The playoffs are upon us and the next two months are guaranteed to be entertaining.
But before the madness commences and first-round surprises bust some brackets, let’s evaluate what we know: Tampa Bay is the favorite; Vegas is one of the hottest teams; so is Washington. The unknowns? San Jose and Calgary. The sleepers? Columbus and St. Louis.
Below is a ranking of the postseason teams as we enter the best part of the NHL season.
16. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 38-30-14 | Playoff Seed: WC2 (vs. CGY)
The Avalanche have the offense to win a series, but probably not the defense to go much past that.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets | Record: 47-31-4 | Playoff Seed: WC2 (vs. TBL)
The Blue Jackets closed out the season on a hot streak and are finally finding their way. But is it too little, too late?
14. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 46-29-7 | Playoff Seed: WC1 (vs. WSH)
The Hurricanes will surely be the most enjoyable team to watch in Round 1. It’s still a question as to who goes in net with both Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney both playing well.
13. Dallas Stars | Record: 43-32-7 | Playoff Seed: WC2 (vs. NSH)
Dallas has the potential for a deep run, but the Stars need a lot more from Jamie Benn. Getting Mats Zuccarello back will definitely help.
12. St. Louis Blues | Record: 45-28-9 | Playoff Seed: C3 (vs. WPG)
The fate of the Blues all depends on if rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington can continue his epic run.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 44-26-12 | Playoff Seed: M3 (vs. NYI)
Pittsburgh may not have enough depth in the bottom half, unless Nick Bjugstad steps up.
10. Nashville Predators | Record: 47-29-6 | Playoff Seed: C1 (vs. DAL)
The Preds had an up-and-down second half, but they have the depth and experience to make another deep run this year.
9. San Jose Sharks | Record: 46-27-9 | Playoff Seed: P2 (vs. VGK)
San Jose is obviously not the same team without Erik Karlsson. If he's truly healthy—and even if he's not—the Sharks could easily make a deep run.
8. New York Islanders | Record: 48-27-7 | Playoff Seed: M2 (vs. PIT)
There will be a lot of close games against the Penguins, but the Islanders have shown the defensive ability to withstand that.
7. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 47-30-5 | Playoff Seed: C2 (vs. STL)
The Jets might be the deepest offensive team, with potentially the most dangerous power play, especially in the West.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 46-28-7 | Playoff Seed: A3 (vs. BOS)
It's been an odd second half for the Maple Leafs, but to discount their talent would be a mistake.
5. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 43-32-7 | Playoff Seed: P3 (vs. SJS)
Hot, deep, experienced. And their goalie gives them a slight edge, potentially, over Calgary.
4. Boston Bruins | Record: 49-24-9 | Playoff Seed: A2 (vs. TOR)
The question here, as always, is secondary scoring (or lack there of), though Jake DeBrusk has quietly had a good year.
3. Washington Capitals | Record: 48-26-8 | Playoff Seed: M2 (vs. CAR)
The Capitals sure look playoff ready. Could very well be second on this list.
2. Calgary Flames | Record: 50-25-7 | Playoff Seed: P1 (vs. COL)
The Flames know how to score. But will they go with David Rittich or Mike Smith in net? That is the biggest question for Calgary.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 62-16-4 | Playoff Seed: A1 (vs. CBJ)
The Lightning are the favorites, without question. The thing to look out for is Victor Hedman's health, but otherwise they should be set.