New York hockey fans will miss seeing their Rangers and Islanders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin Wednesday, but they will still notice plenty of familiar faces in the tournament. Which teams have the best chance of taking home the NHL’s Holy Grail?
1.Penguins: The back-to-back Cup winners are favorites, and former Rangers Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard, if healthy, could contribute to a three-peat.
2.Predators: Nashville surged to its first Final last season. The Preds have only gotten better.
3.Lightning: The Rangers couldn’t win the Cup with Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi partnered on defense. Tampa Bay can. The Bolts, with five former Blueshirts, slumped down the stretch, but they’re loaded.
4.Bruins: Ex-Ranger Rick Nash, acquired at the trade deadline, didn’t exactly set the world on fire in Beantown before getting injured. Sound familiar? Boston has a deep lineup, and playoff experience. The Zdeno Chara trade still haunts the Isles.
5.Jets: Yes, New Yorker, there’s actually a good team called the Jets. However, Winnipeg’s young squad may not be ready for primetime.
6.Maple Leafs: Toronto also has young stars, including American Auston Matthews and former Islander Matt Martin. But they aren’t good enough to end the club’s 51-year Cup drought — yet.
7.Sharks: San Jose has plenty of playoff experience. That’s a nice way of saying they’re too old.
8.Ducks: Anaheim also has a veteran bunch, with ex-Islander Jason Chimera. The winner of the Ducks-Sharks series should skate past Vegas in the second round.
9.Golden Knights: Vegas’ little-expansion-team-that-could won’t — at least after the first round.
10.Wild: Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau has only led one team past the second round. He won’t make it two this spring.
11.Capitals: Alex Ovechkin scores in the regular season, but fades come playoff time.
12.Blue Jackets: Former Rangers coach John Tortorella hasn’t had many meltdowns recently. He’ll explode when Columbus (with ex-Isle Thomas Vanek) loses to Pittsburgh in the second round.
13.Kings: Los Angeles added at the trade deadline. Just not enough.
14.Devils: The metro area’s only hope for Cup glory surprised this year. They won’t get past Tampa, even with former Ranger and Islander Michael Grabner.
15.Flyers: Philly also overachieved this season, but don’t expect the Eagles’ championship aura to rub off on them.
16.Avalanche: Colorado made the playoffs, only to be first-round fodder for Nashville.