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Glimpse Into The Eastern Conference Playoffs
By Allison Dawe
This season has been full of excitement, it seems like just when you think you know who will be in the playoffs suddenly after a few bad games they would be eliminated from playoff contention. But sometime it’s the teams that start the season out the strongest that are faced with the most adversity that ultimately leads to their downfall. With the playoffs starting this week we are going to get a good sense of who will have a short lived post season and which team could be hoisting the Cup.
In the Eastern Conference the competition is strong, each team has different strengths. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes are teams that are absolutely a threat, and who consistently play with a high level of physicality and speed. The Canes will face off against the Bruins in the first round and this series will be a true test for a young team that has been building their roster with talent. Goaltending will be key in this matchup and while the Canes were swept out of the post season in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 by the Bruins this could be the time for Carolina to shine.
The seeding for the first round of the playoffs always lets the stronger teams get stronger and showcase their talent, This is a time in the season when teams that have a solid roster with a depth build on their success. Tampa Bay will face Toronto and this series will absolutely give the Lightning an energy boost and should be a sweep. From every angle Tampa is clearly the more dominant team and Toronto will have to settle for ugly goal scoring opportunities. The Lightening have seasoned players on every line and with their punishing style Toronto will have to step up every shift. However, something to pay attention to is the Leafs’ top ranked power play which ranks at the top of the entire league. While it’s by no means a guarantee, it is something to watch.
South Florida has been a hot topic all season as the Florida Panthers are coming off of a standout regular season. There is every reason to think this team will go far in this post season and every season they give people something to talk about. The Washington Capitals will not be an easy opponent but this series is highly anticipated, but all signs point to the Caps as the underdog. Three names have changed the dynamic in Sunrise, FL, Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, and Jonathan Huberdeau. All of them chosen in the early rounds of the drafts and they have made their mark on this organization. To top it all off the Panthers play an aggressive game from the start, limiting the scoring opportunities of their opponents throughout the season by playing tight and with a very high level of physicality. The Caps will have to rely on players like Ovechkin, Carlson, Wilson, and Kuznetsov to match the Panthers.
Lastly we can’t forget about the Rangers and Penguins. Both teams have plenty on the line, the Rangers have built their roster with depth and play in front of arguably one of the best goaltenders, Igor Shesterkin. With 36 wins this season and just 13 losses his record shows that he is well prepared for this playoff stretch. For the Penguins they have a goaltending situation that is less than ideal, Tristan Jarry is dealing with a foot injury and will not be appearing in the start of this playoff run. This means Casey DeSmith will have the opportunity to lead this team, and with plenty of playoff experience during his time in college and in the AHL the Penguins have a solid goaltender behind them. It has been six years since these two teams met in the playoffs and with a historic rivalry, there will be lots of great moments in this series.
This is arguably the best time of the NHL season and there is so much to keep off with as these exciting series kick off this week. One thing is for sure, the stronger teams in each of these matchups are going to show their dominance from the start. Which team will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals is hard to say right now, but with so much competition ahead, there really is nothing better than playoff hockey.
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May 8th, 2022