By Ella Marrufo
On Apr. 5, the National Hockey League (NHL) released the NHL Bracket Challenge to their social media, which means now is the perfect time to start making Stanley Cup Playoff predictions for the postseason!
This year’s race for the cup begins Apr. 17, so teams are currently battling it out to secure their spots in the playoffs in the final week of the regular season. Teams that have clinched as of Apr. 9 include the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, North Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference the Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, and Seattle Kraken have also confirmed a berth into the playoffs.
The leftover teams that did not qualify top in their conference still have a chance to make it to the playoffs if they have the highest point total; these are called wildcard teams. Each conference only has two wildcard spots up for grabs; the Western Conference has already secured the Kraken, while the Eastern Conference has the Wild. Currently, the teams with the highest likelihood to clinch a wildcard position include the Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference, and the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, and Nashville Predators in the Western Conference. [update on mon apr. 17 with final wildcard decisions.]
When mentioning playoff predictions, it is obvious that the Bruins are a fan-favorite to hoist the cup this year — separated by 20 points from the second place Hurricanes and miles above any other competing team, it appears that the Bruins will have an easy battle to the top. According to The Athletic’s NHL Season Predictions — which is based on 50,000 different possible simulations — the Bruins have a projected 21 percent chance of winning compared to the next best Avalanche’s 15 percent and the Oilers’ 13 percent.
However, hockey can be unpredictable and upsets are more common than not. One team which could make it higher in the bracket than predicted is the New York Rangers. With the acquisition of Patrick Kane — an uber talented player known to shine in the playoff spotlight — and Vladimir Tarasenko, a star winger, the Rangers look set to have a killer power play and offensive line. The Toronto Maple Leafs are also looming in the distance as a possible upset; while the team was looking unpromising before the trade deadline, with only Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner left to hold up a struggling team, the March trade season brought on some key supporting players. It is impossible to predict exactly how the race to the Stanley Cup will play out, but it is sure to be intense and entertaining as ever.
(Sources: Fansided, NHL, The Athletic)
Categories: National Sports, Sports
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