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Ranking The First Round Matchups For The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The NHL postseason field is set, with 16 teams set to face off in best-of-seven series with the hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup in a couple of months. It’s playoff hockey, so all the matchups should be exciting, but which first-round series should have most of your attention?


8. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils

While Tampa Bay versus New Jersey is ranked as the worst matchup in the first round of the NHL playoffs, anything can happen in a best-of-seven on the ice. The Devils won all three matchups with the Lightning this season, so they might be confident heading in. But the Lightning are extremely deep and had the highest scoring offense in the NHL.


7. Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche

After their amazing run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, the Predators kept it going this regular season and won the Presidents’ Trophy. They have the postseason experience, and Mike Fisher came back because he knew his team has a chance to win it all. Meanwhile, the Avalanche have some momentum after they squeezed into the playoffs over the Blues.


6. Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

This matchup features two of the top Russians in the NHL, as the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin goes up against the Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin. Washington is clearly favored in the series, and this could be the year for them. But if Columbus gets a win or two on the road to start the series, the pressure could really mount for the Capitals.


5. Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild

As one of the two Canadian teams in the playoffs this season, the Jets are tasked with representing north of the border. Winnipeg is top-five in goals scored and goals allowed, and they might be the league’s hottest team heading into the playoffs—but they had the tough draw of being in the same division as Nashville. For the Wild, the home crowd lives up to its name and could make it tough on the Jets during the Minnesota matchups in the series.


4. Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks

A matchup of California teams just doesn’t seem right, but the West Coast matchups always seem to deliver in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These will be late starts for East Coasters, which will make the series difficult to watch for many, but the all-Cali series should deliver.


3. Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto took three out of four from Boston this season, but the Bruins have the home-ice for the series. It was a few years ago, but fans of both teams certainly remember the Bruins’ stunning first-round comeback in 2013, when they overcome a 4-1 third-period deficit in Game 7. If that series can come close to being matched, Bruins-Leafs will be must-watch.


2. Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings

This being the first postseason series—in the inaugural season—for the Las Vegas Golden Knights was nearly enough to have it in the top spot. The expansion team has had an amazing year, and it’s going to be exciting tuning in for their first series. The Knights are the favorites, but the Golden Kings have the championship pedigree and goalie Jonathan Quick can get hot at any time. Knights versus Kings, how do you not love that?


1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Battle of Pennsylvania is an easy selection for the top first-round matchup this year. Two of the NHL’s best players in the Flyers’ Claude Giroux and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby headline this same-state rivalry, but there are many other stars in the series like Evgeni Malkin, Sean Couturier, Phil Kessel, and Jakub Voracek. The Flyers took the last postseason matchup in 2012, but a lot has changed since then, and Pittsburgh is looking for its third straight title. This is going to be fun.


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