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In just a few short weeks the NHL will wrap up yet another regular season. It’s been a fun year, one that’s featured some tough battles for playoff spots, a few which are still ongoing. While there’s a clear favorite for Stanley Cup champ – based on regular season point total – anything can happen once the postseason gets underway. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When Do the 2019 NHL Playoffs Start?

The NHL regular season ends on April 6, when all 30 of the 31 teams take the ice for game 82. The first puck of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will drop just a couple of days later, with the exact date to be determined.

Stanley Cup Playoff Format

The playoffs consist of four seven-game 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 pivotal final game, assuming a series goes that far.

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

In each conference playoff bracket, the top seed (the team with the best record in the conference) plays the lowest seed wild card team in the first round. The better of the two wild card teams plays the other division winner. Each other series takes place between the second and third seeds against each other.

Stanley Cup Playoff Tickets

Stanley Cup playoff tickets are on sale now. Check all of the available seats and prices here, or view select tickets below. Don’t forget to use code NHL20 to save $20 off your purchase.

Who to Watch at This Year’s NHL Playoffs

The Overwhelming Favorite

If you’re basing things off the regular season standings, the Tampa Bay Lighting are the clear favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup this year. The team has played amazing hockey all year. As of this writing, the Lightning are 57-13-4, have 118 points, and lead the Atlantic Division by a full 21 points. In fact, Tampa Bay has 21 more points than the NHL’s next best teams (Boston and Calgary). If it’s not clear by the above stats, this is a team that has already clinched a playoff spot and its division.

Can They Repeat?

After finally getting over the Pittsburgh Penguins hurdle last year, the Washington Capitals went on the win the Stanley Cup. This year, the team has brushed off the notion of a “championship hangover,” and currently sits atop the Metropolitan Division. While stars like Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie are another year older, this is still an extremely dangerous team, one that has the 5th best offense in the NHL. Don’t count out a repeat for the Caps.

Favorites to Win

Surely, the favorite to win in 2019 is Tampa Bay. The Lightning have dominated nearly every team this season, leading the league in goals while also having the 4th best defense in the league. Amalie Arena and the Lightning fans have been a nightmare for opponents, which only helps the team with home ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs.

And when it comes to star power, Tampa has a lot of it. Winger Nikita Kucherov will surely break 120 points this season, and most likely hit 40 goals. He, Brayden Point (38 goals, 49 assists), and Steven Stamkos (37 goals, 48 assists) give opposing defenses headaches night in and night out. If they continue their fantastic play in the postseason, the Lightning could sweep the first couple of rounds.

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