NHL Playoff Picture: Predictions and Key Takeaways
The National Hockey League 2023 season is coming to an end, as we finally have the playoff picture after the Seattle Kraken clinched the last spot. Beginning on April 17, sixteen teams will be fiercely competing for the Stanley Cup and be crowned world champions. Some might have the chance to win their first ever in franchise history, for example, Seattle Kraken, Vegas Golden Knights, and the Minnesota Wild.
Meanwhile, there are some fan favorites that have made plenty of appearances over the past few years, like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Los Angeles Kings. During this time of year, who knows what the outcome might be; we could see another potential dynasty or a new upcoming franchise that stands its ground. For now, let’s take a quick look at all sixteen teams and review their performance this year and potential for this year’s playoffs.
#1 Seeds: Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes
The #1 seeds for this year’s 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs are the Vegas Golden Knights from the Pacific Division, Colorado Avalanche from the Central Division, Boston Bruins from the Atlantic Division, and finally, the Carolina Hurricanes from the Metropolitan Division.
All of the top-seeded teams will be facing the wild card-positioned teams in the first round of this tournament. But be aware, there might be some upsets along the way, including the Colorado Avalanche facing off against the Seattle Kraken. Based on the three matchups this year, the Seattle Kraken are 2-1 against the Avalanche, which could be a warning for the #1 Avalanche.
Other number-one seeded teams such as the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Boston Bruins should have no problem defeating the wild card seeded teams. Although the Knights are the dominant competitors in this season, they took a huge monumental loss against the Stars recently and one of their star defensemen Zach Whitecloud, who is suffering a lower body injury.
Meanwhile in the East, the Carolina Canes clinched the number one seed for the Metropolitan Division, containing a record of 50 wins, 20 losses, and 109 points. The goalkeeper, Antti Raanta has been a great defensive threat for the division and the league alone. But they must focus on what’s even a bigger threat, the Florida Panthers offense, including left wing Matthew Tkachuk with 108 points and central attacker Aleksander Barkov with 77 points.
Last but definitely not least, the Boston Bruins are currently the best team in hockey right now, possibly in NHL history! The Bruins have a staggering record of 63 wins, 12 losses, and 131 points so far this season. Star players like right winger David Pastrnak, left wings Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall are really giving themselves a provisional future to possibly become future Stanley Cup Champions!
#2 Seeds: Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs
The second seeds of the 2023 Stanley Cups are set. All second seeds of this tournament will be facing the third seeds in the first round of the tournament. In the Metropolitan Division, we have the New Jersey Devils. In the Atlantic Division, the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched the number two spot. Then in the West, we have Dallas Stars in the Central Division and the Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division.
The top teams to look for in this tournament are the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers. In the first matchup, the New Jersey Devils are facing their notorious rival, the New York Rangers.
Another faceoff to keep an eye out for is the Edmonton Oilers, who are facing off against the LA Kings. They had a few previous matchups this 2022-23 NHL season, one on November 16th where the Oilers defeated the Kings 3-1. And recently on April 4th, the Oilers strike again with the same score to best the Los Angeles Kings. Based on the Oilers performance so far this season, I believe they have a shot at representing the Western Conference of the Stanley Cups this year.
Lastly, teams like the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs have a bit of a challenging in their first round, the Stars will be facing the Minnesota Wild and the Maple Leafs will be going head-to-head with the previous 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
#3 Seeds: Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning
Even though I just previously named the number three seeded teams to look out for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let’s look at some players and potential future matchups for the next round of the tournament. The number three seeded teams for this season’s playoffs consist of the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific and the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division.
Then in the East, we have the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan and lastly, the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic. Some potential players to keep an eye out for on these teams include Tampa Bay Lightning’s very own right winger Nikita Kucherov, who is third in the league for points scored (111), and center Brayden Point, who has 49 goals scored in the regular season. The previous 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champions are a dangerous threat on the ice and have an extremely assertive offense that will be perplexing to contain for all defenders.
The Minnesota Wild were a pretty consistent team containing solid offense and playmaking, but what comes to mind with that team is their star goalie Filip Gustavsson, who is second in the league for save percentage. Filip and the rest of the Minnesota Wild will give one hundred percent of their effort against the Dallas Stars on April 17th.
#4 Seeds (Wild Card): Seattle Kraken, Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders
Finally, let’s review the newly clinched teams that recently clinched a spot in this year’s playoffs. In the Pacific Division, we have the new kid on the block, the Seattle Kraken. In the Central, it’s the Winnipeg Jets, then the New York Islanders in the Metropolitan and the Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division. Like before, we went through all these potential matchups the wild card teams will be dealing with in the first round. The New York Islanders will probably be facing one of the greatest hockey teams to put on skates, and a second-year team will be facing off against a monstrous number one-seeded Avalanche.
Ignoring the usual “outcomes” of wild card teams not making a notable run in any sort of playoffs, I believe there could be an upcoming surprise in this year’s Stanley Cup tournament. For example, the Winnipeg Jets have been an upbringing phenomenon so far into this season, including their reliable goalie, Connor Hellebuyck. Also, the Florida Panthers have young talent such as left wing Matthew Tkachuk, who is fifth in points(108) and center Carter Verhaeghe, who is ranked tenth in the league for goals scored (41). But regardless of pointing out the specific teams we could see an unlikely Cinderella run from one, if not two or three, of these teams. But for now, we shall wait this April 17th for the beginning of the 2023 Stanley Cup Championship!