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National Hockey League's Mike Bolt, who is a keeper of the Stanley Cup when it travels, holds onto the top layer of the Stanley Cup in Boston, Monday, April 2, 2018. The names of Hockey Hall of Famers like Bobby Hull, Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Gordie Howe will be removed from the Stanley Cup to make room for the next generation of champions. When a new layer is added to the 126-year-old trophy, the championship teams from 1954-65 will need to be removed so the trophy doesn't grow too big to travel. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview

For hockey fans, it is the best time of the year — the NHL playoffs.

With the first round starting Thursday (4/12), here is a look at a couple of the best match-ups.

Eastern Conference

(1) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (8) New Jersey Devils

This is perhaps the most intriguing series of the tournament. In the regular season, the New Jersey Devils (44-29-9) swept the series 3-0. However, NHL Network’s Barry Melrose believes it will play no part in the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning (54-23-5) are the fastest team in the league, but if anyone can keep up, it is the Devils. The Devils heavily rely on their offensive pace, but their defense is what struggles. New Jersey allowed the second most goals (244) of any playoff team, and with the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos leading the charge, it could mean trouble for the Devils.

When: 7:00 Thursday (4/12)

(2) Washington Capitals vs (7) Columbus Blue Jackets

While the Washington Capitals (49-26-7) have the better seed, the Columbus Blue Jackets (45-30-7) may be in good position to steal the series. The Capitals have an infamous record of not excelling in the playoffs. And it does not look promising that the Capitals are starting goalie Philipp Grubauer over Braden Holtby in game one. Melrose believes the pressure could be too much for the Caps, resulting in a victory by the young Blue Jackets.

When: 7:30 Thursday (4/12)

Western Conference

(2) Vegas Golden Knights vs (7) Los Angeles Kings

The Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7) quite possibly have the most hockey fans rooting for them because of their great story. Being in their first season as a franchise and finishing second in the conference is more than impressive. The Golden Knights play up-tempo and could give the Los Angeles Kings (45-29-8) more than they can bargain for in this opening round. Winning the series could result in home ice advantage until at least the third round for Vegas. But with that said, Barry Melrose is predicting the Kings’ experience could overwhelm the Knights, ending their fairytale debut season.

When: 10 pm Friday (4/13)

 

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