5. Tampa Bay Lightning (1 Seed in the Atlantic)
The Lightning secured their home-ice advantage through the Conference Finals in the last game of the year. They have been average as of late, going 5-4-1 in their last 10. Tampa is led by Nikita Kucherov, a 100 point scorer and a candidate for the Hart Trophy.. They are one of the deepest teams in the playoffs with nine players over 30 points. They face a Devils team that is likely to continue to struggle in net. For the Lightning, Andre Vasilevskiy is a top contender for the Vezina which gives them a distinct advantage over the Devils. Tampa, a heavy favorite in the east, is looking to make some noise in the postseason. Despite how average-looking they have been as of late.
4. Washington Capitals (1 Seed in the Metro)
The Caps are coming into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league, going 8-2-0 in their last 10. Led by their captain Alex Ovechkin, they have a terrific shooting corps. They are fairly deep, with nine players over 30 points, too. Their only weakness is likely in net, where Grubauer is going to start over Braden Holtby. Grubauer leads Holtby in both GAA and save percentage, which makes the choice a little more difficult for the coach. They start their run against a hopeful Blue Jackets squad who are primed to make an upset against this team. The way the Caps roster lines up might finally get them past the second round this season.
3. Winnipeg Jets (2 Seed in the Central)
The Jets are poised to make a deep run in the playoffs this year, and are coming in hot. They are 9-1-0 in their last 10, which is the best in the NHL. Led by 90 point scorer Blake Wheeler, the Jets have great depth, with nine players with at least 30 points. That, combined with Vezina candidate Hellebuyck, the Jets have all the right pieces to make a run. They will have to go through a very difficult two months of games, however, which will put this team to the limits.
2. Boston Bruins (2 Seed in the Atlantic)
The Bruins are a surprising team this season, being nearly forced into mediocrity due to the offseason. They coasted to the finish line this season, going 5-3-2 in their final 10 games. This team ended up fumbling away home ice through three rounds, but is still a huge threat in the East. Led by Hart candidate Marchand, they have 10 players over 30 points this season. That production, combined Tuukka Rask’s great season, creates a monster ready for nearly any team on their way to a cup finals appearance.
1. Nashville Predators (1 Seed in the Central)
The President’s Trophy-winning Predators are looking to do what they couldn’t last year. The Predators are on a bit of a cold snap compared to the rest of their season, going 5-4-1 in their last 10. They do have the best depth in the league, with six players above 50 points and another six above 30. The best blue line in the NHL is looking to destroy anything in their path, shooting and blocking their way to a cup. Whatever shots get through are going to have to get by the wall that is Pekka Rinne, the frontrunner for the Vezina trophy. He’s having a career year this season, and will stop nearly everything that he can. This team is easily the favorites for the Stanley Cup, and the fans are ready for it too.