It’s hard to believe, but the NHL season is just a couple weeks away from wrapping up. It’s been a wild year filled with unexpected successes and devastating failures. A brand-new expansion team will make the playoffs while a Midwestern dynasty will not. We’ll get into everything you need to know, and we’ll do it right now.

When Do the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Start?

The first puck of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will drop on April 11, 2018. While the matchups have obviously not been determined yet, there will certainly be some exciting first round games on that day.

Keep checking back for matchups featuring your favorite teams as the dates get closer and the regular season wraps up.

Historical Stanley Cup Finals Ticket Prices

NHL Stanley Cup Finals average resale ticket prices by year. The average here encompasses all games played in the series.

Season Matchup Average Resale Price
2017 Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins $683
2016 San Jose Sharks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins $658
2015 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning $926
2014 New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings $1,037
2013 Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks $846
2012 New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings $676

Stanley Cup Playoff Format

The playoffs consist of four seven-game series rounds. Each series is played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format, which means that the team with home-ice advantage will host the first two games of the series as well as the all-important seventh and final game if a series calls for it.

In each conference – Eastern and Western – eight teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The top three teams in each division automatically qualify and the two remains “Wild Card” spots are determined by season point totals and division placement has no bearing on the teams that take those spots.

In each conference-based bracket, the top seed (the team in the conference with the best record) plays the lowest seed wild card team, while the better wild card team plays the other division winner. Each other series pits the second and third seeds against each other.

What to Watch For at the Stanley Cup

Against All Odds

The biggest surprise of the season has been the NHL’s newest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, having a historic inaugural season. Almost without a doubt, Vegas will secure a playoff spot. At the time of this writing, the Golden Knights have 89 points with 16 games remaining and sit firmly atop the Pacific Division (9 points ahead of second-place Anaheim). No one expected this team to be as good as it’s been in the inaugural season and there will surely be pundits that won’t give them a chance in the playoffs. However, if your team ends up against them in the first round, I’d be a little worried.

End of an Era

One team you certainly won’t see in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season is the Chicago Blackhawks. After a horrible showing in the first round against rival Nashville last season (the Hawks were swept in one of the worst offensive series in years), Chicago essentially imploded this regular season. Sitting dead last in the Central Division, Patrick Kane and company will be packing up their lockers as soon as game 82 ends. It’s the end of a dynasty, one that saw three Stanley Cup victories in eight years, and it’s a great example of the fact that all good things must come to an end.

Terrifying Tampa

After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning have played with a vengeance this year. Featuring a healthy Steven Stamkos wearing the “C” as well as a goal-scoring machine in Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning have demolished the competition throughout the league and currently hold the top spot in the NHL with 15 games to go. With an arguably weak Atlantic Division behind them, Tampa Bay could have a fairly easy journey to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Favorites to Win

It’s hard to pick a favorite considering how many unexpected teams we’ll see in this year’s playoffs. I don’t know if anyone expected Tampa Bay to be this good. Certainly no one expected Vegas to be in the hunt at all, and neither Washington or Pittsburgh look nearly as strong as they did a year ago.

Before the season began, we picked the Pittsburgh Penguins to defend the title once again and grab a third straight Stanley Cup. However, after watching absurd amounts of hockey throughout the past few months, it doesn’t look like the Penguins have a convincing shot at it.

Right now, the honor (curse?) of being our favorite to win Lord Stanley’s Cup belongs to Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team will surely break 100 points and have not only a fantastic home record but an amazing away record (23-11-2) as well. Home-ice advantage is in the cards and they should end up facing the weakest Wild Card team in the first round.