Did someone say, NHL Playoffs?

We did, and with good reason—they start tonight!
If our predictions are right, there are going to be a lot of NHL playoff games played here this spring! (ID 110024184 © Jacek Sopotnicki | Dreamstime.com)

The 2023 NHL regular season ended last Friday, setting up the time of year that matters most to hockey fans.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs.

16 teams have won the right to pair off in four rounds of head-to-head, best-of-seven series. And in the end, only one team with be crowned the champs.

Last year, that team was Colorado. So what will happen this year? Especially in Canada, where there hasn't been a Stanley Cup champion in 30 years?

Let's talk hockey!

Who's who

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Hockey fans in Seattle will get their first taste of the NHL playoffs, as the Seattle Kraken face the defending champion Colorado Avalanche. (Getty Embed)

Here are the matchups for this year's playoffs.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v. Florida Panthers

Toronto Maple Leafs v. Tampa Bay Lightning

Carolina Hurricanes v. New York Islanders

New Jersey Devils v. New York Rangers

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche v. Seattle Kraken

Dallas Stars v. Minnesota Wild

Vegas Golden Knights v. Winnipeg Jets

Edmonton Oilers v. Los Angeles Kings

Can anyone stop Boston?

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Boston goalies Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have done this celebration a LOT this year. (Getty Embed)

The Boston Bruins had the greatest regular season of all time.

Across 82 games, they had 65 wins, with just 12 losses. That's three more wins than the next closest record of 62. They also finished with 135 points, which is three more than the previous record of 132.

So just give them the Cup already? Not so fast! The last time a team was close to being this good was in 2018-19, when the Tampa Bay Lightning won 62 games. And in the playoffs? They got knocked out in the first round!

Boston still needs to win in the playoffs to get the cup.

Canadian dreams

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The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets are two of the three Canadian teams in the playoffs. (Getty Embed)

Colorado will be trying for a win (though they'll need to do it without their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, who is out for the rest of the season due to knee surgery). And Tampa Bay  will be looking to win their third Cup in four years.

But will a Canadian team finally hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens won in 1993?

Let's look at the three Canadian clubs in the hunt.

Winnipeg Jets

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With Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg could surprise Vegas. (Getty Embed)

This is the longest shot of the three. Under new coach Rick Bowness, it has been an up-and-down year.

They will need former Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Connor Hellebuyck to be back to his very best to win against Vegas Golden Knights. Anything can happen though, because for stretches, the Jets have been really good.

And only three seasons ago, coach Bowness took an underrated Dallas Stars team to the final. Jets fans will be hoping for the same.

Cup chances: Slim, but alive

Toronto Maple Leafs

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Centre Ryan O'Reilly played great for St. Louis four years ago. Now that he's in Toronto, Leafs fans are hoping he can repeat his magic. (Getty Embed)

The Maple Leafs haven't won a playoff series since 2004.

Well ...

The Leafs are once again facing Tampa, a team with an amazing goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy.

But there's no denying that the Leafs have their best lineup in decades. With former Stanley Cup MVP Ryan O'Reilly joining stars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander, Toronto can say that they have a better team overall that Tampa.

Of course, even if they do win, they'll likely have to face powerhouse Boston in the next round. Yikes!

Cup chances: Good, but they'll need some luck

Edmonton Oilers

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Say it with us: Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are the two best players in the NHL. Edmonton is ready to win the Cup. (Getty Embed)

Okay, now we're getting to the heavy hitter. We actually picked the Oilers to win the Cup back in October. (For real!) And we're not changing our vote now.

Edmonton started a little slow this year. New goalie Jack Campbell wasn't great, and the team looked a bit lost. But somewhere around January, things clicked. And they've been playing hard ever since.

The Oil ended the year on a nine-game winning streak, which is even better than what Boston ended with. They have three of the league's top ten scorers, including superhuman Connor McDavid who has had the best season of his already-remarkable career with 64 goals, 89 assists, and 153 points. It is a Gretzky-like achievement. Add on Leon Draisaitl's 128-point season and you know scoring won't be an issue.

But the team looks better defensively than they have in years, especially after they brought Mattias Ekhlom in last month.

Last year, they made the conference finals. This year? We think they're going all the way.

Cup chances: Red hot!

Of course, any one of the sixteen teams can ultimately win. The puck drops tonight!

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