Ahead of the NHL Playoffs, our American sports expert Mark Ross is here to walk you through how they work and who could end up lifting the Stanley Cup.
The National Hockey League is nearing the completion of the regular season and the playoffs are around the corner. With the Stanley Cup awaiting at the end of the playoffs, numerous teams are hoping to be the next franchise to hoist the ridiculously large trophy. Like all American Sports the National Hockey League splits into two different conferences, the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The Eastern Conference will send three teams from the Metropolitan Division and three from the Atlantic Division. From the Western Conference, there will be three teams from the Central and Pacific Divisions. Both Conferences will then send a further two Wild Card teams to compete for the Stanley Cup.
The Playoffs are set in the East with the Carolina Hurricanes, the New York Rangers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins currently advancing from the Metropolitan Division. From the Atlantic division, the Florida Panthers, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Tampa Bay Lightning have all secured a playoff spot. Currently, the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals are in the Wild Card spots. Pittsburgh is currently tied on points with the Bruins and is in danger of slipping into the Wild Card. A disaster for a team that has been on a real downslope in recent weeks.
In the West, however, the conference has been settled but the playoff spots are still all up for grabs. Only the Central Division has been decided with the Colorado Avalanche, the St. Louis Blues, and the Minnesota Wild advancing to the playoffs. The Avalanche are doing so as the clear winners in the Conference. Amassing 116 points and a huge 13 ahead of their closest rivals. In the Pacific Division, the Calgary Flames are the only team to secure their playoff spot as we stand. Battling it out for the remaining spots in the division are the Edmonton Oilers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the Vancouver Canucks. In the hunt for the Wild Card spots are the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, and the Winnipeg Jets.
Eastern Conference Betting
Most teams have between five and seven games left to play in the Eastern Conference and the Florida Panthers are the clear favourites to win the Conference. They currently have 114 points but are being chased by the Toronto Maple Leafs on 106 points and the New York Rangers on 104. Toronto and New York will need to hope for a collapse from the Panthers in their remaining few games if they have any hopes of catching them. Florida and Toronto each have to play 4 “Quality Teams” (a team with more points than the number of games played) and the Rangers have five left to play.
As we stand the current playoff matches in the Eastern Conference are as follows. Likely Conference Champions, the Florida Panthers, will be playing against the Wild Card team with the fewest points, currently the Washington Capitals. Florida leads that series 2-1 on the year and will fancy their chances in a seven-game playoff bout. This team could change to any one of the Capitals, the Boston Bruins, or the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Carolina Hurricanes will then play the Wild Card Team with the most wins and then second and third place in each division will play each other in a best of seven matchups.
Florida Panthers (1) v (8) Washington Capitals
Carolina Hurricanes (2) v (7) Boston Bruins
Toronto Maple Leafs (3) v (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Rangers (4) v (6) Pittsburgh Penguins
As for the West, the current schedule looks like this:
Colorado Avalanche (1) v (8) Dallas Stars
Calgary Flames (2) v (7) Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues (3) v (5) Edmonton Oilers
Minnesota Wild (4) v (6) Los Angeles Kings
Each division could see the teams switch places but both conferences have a clear favourite in the Colorado Avalanche and the Florida Panthers. These teams find themselves on a collision course for the Stanley Cup and are likely to meet in the game’s showpiece finale. That being said don’t rule out teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins , and the New York Rangers who all have vast experience winning the Stanley Cup. They have won the coveted trophy a combined 15 times and will all be looking to add to their collection.
All three teams are outsiders with the Rangers currently sitting at 14-1, the Bruins at 20-1, and the Penguins at 25-1. Long odds but don’t rule these teams out. By the time the regular season ends all three teams could have over 100 wins and be going into the playoffs with a bit of confidence. Who doesn’t love a long shot in sports?