Stanley Cup Playoffs: Postseason Preview
Stanley Cup Playoffs: Postseason Preview

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

Capitals

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Levine
Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.
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