NHL Playoffs Begin Wednesday; No Tampa Bay for First Time Since 2013

There may not have been much drama on the final day of the National Hockey League season, but there’s plenty to be excited for now that the playoffs are here.

The first set of postseason games kick off Wednesday at 7 p.m. featuring the New York Rangers against the Montreal Canadiens, and Boston-Ottawa.

After reaching the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell one point (94) shy of Toronto (95), who made the playoffs for only the second time in 13 years.

Washington vs. Toronto

The Maple Leafs last lifted the Stanley Cup Trophy in 1967, which stands as the longest championship drought in the NHL.

Toronto will rely on the NHL’s top rookie and one of the league’s most explosive players, Auston Matthews. Matthews scored 40 goals with 29 assists in his first season, most among rookies in goals and points.

The Leafs have quite the mountain to climb to reach the peak, as they face the Washington Capitals in the first round, owners of the league’s best record for the second consecutive season.

Washington boasts the top goalie, Braden Holtby, who was honored with the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals this season. The Capitals fell in the conference semifinals to Pittsburgh last season, a pairing that we could see again in the same round.

Alex Ovechkin will be looking to reach the conference finals for the first time in his life, as the Caps haven’t done so since 1998. The team has had the stigma of a great regular season team, but one that continues to lose in the early rounds. They have lost in the first or second round in eight of the last nine seasons.

ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose thinks that its now or never for the Capitals.

Edmonton vs. San Jose

Another storyline north of the border is the Edmonton Oilers, who features the league’s lone 100-point scorer in second-year star Connor McDavid. McDavid was awarded the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer.

Edmonton reached the postseason for the first time in 10 years with a 103-point campaign that places them as a two seed in a loaded Western Conference. They will face the San Jose Sharks in the first round.

When the puck drops Wednesday at 10 p.m. the Oilers will snap what was the longest postseason drought in hockey.

Melrose picked these two showdowns as his to watch in the first round.

Here’s the rest of the playoff matchups:

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