Here are the 2017 playoff rankings, based on a final four of Capitals-Rangers and Blackhawks-Oilers with a final of Capitals-Blackhawks and Stanley Cup champ of Capitals. I will group the first-round matchups by the divisional brackets, making it easier to show the conference semifinals
Last season, no Canadian teams made the playoffs; this year, five of the six are in the postseason. Four of the five teams that finished at the bottom of the NHL in 2015-16 qualify for the playoffs this year. That shows how quickly tides can turn in this league. The reigning champs, Pittsburgh, aim for back-to-back titles, while the 2015-16 champs, Chicago, go for their fourth Cup in eighth years.
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EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
Washington vs. Toronto
The Capitals come into the playoffs off their second straight President's Trophy, leading the league in wins, raising expectations. Washington got off to a string start and was never really challenged for the top spot in the East or the Metro Division. Other than a slight bobble in March, it was smooth sailing for the Caps, who showed they were pushing all their chips into a run this year, filling the one weakness – a PP QB – when the traded a first round and other assets for Kevin Shattenkirk, who helped Washington finish third in the league in PP%. Their offense may not be as strong as last year but is still solid, the D with Shattenkirk is better while excellent netminding