NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Andrew ElKadi, Staff Writer

With the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs winding down, many elite teams in the league made a statement with convincing series wins against their opening round opponents, but it is anybody’s guess who will be hoisting the greatest trophy in sports in June.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who surprised everyone during the regular season and became the first team to make the playoffs in their inaugural season since 1980, showed that they are capable of making a serious run at the cup following a sweep of the Los Angeles Kings. Vegas will draw the San Jose Sharks in their second-round matchup, who dominated the Anaheim Ducks in a first-round sweep of their own. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will be anchoring the upstart Golden Knights against Martin Jones and the Sharks in a series that could go to seven games. Also out west, the top two teams in the league during the regular season took care of business in the first round and are set to square off in what might end up being the most entertaining series of the playoffs.

The Nashville Predators, led by defenseman P.K. Subban, put away the Colorado Avalanche in six games in the first round, while the Winnipeg Jets, led by MVP candidate Blake Wheeler, made easy work of the Minnesota Wild and celebrated their first playoff series win in franchise history. The two teams will face off in the second round with an opportunity to get a step closer to the trophy that neither of them has ever won. In the Eastern Conference, one first-round series is yet to be decided, as the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins will play in a Game 7 for the right to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in round two. The Lightning, with Nikita Kucherov at the helm, won a hard-fought series against the New Jersey Devils in five games, and now await the winner of the Leafs and the Bruins series.

For the third straight year, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will play each other in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin, beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games and now look to get rid of the demons and avoid losing to the Penguins in the second round for the third consecutive year. The Penguins, who are gunning for their third straight Stanley Cup, took care of the Philadelphia Flyers in six games, and have numerous offensive weapons in their arsenal to win the cup again.

A quarter way through these playoffs, and with intriguing matchups galore awaiting in the second round, the fun is just beginning.