The NHL playoffs are fast approaching, and it is always fun to see what the matchups would be like if the season was over today. Obviously, there are still a lot of games to play, and these pairings are bound to change, but let’s look at it right now. Why not?
The Tampa Bay Lightning would open things up with the Carolina Hurricanes (and yes, like many fans from the Nutmeg state, I am salty about the Hartford Whalers leaving for Carolina). Tampa Bay has the most points in the NHL and stands in line to win the President’s Trophy. A matchup with Carolina should not be a challenge, as the Lightning lead the Hurricanes in the overall season matchup 2-0-0.
The Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs would get an Original Six matchup in the first round. Boston has been playing out of their minds as of late, including a recent 8-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a tough schedule going the rest of the way, as 15 of their final 19 games are against “quality opponents”. The Maple Leafs hold the season edge over the Bruins at 3-1-0, so passing them in the standings is not out of the question.
The Washington Capitals square off against the New Jersey Devils. New Jersey is a streaky team, and when things are going well, they can matchup with any team in the league. They have a tough road, one similar to Boston, where all but four of their final 17 games are against quality opponents. If Alex Ovechkin and the Caps are going to get this monkey of not being able to win the Stanley Cup off their backs, this would be the best place to start.
Speaking of the Penguins, they would open up with a matchup with their in-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh holds the edge in the season series, and they have a far easier schedule to play the rest of the way, so this seems like an unlikely matchup.
Out west, we have the expansion Vegas Golden Knights taking on the Minnesota Wild. Vegas has far and away exceeded my expectations, sitting in second overall in the Western Conference behind Nashville. The Wild have been a thorn in the Golden Knights’ side, having taken the previous two contests. They meet up at least once more on March 16 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The San Jose Sharks would meet up with the Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks continue the pattern of having a tough road with 13 of their final 17 games coming against quality opponents, but would hold the edge over Los Angeles, taking three out of four from them during the season.
The Nashville Predators square off against the Anaheim Ducks. The pattern of parity in the NHL continues, as the Predators get 15 of 18 games against quality opponents. Nashville holds the season edge at 2-0-0, and the two teams will meet up on March 8 to wrap the series.
Lastly, the Winnipeg Jets would take on the Dallas Stars. Dallas has played well this season, currently 14 games over .500, but it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up in their final 17 games. Winnipeg holds the season edge at 3-0-0, and can finish off the sweep when the two teams square off in Winnipeg on March 18.