Stanley Cup Playoffs 2016
The Stanley Cup playoffs are back, and 16 teams are vying to lift the greatest trophy in sports. There is no doubt the NHL playoffs are one of the most exciting events of the year, and this season there are a ton of interesting first-round matchups.
Eastern Conference First Round
Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
Led by a mixture of future stars and rugged veterans, the Florida Panthers took home the Atlantic Division title this season. Led by 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr and 20-year-old Aaron Ekblad, the Panthers failed to hold off the New York Islanders, who are led by John Tavares. The Islanders advanced with a 4-2 series win, after winning Game 6 in double overtime.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings
Despite the absence of superstar Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning cruised past the Detroit Red Wings in five games, potentially bringing an end to the NHL career of Wings star Pavel Datsyuk.
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Winners of the Presidents Trophy for the most points in the NHL this season, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals survived an early playoff scare from the Philadelphia Flyers, who had a spectacular goaltending effort from former Capital Michal Neuvirth.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers
The hottest squad coming into the playoffs, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins made it look easy in their dismissal of the New York Rangers. The Pens were able to put plenty of pucks past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who at age 34 may be seeing his window to win a Stanley Cup closing.
Western Conference First Round
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
A fierce rivalry between these two Midwest cities, it took seven games to decide this year's clash between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks. In a thrilling Game 7 the Blues, led my Vladimir Tarasenko, were able to prevail, knocking likely MVP Patrick Kane and the depending champion Hawks out of the playoffs.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators
In a series that swung back and forth, the Nashville Predators got the last laugh, as goalie Pekka Rinne helped lead them past the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7. The efforts of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were not enough for the Ducks to advance.
Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild
Despite some experts saying the Minnesota Wild backed into the playoffs, they made a series of it with the Dallas Stars, despite the fact that star center Zach Parise was unable to play. Ultimately though the talents of Stars forward Jamie Benn were too much for the Wild to handle, as the Stars prevailed.
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
It's always fun when two California teams do battle, and this year it was the San Jose Sharks, led by Joe Thornton, who were able to pull out the victory. Despite many expecting Kings defenseman Drew Doughty to win the Norris Trophy, it was the Sharks defense that prevailed.