The NHL Playoffs begin on Wednesday and all eight games expect to have some level of intrigue. Some of the storylines include the Pittsburgh Penguins trying to win their third consecutive Stanley Cup and the Vegas Golden Knights trying to keep its magical season alive.
The favorite to win the title is Nashville at 9/2, with Boston and Tampa Bay at 6/1. The Golden Knights are at 7/1 after beginning the season a 200/1 longshot.
Below is a look at five questions that will be answered in the best of seven contests.
Western Conference Questions
Is Vegas Playoff Ready?
The Golden Knights shocked the NHL by becoming the first expansion team to not only make the playoffs in its first year, but also winning a division. Now the squad is looking to further make history by winning a playoff series. They drew the Los Angeles Kings, who they tied the season series with at two wins a piece.
But they lost the last two games against the Kings, including a 4-1 defeat that could have been 8-1. They are a -135 to win the series, while LA is a +115. The best of seven could come down to goalies, who have five Stanley Cups between them. Marc-Andre Fleury will be entrusted to carry the Knights, while Jonathan Quick will have to put the Kings on his back.
Will San Jose-Anaheim Winner Emerge Totally Healthy?
This is going to be the most physical battle in the Western Conference, if not the NHL, and whoever wins will have earned their way to the second round. The Sharks are without center Joe Thornton, who has been out since January. They did pick up Evander Kane and he has definitely taken up the offensive void.
But while the Sharks opened at even, they have dropped to a +110 and the Ducks might have a little more left in the tank than San Jose. Whoever advances expects to be dinged up going to the next round.
Eastern Conference Questions
Will Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Live Up to Hype?
It is billed as the battle of Pennsylvania, but it was a one-sided affair in the regular season. The Penguins not only swept the four games, they did so in dominating fashion. They scored five goals in every game and outscored the Flyers 20-11.
The two teams have had a rival for years, and don’t really care for each other. Expect a physical series that may actually favor the Flyers. If Pittsburgh is going to defend its title they will have to counter that with their potent offense. Pittsburgh is -235 to win.
Could Washington Be Upset?
The Capitals have unfortunately made it a habit of exiting the playoffs sooner than they were expected to, but they could be in danger of getting bounced in the first round this year.
They face Columbus, which is one of the hottest teams in the league right now, and one of those squads that no one wants to face. Washington is a -140 to win, but if all star Alex Ovechkin doesn’t play like one they could be shocked.
Is Boston for Real?
The Bruins had a chance to get the No. 1 seed in the East, but fell to the lowly Florida Panthers on the last game of the regular season. Instead of facing the New Jersey Devils, who they swept, they get the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs downed the Bruins three out of four games, and despite being the road team could very easily pull off the upset. They are a +130 to win the series, while Boston is a -160.