Which team will be left standing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?


Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd (16) shoots the pack away from Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) during the first period of their game on March 22, 2016 at the United Center in Chicago. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs start this week, providing the opportunity for old rivals and talented contenders to strive for a hockey championship.

Western Conference

The Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild are set to battle on Thursday.

Despite Stars center Tyler Seguin suffering a knee injury on Feb. 13 that has kept him off the ice, he is expected to return for the first playoff game on Thursday. In his absence, team captain Jamie Benn and other Stars stepped up offensively late in the season to secure the team’s playoff spot. The Minnesota Wild are entering the playoffs with one of the lowest point totals of any playoff team, and have quite a long road ahead.

The St. Louis Blues will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks are seeking another winning title. In other hockey news, Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is the first American to ever lead the NHL in scoring with 46 goals and 60 assists at the end of the regular season, according to Sports Center. None the less, the Blues are a very healthy team heading into the playoffs.

The battle between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks will begin on Thursday.

The Californian rivals are set for a dramatic showdown. After missing the playoffs last season, the favored 2014 champion Kings are out to regain their status as one of the most elite hockey teams. Although the Sharks are considered the underdog team, nothing is set in stone.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings are the final contenders in the Western Conference that start their playoff round on Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, they will be without their best player, Steven Stamkos, and one of their top defenseman, Anton Stralman, for most of, if not all of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, making this powerhouse team destructible. As for the Red Wings, “they now seem to be at a point where they are just good enough to get into the playoffs, but not really good enough to make any kind of noise once they get there winning just one playoff series over the past three years,” according to Adam Gretz of CBS Sports.

Eastern Conference

One of the most popular match-ups will be between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers starting on Wednesday.

At the start of the season, the Capitals were unstoppable. Towards the end, they reached somewhat of a slump, as they “ended the regular season on an 11-6-4 run since March 1,” according to Gretz of CBS Sports. However, this playoff run will hopefully get the Capitals on the right track towards the Stanley Cup. Considered to be in a rebuilding year, the Flyers had to scramble at the end of the regular season for the second wild card spot.

The next face-off will take place between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, beginning on Wednesday.

Known for their speed, the Penguins were looking good until they lost their starting goalie to a second concussion and backup goalie to an injury in the regular season finale. On the other hand, the Rangers will be relying heavily on their goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is a big part of the Rangers’ three post-season appearances since 2012.

The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders will begin their face-off on Thursday.

With so many injuries, the Islanders need hope and a prayer if they want to get past the Panthers in this playoff round. Although the Panthers are not necessarily considered a dominating team, they have a medley of veteran leaders and young talent that got them this far.

As for the final teams of the playoff quest, the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators will first face off on Friday.  

The Ducks are considered to have the strongest defense in hockey, as they finished first in goals against. This regular season feat makes them a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. Although the Nashville Predators have talent on offense and defense, they are up against a very mighty team.