NHL Playoffs: An Early Look

by Ben Burns

I've looked forward to the NHL postseason for my entire life. 

While this has been a unique year, the playoffs figure to be just as exciting as ever. 

Every NHL game this entire season has been of the "divisional variety." Due to Covid restrictions, teams played within their division all year. That'll mean that everyone is very well-acquainted with each other; the first two rounds of the playoffs will also all be between teams from the same division. You know what they say, familiarity breeds contempt. 

When the smoke clears, there will be one team remaining from each division. Here's how the matchups are currently shaping up.

East Division
The Pittsburgh Penguins earned the #1 seed and will host the #4 New York Islanders. The winner of that series will face the winner of Washington Capitals (#2) vs. Boston Bruins (#3) series.

West Division
As of this writing, the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Knights are still batting for the top seed. The team which finishes #1 will host the (#4) St. Louis Blues. The other will face the Minnesota Wild.

North Division
The Toronto Maple Leafs dominated the "Canadian division" most of the season. By earning the #1 seed, they'll host their oldest rival, the (#4) Montreal Canadiens. The (#2) Edmonton Oilers will take on the (#3) Winnipeg Jets. 

Central Division
The Carolina Hurricanes were the class of the Central during the regular season. They'll host the (#4) Nashville Predators. The winner of that series will face the winner of the "Battle of Florida," as the (#2) Florida Panthers will take on the (#3) Tampa Bay Lightning. That should be a good series. The teams have never met in the playoffs and the Panthers had the edge in the regular season. The Lightning are still the defending champs though. 

At this time of the year, a hot goalie can really carry a team. That being the case, before the playoffs officially begin, I'll check back in with a look at the goalies from each of the above teams. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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