With the NHL playoffs set to begin on Wednesday Night, there are only 16 teams remaining. Who is the worst team in heading into the playoffs and who is the best team heading into the playoffs?
16. Colorado Avalanche (43-30-9, 95 points): Colorado is by far the worst team in the NHL playoffs. They do have a couple of good players like Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, but Colorado doesn’t have much depth. The Avalanche are going to run in a buzzsaw in the first round against the Nashville Predators.
15. Philadelphia Flyers (42-26-14, 98 points): Philadelphia has a lot of talent and they have a punchers chance to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one because of their offense. However, the Flyers have a big problem with their goaltending situation and they can’t seem to stop Pittsburgh’s offense. If Philadelphia wasn’t playing Pittsburgh in round one, I might have ranked them higher.
14. New Jersey Devils (44-29-9, 97 points): Taylor Hall played at an MVP level during the regular season. They have very good depth even though New Jersey’s second leading scorer in Nico Hischier didn’t even have 60 points. If the Devils are going to make a deep run, they need goalie Keith Kinkaid to stay hot or Cory Schneider to step up if needed, but I don’t expect that to happen.
13. San Jose Sharks (45-27-10, 100 points): The Sharks limped into the playoffs and I think they have a bad draw in the first round against the Anaheim Ducks. Even though the Sharks have good depth scoring, there defense hasn’t been exactly sharp and it could be there down fall early in the postseason.
12. Minnesota Wild (45-26-11, 101 points): The Wild are banged on defense, but they have enough depth to still be reliable. Devan Dubnyk will be one of the keys in order for the Wild to have post season success. The Wild can’t be trusted because head coach Bruce Boudreau never gets it done in the postseason.
11. Anaheim Ducks (44-25-13, 101 points): The Ducks usually play well at the end of the season and it carries into the postseason. I don’t expect Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to have a mediocre playoff like they did in the regular season. Richard Rakell and Adam Henrique need to play even better in the postseason. Goaltending will be an interesting commodity for the Ducks. Will John Gibson be healthy? If he is, I don’t trust him between the pipes. Ryan Miller is a good backup, but he won’t lead the Ducks to the promise land.
10. Los Angeles Kings (45-29-8, 98 points): Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar are ready to lead their team to another championship run. They have been there before and the Kings are set up perfectly to go to the western conference finals. Los Angeles plays an inexperienced Vegas Golden Knights team in round one. The Kings would face either the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks in round two if they win the series. Los Angeles also matches up well with either of those teams.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets (45-30-7, 97 points): Columbus is getting their wish by not facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. The Blue Jackets have a great chance to upset the Capitals in round one. Columbus has a solid defensive pairing in Seth Jones and Zack Werenski. Sergei Bobrovsky is looking to redeem himself in the postseason.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (47-29-6, 100 points): Pittsburgh will be tough to beat four times out of seven, but they are not the favorites to win the east and they may not even be a top-three favorite to win the east. The Penguins have the best power play in the NHL and they still have the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby. Pittsburgh also has Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Goaltender Matt Murray is ready to prove himself once again in the postseason.
7. Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7, 109 points): This is the first time ever an expansion team made it to the postseason. Vegas will be battle tested right away. They have a tough draw in the round one against the Los Angeles Kings. Will goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury be a proven veteran and stay calm or will his old playoff meltdowns return?
6. Washington Capitals (49-26-7, 105 points): The Capitals starting Philipp Grubauer is game one over Braden Holtby is was an interesting decision made by head coach Braden Holtby. Grubauer’s record during the regular season was 15-10-3 with a .923 save percentage and 2.35 GAA, along with three shutouts. Holtby’s record during the regular season was 34-16-4 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.99 GAA.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (49-26-7, 105 points): Toronto might have the best offense in the NHL playoffs. They scored 277 goals during the regular season which is the second most in the NHL. The Maple Leafs need to hope goaltender Frederik Andersen doesn’t get tired or hurt.
4. Winnipeg Jets (52-20-10, 114 points): The Jets are in position to win it all because of Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Connor Hellebuyck. Wheeler had a quietly dangerous season with 23 goals and 68 assists. Patrik Laine scored 44 goals and 31 of them were on the power play. Connor Hellebuyck was outstanding between the pipes during the regular season and he was clearly Winnipeg’s MVP during the regular season. His record was 44-11-9 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA, along six shutouts. Winnipeg also had the second best goal differential in the NHL at 59 (277 goals scored/218 goals given up). The Jets are the second favorites to win the west, but they would have to possibly face the Nashville Predators in round two and that’s not an easy task.
3. Tampa Bay Lighting (54-23-5, 113 points): Even though Tampa Bay finished with the best record in the east, they lost to Boston twice in the regular season. The Lightning won’t have an easy matchup out of the gate against the New Jersey Devils. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are ready to make another deep playoff run. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy needs to take control when his team needs him. His record during the regular season was 44-17-3 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA, along with eight shutouts. They have a great chance to win it all for the first time since 2004.
2. Boston Bruins (50-20-12, 112 points): The 2018 Boston Bruins might be better than the team that won it all in 2011. The Bruins have the most dangerous line in the postseason in David Pastrnak-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand. They combined for 228 points during the regular season. If Rick Nash is ready for the start of the postseason, that will be a huge bonus for them. They have rookies like Ryan Donato, Charlie McAvoy, and Danton Heinen. Boston might have the best defense in the playoffs. Their defense doesn’t do much offensively, but they get after opponents and they don’t give up many odd man rushes. The playoffs will fall on the shoulder of goaltender Tuukka Rask.
1.Nashville Predators (53-18-11, 117 points): Nashville may not have a weakness on their roster. They are on a mission to win it all after falling short last season. The Predators was the lowest seed in the west in the 2017 postseason and they are now the highest seed in the 2018 postseason. Pekka Rinne is the backbone of this team. His record during the regular season was 42-13-4 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.31 GAA, along with eight shutouts. The Predators defenseman finished with 208 points during the regular season. Head coach Peter Laviolette will keep his team focused and hungry.