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NHL Overview

The NHL regular season ended. The 82 game season was complete and now fans waited eagerly for the beginning of the playoffs. Every year, the NHL playoffs bring about a level of intensity that is unmatched in many other sports. The endless sudden death overtime, high stakes, and passion for the game make the Stanley Cup Playoffs a spectacle.
This year’s postseason featured some unusual players. Atop the Eastern Conference are teams which have been mainstays the last several seasons. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens won their divisions and the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Pittsburgh Penguins made the playoffs again. The Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, and the Cinderella Ottawa Senators, all made the playoffs this year despite missing the year prior.

Ottawa was long out of the playoff conversation before the emergence of goaltender Andrew Hammond skyrocketed them to the first wild card in the East. Hammond lost just one game in regulation and managed to pick up north of 40 points for the Senators to clinch the playoffs. Absent from the postseason was last season’s President’s Trophy winner, the Boston Bruins, who struggled with injuries and poor play all season. In the West, defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings also fed to qualify for the postseason. It’s the first time since 2007 a defending champion has not made the postseason. The Western Conference Playoffs included three Canadian teams, its highest number in years. those are the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets, both of whom were not expected to make the playoffs but played far above expectations. This was Winnipeg’s first trip to the postseason since relocating from Atlanta.

The top of the Western Conference held the Anaheim Ducks, runaway winners of the Pacific Division, and the St. Louis Blues, who muscled their way to the top of the Central Division. St. Louis, along with the Nashville Predators, Chicago Blackhawks, and Minnesota Wild who comprised the Central Division bracket of the playoffs. The early favorites for the Stanley Cup were the New York Rangers. The Rangers lost in the Finals last season and improved this year. They acquired D Keith Yandle at the trade deadline and Rick Nash’s return as an elite NHL scorer bolstered their roster, making them a trendy pick. Other popular picks for the Stanley Cup included the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Tampa Bay Lightning. The NHL playoffs kicked off on Wednesday, April 15th.

The Blues fell in the first round to the Minnesota Wild, who in turn fell to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks made a solid playoff run before they lost in the conference finals to the Hawks. In the Eastern conference, the Penguins lost in the first round to the Rangers who made it to the conference finals before being knocked out by the lightning. The Stanley Cup Final pitted the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks won the series in 6 games taking home their third Stanley Cup in 6 years. Will their “dynasty” continue? Will the Edmonton Oilers take junior superstar Connor McDavid with their first overall draft pick? All these questions remain to be answered, so don’t miss the 2016 NHL season.

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