals allowed, giving up 3.02 gpg, while also ranking 9th in shots allowed (31.1 spg) and 17th in penalty kill, allowing teams to convert on 20.0% of their chances. Though most of the Ducks' success should be attributed to the play of goalie John Gibson, whose 2.43 goals against average kept Anaheim's season intact when injuries swept through the locker room.

Although he primarily plays on San Jose's third line, he's seen plenty of action on the Sharks' top power-play unit.

Here's a look at each series - and possible opponents, if the Capitals advance.

Tampa Bay Lightning (#1 Atlantic) vs.

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Lightning coach Jon Cooper took this away from the three regular-season games: "They have a pretty good team, they are fast, they can play the game a bunch of different ways, they check".

While it would seem like the Lightning have a huge advantage because of talent like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, the reason the Devils made the playoffs has been the superb play of Taylor Hall. Vanek finished his nineteen game regular season with the Blue Jackets with a grand total of fifteen points; split nearly evenly between goals and assists with seven and eight respectively.

From the middle of December to the middle of March, there wasn't a hotter team in the league than the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are fairly healthy now, and Boston has perhaps the best all-round player in the game this season, Patrice Bergeron. After the type of surgery Elliott required, any goalie would be anxious about his ability to stretch and make a save, and every shot he faced in those games was a reminder that he's closer to 100 percent than he believes. They are both young, but have 33 and 40 games of experience between them. He could find a way to pull off this upset.

After the regular season, Ian Cole has earned a grade of a B+ level acquisiton; the only thing keeping him from reaching the A level would be his penalties.

Evgeni Malkin was tentatively scheduled to speak with reporters after practice Tuesday, but he opted out. Pittsburgh scored five goals in each of the four games against the Flyers this year.

If Canada wants to back a team that could win the Stanley Cup, the Jets are the way to go.

Captain Claude Giroux, who collected a career-high 102 points to become a strong MVP candidate, shrugged off the Flyers' underdog label. After a quick whistle, Giroux got the puck on his stick and scored the game's first goal just 32 seconds in. They enter this game off a 4-0 home win over the Senators and scoring in the win was Sidney Crosby, which was his 29th of the year, Jake Guentzel, which was his 22nd, Phil Kessel, which was his 34th and Patric Hornqvist, which was his 29th.

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